We needed to work on some of the Eastern division BBQ places for Rib Quest 2011, so we thought we’d hit up Lee’s and Dee’s BBQ Express. I reviewed it last year, but it’s a new Rib Quest challenge, so I had to go back (not that I haven’t been back a time or two since then). It’s close to my house, so we decided to make an evening out of it and grab some ribs and bring them back to my place to watch a couple movies. Low-Vee and HotGirlsBrother were available, as was EJens for this particular trip. Our excitement might have had something to do with the fact that we seeded Lee’s & Dee’s number one in the Eastern division, based on our meals there in previous trips. We knew this one was going to be good.
First off, this isn’t fancy BBQ. It’s not flashy, and it’s not a place you might take your rich uncle. But the inside of the place is clean and the people that run it are really nice people. I know I brought this up last time, but they have an old stand-up Galaga video game in the dining room, and to get to the booths by the window you have to step over the radiator to sit down. It’s pretty low-brow and doesn’t have a lot of uptight attitude. Frankly, I feel right at home here. It reminds me of my Alabama grandma’s house. A couple of kitchen chairs are out on the sidewalk with people smoking in them, and a screen door to get inside the place. It’s homey.
You order your food at the counter if you’re going to take it away. There’s a small Xeroxed menu next to the window that gives prices and such and there are a few regular specials taped to the wall near the window. I already knew what I needed. Half slab of ribs, which comes with two sides – baked beans and coleslaw. I also ordered some cornbread, since I remember it being good last time. I paced around and looked at the photo of Ice-T and Don King hanging out at Lee’s & Dee’s. That should tell you something there. While I waited, EJens and HotGirlsBrother showed up. I had to grab my food and go since I still had a bit of cleaning to do before those guys got to my house.
(Whoops, how did that glass of Templeton Rye get next to my food?... Thanks, HotGirlsBrother!!!)
Once at my house, we decided to eat first and watch movies later. I dug into my coleslaw – again, I’m not a coleslaw person, but this was ok. No complaints, but I don’t think I order a bucket of it to bring anywhere. That’s just me. Next up, the beans. The beans here have this weird phenomenon in that they are flavorless. The first bite has a delicious BBQ sauce flavor, and then there’s nothing. And by nothing, I mean the flavor disappears. It’s is a flavor vacuum. I’m not even sure how it works, but all four of us experienced the same thing. We’ve tried to spice these up, but that ends up flavorless as well. So far, the sides aren’t the greatest.
The ribs on the other hand are stellar. I can’t explain how good these things are, but you pick up the bone and the meat slides right off into a lovely pool of sauce in the bottom of the container. Serious tenderness. Almost no fatty bits and aside from a couple of rib tips, no cartilage to speak of. Just delicious meat with incredible BBQ sauce flavor. We ranked these ribs in the number one spot for a reason. They are fantastic. And they aren’t small, by any stretch. They’re heavy on the meat, so don’t think you can get away with polishing off a full rack of these things. It won’t happen.
The cornbread is similar to the other times I’ve had it here. It’s a dry cornbread, which a lot of people don’t like. I don’t mean that it’s old or dried out. It’s just there are buttery and moist cornbreads and there are dry, less sweet cornbreads. I think this might be a little more southern to have it be dry since that’s how grandma used to make it. I like it both kinds, thankfully, but I know the others think the cornbread here is too dry. Depends on your preference, but I’m really happy with it.
I will note that Low-Vee had a less than stellar meal. All of us kept saying there was something wrong with her that she wasn’t very happy with her meal and giving her a hard time about it. She actually gave up, which is unheard of, and put the remainder in my fridge. I ate them the following day, and conceded she was totally right. The ribs she got were full of cartilage and less meat than the rest of us got. She was 100% right. I’m not saying there are consistency issues here or anything, since we’ve all had really good luck here in the past. But I guess everyone has a bad day at work, and unfortunately, she got a bad batch of ribs.
Also, word on the street is the beans somehow regain flavor when eaten as left overs and reheated. So keep that in mind.
I can’t wait until the final four of this Rib Quest, where we get to try the top 4 restaurants one more time. The others have a lot of work to do to beat these ribs. The only downsides to Lee’s & Dee’s are the sides and possibly consistency. The outcome remains to be seen.
That being said, I’m still recommending Lee’s & Dee’s to absolutely everyone. They’re going to be number one in my book, unless someone else beats them out.
Top 5 things about Lee’s & Dee’s BBQ Express
1. Some of the best ribs around
2. Cornbread – old school and dry, like grandma used to make
3. Coleslaw is still considered pretty awesome
4. Really awesome people working here
5. These ribs are relatively inexpensive, in comparison
Bottom 5 things
1. Baked beans still are a flavor vacuum
2. Low-Vee’s bad batch of ribs
3. I had absolutely no quarters to play Galaga this time around
4. I felt bad for interrupting a smoke break when I drove up
5. This place needs some T-shirts or something so I can tell even MORE people about them!
Lee's & Dee's BBQ Express
161 Victoria St N
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Rib Quest 2011