Friday, December 16, 2011

Mr. BBQ – Columbia Hieghts, MN (Bar-B-Quest 2011)

With the end of the year approaching, HotGirlsBrother and I have resigned ourselves to the very real fact we cannot complete the Bar-B-Quest in the next two weeks. But we WILL continue BBQ ribs through next year to make sure we cover all of our bases and complete the task we started with.

Mr. BBQ was up on the list. I had a major c(gr)oupon in my possession for Mr. BBQ. They were on the Eastern Division bracket since I drove past their Maplewood location. Sadly, I realized the day HotGirlsBrother and I had scheduled that the coupon was only good at the Columbia Heights and Brooklyn Center locations. AGGGH. Oh well, we would pretend we were on the East Side of the Twin Cities just this once.

The place is bigger than I expected. It has a decent sized dining room with 10-12 tables and also a large patio (closed for the winter) outside, as well. When we walked into the place, it was smoky. As in, a considerable haze about 4 feet from the ceiling. I don’t think it was intentional, but it actually smelled delicious, so we didn’t complain or even comment on it. We have found it makes it cheaper if we split a full rack of ribs and then get our own sides, so we did that. Full slab of baby backs, baked beans, coleslaw, and extra order of fries, and it comes with a cornbread muffin. Done. The guy behind the counter was REALY sellin’ his food. REALLY. He told us the guys that work at Famous Dave’s come here to eat (NOT a ringing endorsement in our book, but whatever). People come for miles to eat their burgers when McDonald’s is right next door! (Again, not really going to win us over with that comparison, but we could see he was proud of his food.) The guy is quite the salesman.

The counter guy handed us our number so he could find us later. That’s right, WE’RE NUMBER ONE!!!! As we were walking away from the counter, a really large man in line behind us asked us if this was our first time here. We said yes. He told us, “You’ll be back.” Wow, people really like this place. We grabbed our various eating accoutrements and sat down. They have moist towelettes at the condiment station, which is always super nice. Reinforced plasticware, perfect for eating ribs, and bendy straws. Things were looking up.

I was a tad disappointed that A) they had Coke products and B) there was a severe lack of orange, grape, or strawberry pop to drink. But I can deal with that.

We waited a while for our food, but we had a lot to catch up on, so it wasn’t a major deal. The food showed up on a cafeteria tray – which is how all ribs should be served, I’ve decided. They did bring us individual Styrofoam plates for us to put food on, but the initial presentation is old school and I like it. We started with the coleslaw since ti was the only thing not piping hot. The coleslaw was actually quite good. Very creamy and bright like it was very fresh. It could have used a touch more vinegar in it, but it honestly was one of the better coleslaws we’ve had since we started this quest.

The baked beans were next. Holy crap. These were good. Really good. They tasted like meat, but didn’t have any meat in them. Smoky, without being fake-smoky. They had a thick sauce in them and were perfectly cooked. These were MUCH better than we expected. I’d go back just for the beans (if it wasn’t a 45 minute drive from my house). The cornbread was really quite moist – not the tiniest bit dry. But it was extra sweet and very cold – not a fan of those two things together.

The fries were pretty good. I say that knowing that anything you put Lawry’s seasoning salt on is going to be made better. We didn’t complain one bit, but I wouldn’t say these fries were anything special worth selling your children for.

The meat – that was why we do this thing. First off, the meat is saucy – not a dry rub. I know people like to know this up-front. The meat was very tough. Really tough. We had trouble cutting it with the knife we had and we sawed at it longer than we should have, and that was just to separate them so we could get them on our plates. We had to fight the meat off the bones a bit too, all the while dodging cartilage pieces. That being said, the sauce was quite good. Both the sauce that was cooked onto/into the ribs themselves, and also the stuff in the squirt bottles on the table. I think Mr. BBQ has the sauce nailed. So we slathered the heck out of the ribs and finished our meal. A bit disappointed with the rib experience, but the aftertaste of the sauce still was lingering.
I checked out the bathroom, which some people find amusing that I write about it, but deal with it. I’m glad I checked it out. It was in rough shape. There is no lock on the men’s room door and there’s a handwritten sign taped to it that says the lock doesn’t work and you should knock first. I did so. However, I’d be a bit cautious if there are children in the restaurant who may not be able to read the sign. That’s just me. Once inside, I was less than impressed. The toilet seat is stuck in some half-open arrangement that forces you to hunker down and recreate a scat film with Hasbro’s Mr. Mouth board game. Very weird experience.

As we left, the guy said to come again: We won’t. Then he said to tell all our friends: We are doing that…. here.

And to look at the Bar-B-Quest 2011 brackets to date, HotGirlsBrother and I noticed that Dickey’s BBQ Pit is a chain restaurant and we’re not doing that in this little quest. So we’re disqualifying them. Not because they’re bad – I haven’t tried their food – they might be good. But we can’t be comparing home town heroes to stores with over 200 locations around the country. So that moved Mr. BBQ to the next round, which was immediately destroyed by the awesomeness that is Big Daddy’s. Those guys are going to be tough to beat. (Click on the photo to enlarge it)

Top 5 things about Mr. BBQ
1. Baked beans
2. Coleslaw
3. BBQ sauce
4. Bendy straws, reinforced plasticware, moist towelettes at the condiment stand
5. Really friendly staff who are proud of their work

Bottom 5 things
1. Really tough ribs
2. Cold and painfully sweet cornbread
3. Really smoky inside
4. Bathroom was a wreck
5. Put Lawry’s seasoning on anything and it will be 39.4% better. That's just science.

4621 Central Ave NE
Minneapolis, MN 55421


Cosmos said...

You DQ'd Dickie's BBQ b/c it's a chain but Ikea is on the list? I'm so confused.

Chao said...

Good point. However, Ikea was more of a joke, just to get us to go there and try it. Besides, we had to fudge on it being in the Eastern Division. We just ran out of BBQ places on the east side of the Twin Cities. Ikea wasn't really a contender. Plus Dickey's is in the same book as Famous Dave's and Tony Roma's (just the lower end of the price scale). No offense to Dickey's, of course...

Josh said...

The Groupon was good at the Brooklyn Center location? Does that mean it has opened? My office is right by it and it doesn't look like it has ever opened. You probably wouldn't know either.

Apparently the Mango Tango place that was in that building before did actually open and that never looked open either. It sounds like that place sucked hard. I think that's a cursed location. It's never really been anything the 6 years I've worked here.

Josh said...

I was also going to say, you aren't missing anything by skipping Dickey's. It's not even like a Famous Dave's. It's more like fast food BBQ and it lacks a lot of flavor. It would do in a pinch when you have a craving.

Vintner Don said...

I doubt that BC location is open, there is a piece of plywood in front of the door and a van in front the plywood to keep the doors closed. Something very odd there.

Unknown said...

This Twin Cities Ribquest bracket idea is great! You have identified some BBQ joints I haven't been to that I want to try like Scott Ja Mama's and Bayport BBQ. I am surprised that Baldy's beat out Bakers and Market BBQ. I gave them 2 chances at their Riverside Ave. location and finally "threw in the towel" due to dry overcooked ribs and burned cornbread. Thanks for the discussions!