[MSP] Lee & Dee's in St. Paul, "real" BBQ?
After reading some of the debate in this thread about "real" BBQ with smoke vs. grill food dressed up with BBQ sauce (no matter how delicious)...for those of you BBQ aficionados like soupkitten and MSPD and so on who believe "smoke" is part of it, do you consider Lee & Dee's to be "real" BBQ? It always seems smokey in there to me! I'm not asking if you think it's the best BBQ in the Twin Cities, or even in St. Paul, just if it meets the minimum requirements for "real" BBQ. A simple yay or nay will do, if you're not up to the big explanation. I've always loved it...http://www.chowhound.com/topics/422142
I wish I loved that place, since it's in my neighborhood. But I keep getting an aftertaste that seems more like liquid smoke than actual smoke on their dishes.
That said, the time is ripening to shift from online comparisons to real live taste-offs. We gotta line up orders of beef ribs from the top contenders and get to the bottom of this.
(to-go containers for a blind taste test ... pork ribs and pulled meat sandwiches are separate events ... service, presentation & side orders count for 0 ... bring your own E-Z Wipes.)
Oh boo. I was afraid of an answer like that. Well, as always, thank you for your honest opinion, even if it's breaking my heart. I think I've settled on the weekend of Oct 6/7 (one of those days--haven't decided which) for a BBQ beef ribs chowdown/side-by-side blind comparisons gathering/picnic. I hope those dates work for most people. Summer vacations should no longer be an issue, and that should early enough in the fall that the weather won't be miserably, swelteringly hot. I just have to figure out the logistics. 'hounds--if you're interested in this chowdown/side-by-side BBQ taste taste or have opinions about this chowdown, drop an e-mail to me at the e-mail address in my profile. Please don't discuss the chowdown in this thread.
I'll skirt the issue before giving an answer.
I'm not a BBQ purist. Because I'm interested in this kind of food, I try and learn as much as I can and sample as much as I can over the years. Since my heated discussion on here a while back about Pastor Hamilton's product, my opinions and knowledge have evolved but haven't strayed too much from what I consider my basic BBQ foundation.
If you ask me today if a certain product is "real BBQ" my ONLY criteria are: (1) It must be meat or fish. Yes, you can barbeque a vegetable but I won't call it barbeque. (2) It must be cooked at some point over a wood product or wood by-product (such as charcoal). Meats that are first smoked over wood and then eventually gas grilled, griddled, oven-cooked, etc. DO qualify as "real BBQ" in my book.
Along those lines, I don't believe smoking, spice rubs or "low and slow" are deadset requirements to qualify as "real BBQ". The nature of many traditional American BBQ meats is such that smoking and/or low and slow cooking is an optimal way to arrive at the best possible resultant product. Smoking and/or spice rubs CAN be a great advantage in depth of flavor however. As I mentioned in my rave recently about Big Daddy's rib tips which had no apparent spicing, it was all about pure, unadulterated sizzling smoky pork dipped in a very nicely balanced sauce.
Again, this is my standing today -- I hope to learn more and am open to the possibility of someone enlightening me and/or convincing me to change my view.
In my comments about Scott Ja Mama's, I said I wasn't ready to go so far as to say it's not "real BBQ" simply because I haven't witnessed how they cook the food. I SUSPECT it's raw product placed directly on a non-wood heat source. I DO know they don't use smoke.
Based on my conversations with Lee of Lee's & Dee's a long time ago, I WOULD say they offer "real BBQ". He stated to me that he spends a lot of time smoking his product over wood (I forget what kind...hickory maybe) on site. There's your short answer.
Just because a place offers "real BBQ" or not does not automatically predetermine my opinion of a restaurant or product. The formula for my opinion in this genre of chow is similar to my formula in many other areas of cuisine:
1. Is the basic product/are the ingredients of good quality and character?
2. Do the people preparing the product do a good job and do they show obvious care about their craft?
3. Does the food taste good? Is it satisfying and complex where it's supposed to be and simple and uncomplicated where it should be? Are the texture and temperature appealing?
4. How does the food compare to other available similar foods?
At Scott Ja Mama's, what I experienced were: (in reference to #1) average, supermarket grade cuts of meat (both ribs and chicken). (#2) not a whole lot of obvious care or inspiration -- slightly overcooked chicken, gloppy-textured sauce, and an overabundance of membrane on the pork ribs. (#3) There was no obvious spice (not required) on the meat, nor was there any smoke flavor (again, not required but adds complexity). The kicker was the lack of depth in the sauce -- if you don't spice or smoke the meat, you HAVE to make up for it with a deep and complex sauce. Why else would I bother with the place? So, in reference to #4, I've experienced better foods of this kind in many other places.
The bottom line is, regardless of "real BBQ" or not, I just didn't like the food there (again, positive points for ambiance and staff). I probably could have articulated that more clearly in the other post.
If you find some of my posts on the Dallas board about my BBQ experiences there, you'll find more about the potential for "real BBQ" to suck bigtime.
I think Lee's & Dee's makes a good "BBQ" product but I really go there for the catfish. I have no problem with Famous Dave's (lower-quality product and care, better flavors and sauces), Market BBQ (good but not great at any of the 1-4), Rudolph's (same as Market), etc. but, in reference to #1-4 above all leave me wanting. In the context of Minneapolis and based on 1-4, I like Ted Cook's the best. I think Baker's in Eden Prairie has the most potential but at certain times of day, the quality is way off (very similar to my experiences around Dallas.
p.s. -- I really don't think beef ribs are the way to go in a taste-test. Beef ribs are a lesser-known entity than pork and not as widely available. Go for a pork product. Sauce and meat should be judged separately.
p.p.s. -- I have no idea how they are prepared but I was very pleasantly surprised by the ribs at the Space Aliens restaurant in Albertville the one time I had them.
This is why I love chowhound. I learn so much on here. Thank you for your very thoughtful reply. I've always wondered about that Space Aliens restaurant, although, never feel the need to stop there en route to whereever I'm going because it's so close to home, and never feel the need to stop there when returning from whereever I've been for the same reason. Funny idea for a restaurant.
P.S. Okay, pork ribs.
Scott Ja-Mama's Barbecue
3 W Diamond Lake Rd, Minneapolis, MN 55419
1933 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneaoplis, MN 55403
1414 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55403
15320 Wayzata Blvd, Wayzata, MN 55391
Space Aliens Grill & Bar
County Rd-37 NE, Albertville, MN 55301
8019 Glen Ln, Eden Prairie, MN 55344
re: The Dairy Queen
There are locations in Fargo, Bismarck, Waite Park (St. Cloud), Minot and Blaine as well. It's like they're taking over the planet! (ha ha).
This bit from their web site which I just found:
"Judged America's Best Ribs at the National Bar-B-Que Convention Cook-off in Memphis, Tennessee! Our Award Winning Ribs are expertly seasoned with over 20 spices, then slowly smoked in our authentic bar-b-que pits."
We only stopped because my wife held us hostage at the Albertville outlet mall on our way back from up north and when she finally released us, the kids were starving.
re: The Dairy Queen
So I guess I should confess to being the rascal "BBQ purist" who went toe to toe with you about Pastor Hamilton's. I'm still not satisfied that charcoal alone is enough (for otherwise, as I argued long ago, hamburgers on the grill would be BBQ'd)--you need wood chips at least...
I notice they've deleted our skirmish. That's too bad.
Glad to hear you like Big Daddy's--I think he's who I recommended long ago over the Pastor as serving up good BBQ in the cities. Glad to hear too that it's as good as I recall.
i agree with MSPD about the pork ribs being the way to go for a blind taste test.
very well written articulation of the MSPD criteria for MSP bbq. i suspect that, for good or bad, i am more of a "bbq purist", but i think that MSPDs basic 4 points are a great foundation to judge bbq on.
in addition to MSPD's foundation, i'd add the (totally optional) soupkitten bbq criteria (this is for american-style bbq and not other styles, such as korean-- non-american bbq is delicious, but is generally cooked differently and is not what i'm talking about right now):
5. is the meat cooked with smoke? (we differ here, MSPD-- this is a requirement for me for "real" bbq-- not that a bbq-style sandwich featuring unsmoked meat can't be yummy, but for me it's a variation on a sloppy joe, & not bbq) & which fruitwoods and hardwoods are used to flavor the various cuts?
6. does the basic style of the bbq fall within the traditions of one of the 4 major regional styles of american bbq-- carolina, memphis, kansas city, or texas? are the traditional cooking methods respected and lovingly carried on? again, there is always room for new spices, new sides, different preparations, wacky sauces. more power to the inventors of these exciting innovations-- but the meat needs to be cooked low and slow, until superbly tender, or 'taint q.
7. consistency. it's not rocket science, it just takes a lot of patience and experience. is the meat cooked well, every time, or is someone taking shortcuts-- liquid smoke, or a high heat finish in an oven or over a direct-heat grill?
8. last and the least important--for bonus points, essentially: are the rubs and sauces homemade on premesis? not that some great q can't be made with a simple s & p rub or a transcendent piece of meat dunked in some store-bought sauce when it's served-- but ime going the extra, personal step of making rubs, mop sauces & serving sauce is that extra step that differentiates the taste of bbq establishments and can make a huge difference. it comes from the life & cooking experience of the cook or "pit boss" and is very personal and often very, very beautiful. to me. you know, the HUGE bbq dork **sigh**