The first event in Rib Quest 2011 started out with a surprising bang! HotGirlsBrother and Low-Vee thought we should start the event right away since there are a lot of new players in the game this year in the Twin Cities. We picked Baldy’s BBQ at Riverside and Cedar to be the first BBQ place we tried. It is a relatively new restaurant, having started in this location the end of 2010 (there is also a Lakeville location). This place used to be a pretty bad Chinese/Vietnamese buffet place, so I’m glad it is now host to some incredible BBQ.
The menu is pretty straight forward. All the things you’d expect. Ribs, chicken, pulled pork/chicken/brisket, fun and fattening sides, and a variety of iced teas (and Coke-branded soft drinks). We try to compare the ribs at all of the places in the Twin Cities, so we knew we were ordering ribs, but they had this awesome combination that we couldn’t pass up. In fact, it is called “The Right Combination”. You get a half slab of ribs, your choice of pulled pork/chicken/brisket or sausage, and two sides. This is what all three of us decided on - all of us with different sides. I got the sausage and something called cheesy corn bake and BBQ baked beans. After I ordered mine, our fabulous waitress Nora told me I ordered the “right right combination”. Hooray!!! I got an Orange Fanta as well – partly because I got addicted to it (again) while in Italy last week, but partially because they didn’t have Strawberry pop, like I was hoping.
Is it me, or are the forks here sort of … uh… mini? Maybe I just have a giant hand. We couldn’t tell.
Baldy’s has chosen the path of dry-rub ribs, instead of the saucy and sloppy ribs. Some people have a preference (Low-Vee likes the dry rub – twss), but I don’t care either way. Despite the dry rub, Baldy’s has four different sauces to choose from: Original, Sweet (a little thicker sauce), Spicy (much thinner, with some vinegar and bite), and Gold (spicy honey mustard). We sampled all of them, but ultimately decided we’d be having them all, since they were all winners.
The food came out fairly quickly, so no complaints on the speed. Low-Vee’s came out first and we told her not to wait for us. She touched the rib with her fork, and the meat fell off in a chunk and the bone detached itself. These were AMAZINGLY tender ribs. It was excruciating waiting for ours to arrive. HotGirlsBrother’s food came out next, and Low-Vee stole one of his fantastic-looking fries. She was floored by the flavor and I was floored by the crunch – I heard it loud and clear. Immediately, while my food was being put on the table, Low-Vee ordered a side of fries for her and I to split. They were that good. Then Nora brought us each a giant brick of corn bread – Oh. Yeah.
I’ll start with the sides. The cheesy corn bake was like nothing I’ve ever had. It was almost a corn chowder. It was a creamy mix of whole kernel corn, but there was all kinds of bacon in it. Brilliant! I powered straight through this before I even got to the beans. The BBQ beans were also fantastic. They had meat and peppers mixed in with everything. So while every bite wasn’t the same as the previous bite, all bites were top-notch.
The sausage wasn’t what I expected, but then again, I’m not sure what I expected. I thought maybe a link or a breakfast patty or something. It wasn’t. It was a large patty cut into halves. So it was like a large burger-sized slab of sizzling meat. One bite and I was cutting it up for the other two to try. It was like the best pizza sausage I can recall. I would love to order a bunch of this and bring it home to put on a pizza. Lots of Italian seasoning and fennel, but not so much that it was licorice-y or bitter or anything. Just perfect. The cornbread was a great complement to everything on the plate so far – not the sugary sweet cornbread you get some places, just very dense and corn-flavored. Excellent.
The fries showed up pretty quickly after Low-Vee ordered them and I’m soooo glad we did. They’re either double fried fries or battered fries (hard to tell), but then they put parmesan and herbs on the top. These are really amazing fries, especially for a rib place.
The ribs had cooled enough for me to eat them and it was time. I tried to cut out a bone from the meat so I could gnaw on it, but apparently, this isn't how you eat these ribs. I touched the meat with the fork and the bone basically fell out of it. The meat didn’t stick to the bone at all. We commented on the perfectly clean pile of bone we left on the extra plate Nora brought for us. We didn’t wrestle with the meat at all. I can’t rave enough about this meat. There was nothing left on my plate when I was finished (except for left over sauce, which I tried to sop up with my cornbread).
I tried each of the sauces and finally decided they should be ranked in this order of awesomeness. Spicy, Original, Sweet, and Gold. I’m not a mustard fan at all, so that’s why I put Gold at the end, but Low-Vee and HotGirlsBrother both said it was fantastic. You’ll have to take their word for it. I ended up using the Spicy for the ribs and the Sweet and Original for the fries. (It was hilarious watching HotGirlsBrother give up on eating the fries one at a time and eventually just grabbing fistfuls of fries and dunking them into the Spicy sauce - I'm NOT joking. And, I think if I go back and get a pulled pork sandwich, I’ll use the Sweet sauce on it.
Word from the other eaters: The pulled pork was delicious, but not ground breaking. They both loved it, but it certainly wasn’t the star of the show. HotGirlsBrother also said the coleslaw was the best he had ever had. I even took a bite and it was pretty good stuff.
At one point, HotGirlsBrother asked himself (out loud) if he should box the left overs up or if he should just power through it all and hate himself. We all voted for hating himself, especially since Low-Vee offered to let him bring home her leftovers. He ate until he couldn’t eat anymore. He got up to go to the restroom and Low-Vee turned to me and asked if I thought he was making himself throw up so he could eat even more. I assured her he wasn’t, but if he was, I’d be VERY impressed and probably give him a sober high-five for determination. It would have been worth it. Hell, *I* considered doing it.
Also, keep in mind that Baldy’s is right next door to a dirty hippie vegetarian/vegan restaurant. I’ll bet Baldy’s has a few converts each day. It is hard to resist those delicious smells.
(Low-Vee wanted me to point out that Baldy’s has a cup of moist towlettes on the table – this is an important factor in Low-Vee’s ranking system and she was glad to take full advantage of it after the meal.)
If this gives you any indication of how glorious this meal was, Low-Vee finished dinner and proclaimed she would gladly have Baldy’s babies. I think we have a MAJOR contender for the 2011 Rib Quest title.
Top 5 things about Baldy’s BBQ
1. Delicious dry-rub ribs
2. Cheesy Corn Bake
4. BBQ Baked Beans
5. You can get bacon added to anything you order for just a dollar – cha-ching!!!
Bottom 5 things
1. No strawberry pop
2. Only 4 designated parking spots in back or you’ll have to pay to park
3. Out of lemonade, so no Arnold Palmers
4. I have MBA classes across the street twice a week – this sounds like it would be in the top 5, but when I gain 200 pounds, you’ll understand why it is in the bottom 5
5. We didn’t actually order $1.00 bacon with anything… THIS time…