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Jul 24, 2003 12:03 PM

John Hardy's in Rochester, MN

  • j

I ate there for lunch yesterday. According to the back of their menu, John Hardy was a real person, he grew up in Birmingham Alabama and somehow wound up opening a BBQ restaurant in Rochester MN in the early 1970's. He died in 1986. Somewhere along the way, they moved from a downtown location to a freestanding place on the industrial north-side of Rochester. They're right next to a tank farm (I dream that the tanks are filled with BBQ sauce, but it's probably some kind of petro chemical).

The whole establisment is "smoke-free" which is slightly funny when you think BBQ. There are booths and tables with red-check plastic table cloths. The waitress was friendly.

The chow was mixed. I really liked the pork spare ribs. They were smoky and chewy and bit on the dry side. I ordered them bare to add sauce at the table. The sauce is not promising when tasted alone prior to the meal, but when it is slathered on the ribs, one of those "whole is greater than the sum of the parts" things happens. Ribs & sauce is good, but not worth a special trip to Rochester.

I also tasted the pulled pork. It was bad. Had a bad smell and texture was mushy and it just wasn't any good. This was pretty much during the middle of the lunch rush, so things should have been good. I won't order the pulled pork again. And the BBQ beef was disappointing too. Didn't try the Ham, Turkey or Chicken. So much 'Que, so little stomache.

The black-eyed peas were decent. The french fries nothing special, not bad. They serve baskets of thick-sliced white-bread that's been slathered on one side with melted butter. I liked this, but I'd rather save my caloric/fat intake for the ribs.

P.S. Mpls Rib-fest is this coming up this weekend. It's a very expensive way to taste ribs from a 5-10 producers in one afternoon while listening to bad live rock music. It's on Nicollet Avenue, near the old central library, I believe.

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  1. Something must have been wrong to have had such a bad experience there. They are normally very good. The pulled pork is outstanding as are the Jo-Jo potatoes. Other sides like fried okra are very good too.

    John Hardy's has two locations, the other being on the south side of Rochester on 63.

    My website partner just told me that there is different management at the north side location. He thinks they may not be working well with the south side location.

    Try the south side location before giving up on them. I have had many meals from that location and even with an hour's ride to get back to Winona, the food is good.

    I have had everything on the menu and it is all very good tasting food.

    The last time we had food from Hardy's was about one month ago for carry-outs. The south side location allows smoking in the dining room so we don't eat in the restaurant.

    Our website under going a face lift but a review was done awhile back.


    5 Replies
    1. re: Frank

      John Hardy was a character who started a great BBQ in Rochester in the early 1980's. After his death, his son sold the business and it has gone through several successive owners. As noted, there are now two locations, one on south Broadway (US63) and the other off of northwest US52.

      Hardy's is OK - but any BBQ visit to Rochester should also include Roscoe's. They won the twin cities ribfest several years ago and have placed well in other competitions. They have two locations - a drive-in on fourth street southeast not far beyond the courthouse, and a larger place with a dining room on 18th avenue just north of 41st street northeast (not far from the 41st street exit off of US52). Roscoe's has been under the same ownership and management for almost thirty years, so they must be doing something right.

      1. re: semiretired

        Thanks for info. I will try the food there when I am in Rochester next time. So good to hear about places within an hour of Winona.

        1. re: Frank

          Being from Winona - have you heard anything about the great restaurant in Alma called Currents Cafe? They haven't opened yet this year. They were the only cafe in the area able to give Harbor View a run for the money. We miss their great menu and service. They were a bit pricey, but had class and service that gave Harbor View something to shoot at. I loved them both.

          1. re: Frank

            I'm sad to say this but my favorite restaurant in Alma, WI has closed. We have tried without any success to call them and make reservations. Phone service is not hooked up. They were excellent and will be missed by anyone who appreciates good food, good service and good drinks. I had always hoped that they would have found a way to remain open all year long instead of just during the warmer months.


      2. re: Frank
        Jim Grinsfelder


        It may read that I had a bad experience, but I really liked the ribs. And the sauce+rib combination was a good experience.

        I'll give the south-side location a try. I planned to try Roscoes next.

        Also, does anyone know anything about Bon's Mongolian Grill on the north end? Is it any good?

      3. I lived in Rochester in the early eighties and often went to John Hardy's. The first place was a real dive in SE Rochester, but really good. John Hardy himself, was usually sitting at a table watching people go in and out. He did the same later in the place on Hwy 52.

        I remember a lovely young girl - about 9 - he was about 70 - who was his daughter. I had thought that she had inherited the restaurants.

        1. I've been to John Hardy's a couple of times. They have great food and the waitstaff is always quite pleasant and professional. My favorites are the BBQ turkey and the ribs.

          I'm not too nuts about Ribfest. It's much too expensive and not a good value at all. I go for the has-been rock bands (I saw one of my old favorites, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Dukes on Thursday) but don't spend any money. $10 for three bones and a bottle of soda doesn't seem like a good deal.