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BBQ, Minnesota Monthly, Q Fanatic

I eagerly devoured Dara Moskowitz's article in MM on BBQ in MN. I really enjoy her writing and have found many of her recommendations to be right on the mark.

Based on that, I tried Q Fanatic. She's right to talk up the vodka-based (or infused) BBQ sauce. It was both good and different from anything I've tasted on BBQ. However, I was not thrilled with the brisket sandwich, pulled pork sandwich or spare ribs. The beans, mashed potatos, fries and slaw on the side were also nothing particularly good. In my view, Q Fanatic's meal last night was only marginally better than Famous Dave's. In other words, not bad, but nothing I'd drive to 30 minutes to Champlin for a 2nd time.

Since she raved about this and John Hardy's, another place I don't think is all that great, and I'm hearing from friends in and around Stillwater that Smalley's isn't worth the drive, I question the rest of the recommendations.

What do you think?

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  1. Personally, I think Smalley's is well worth the drive. It's one of those things where the difference is in the details and is less in-your-face. It sort of equates to the idiots (my very pointed opinion) who gush on and on about Dunkin' Donuts/Starbucks/McDonald's/etc. coffee and wouldn't know an actual decent cup of coffee if it smashed them in the face. There are probably a lot of people that don't appreciate the quality, complexity, and makeup of Smalley's BBQ. Beyond that, I do think it shows up in the most basic sense as well -- the taste.

    I agree that John Hardy's isn't out of this world. It's fine if you're down that way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MSPD

      You can certainly argue with the John Hardy sauce(s) and I think the ribs are ok, but I'll still stop for a plate of pulled pork and jojos when I'm down that way. I think it is fab.

    2. Q Fanatic blows Famous Daves out of the water. It is not close. I put this in the same category as those who compare Al Vento to Olive Garden.

      Whether it floats your boat is, I suppose, a matter of opinion. I found the brisket to be moist, but perhaps a tad under-seasoned, but was very impressed with the pulled pork. As far as sides go, the Mac & Cheese and onion straws are stand-outs.

      Smalley's is worth the drive if you are into the chicken, which was quite good. The beef has gotten (deservedly) mixed reviews. The mac and cheese, however, was the best I've had. Worth the drive? In a vacuum, maybe not.

      5 Replies
      1. re: kevin47

        How would you describe the Smalley's chicken? Fried? Barbeque sauced?

        What's good about it? May need to check it out..

        1. re: karykat

          Jamaican Jerk grilled over pimiento wood.

        2. re: kevin47

          went to smalley's shortly after it opened and while i loved the pimiento wood smoke, and the food was technically proficient, i don't think the place has "heart." the meat (pork) was okay, as were the wings we did try, but owed much of their appeal to the higher than average ingredient quality (nothing wrong with that, mind). but there was no real pitmaster flair.

          my major gripe? housemade jamaican bbq sauces. no dig. 4 were presented--tasted like a jug of french's commercial worcestershire sauce, whizzed in a blender with a little, then some, then a handful, and finally 2 handfuls of dried chiles and spice, and labeled as if they were 4 different individually crafted sauces which did not use a commercial restaurant supply sauce base. the food was okay but i did feel the sauces bordered on insulting toward the customer. not often i feel angry toward a sauce, but i would have much preferred a crushed scotch bonnet and a couple of allspice berries shaken around inside a half-empty red stripe bottle and sloshed around on my plate, or. . . er, in the horrid basket things they use, whatever. would have been a much more cohesive flavor profile, because imho some of the spicing of the sauce took it out into the pacific, rather than the atlantic. source your wood directly from jamaica and make a big deal about it, guys, and then go and use mexican and chinese spices? does not come across as cutting-edge fusion-y, comes across as sloppy.

          yes, i should probably go back and see what's improved at the restaurant, but i am still angry at that sauce and it should apologize first.

          1. re: soupkitten

            That's a good point about sauces. I recall being underwhelmed by the sauces at Smalleys, but thinking it was no big deal... like the selection of hot sauces at a Mexican restaurant.

            But when it comes to BBQ, it's actually a pretty big deal, and Q is a great example of why and how this is so. It's a primary driver of flavor, not just an enhancer.

            1. re: soupkitten

              Hubby and I went to Smalley's tonight. We've been there several times before and been happy with our food, but tonight was a real letdown. We got the corn fritters app, which were overcooked almost to the point of being burned. I ordered the coal roasted pork shoulder; hubby the beef brisket. Both the meets were filled with fat and gristle. Pretty disgusting, actually. That said, my sweet potatoes were excellent and hubby really like his beans side. All in all we won't be back any time soon. When you can't get the meat right, the sides just aren't enough to bring us back again. :(

          2. I have had Q Fanatic and thought it was better than Dave's. And I like Dave's for what they provide...
            As for the rest of her recommendations, I made it to Bob's Smoke Stack in Elgin after spending a day at Lake Pepin and I can tell you without equivocation that they got the real deal pork ribs down there. They were swamped due to Dara's article, but the quality of the ribs was not diminshed. I haven't been to Rendevous in Memphis in awhile (my fave) but these ribs certainly stacked up.

            6 Replies
            1. re: eastlakovore

              I thought the pulled pork and rib tips were excellent, along with the mac and cheese. I know the potato gratinee sounded great, too, but they were out when I was there. I wasn't impressed with the brisket (or the cole slaw), but I tend to think a lot of these mom-n-pop bbq joints specialize in a couple of things, and do the rest for the variety. As for the sauce, fantastic. The vodka is actually to bring out some of the alcohol-soluble flavors that don't normally come out, or so Google tells me. I did find a vodka bbq sauce on Youtube that was close, but not quite.

              1. re: mech_e

                I judge a BBQ place by how much smoke you can smell when you arrive. And I think to really rate a BBQ place there should be pork, beef and a chicken meat to be judged - not only a pulled meat. While I liked Q-Fanatic's ribs, there was only pulled chicken (all they had was grilled when I was there - booo)

                What about C & G's Smoking Barbeque? I went there when it first opened and was not impressed. Same with John Hardy's. Dara, why?

                I love Big Daddy's. Love them. I think they're the best.

                1. re: drower

                  q-fanatic's brisket was far from anything you would find in texas. there is more to good restaurant 'que then hanging your proverbial apron on "must not be dry" at the cost of smokehouse bbq integrity. mine tasted like a french dip sandwich complete with garlic butter on the french bread roll (bread was great, btw)
                  His product is "steamed" of all its inherent briskety beauty in an attempt to be moist and tender. no bark, no smoke no good. Sorry charley...

                  1. re: infamousdavid

                    We went the other night at about 7:45 on a whim. The guy was the rudest person I've ever dealt with. He had an issue with us ordering food because they close at 8. He should have just said were closed. We asked if we could get a pulled pork sandwich and a chicken sandwich. I asked for the vinegar sauce. He asked me if I had ever had it before (not sure why). Then when we didn't order something to drink he had another issue. We said forget it and walked out. Just say your closed if you don't want to sell your food. What a joke.

                    1. re: tda

                      My guess is that there is some defensiveness based on previous customers who come in expecting chain-style teriyaki beef jerky. He's probably had customers return their meals, having doused them with a sauce that is beyond their ken.

                      I understand where he's coming from, but that's part of doing business. And, yeah, if you don't have a liquor license, and your kitchen is closed, just close.

                    2. re: infamousdavid

                      I agree infamousdave. I lived in Austin for a decade. There's nothing in MN that rivals good Texas BBQ. Q fanatic is "OK" but that's it. I'll also say that BBQ in TX is a heck of alot cheaper than it is here. A full rack of baby backs is always under $20.00. Not here!

              2. In my quest to find great BBQ in Minnesota, I went to Mr. BBQ on Central for lunch the other day.

                No apparent smoking going on. By not apparent, I mean I couldn't taste it in the ribs, pulled pork, or beef ribs. And I couldn't see any wood pile or smoke stack. The beef ribs were tender, the pulled pork was flavorless, the pork ribs were not bad. I won't be going back.

                1. I see no mention of the Sassy pig in Blaine. I've been there and think it is much better than Q Fanatic. Ribs have a nice smokey flavor and very tender, Chicken was very juicy and tender and brisket was very nice. Definitely worth going back again. People really like Famous Daves? It may be 1 step above Dickeys BBQ

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ticrta

                    I had never even heard of the Sassy Pig until a few days ago and I live maybe 5-10 miles from the place. Definite must sometime soon.

                  2. Went on Sunday. The guy was a little rude at the begining but later was much nicer. I had the Baby backs my fiend had the spare ribs. The babys were very good. Best dry rub I have had in town. Nice heavy smoke. I dinn't like the spare ribs as much. They were too fatty. I tried two sauces (chipolte and vodka). I loved the chipolte. I would go again. The Mac and Cheese is very good as well.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Latinpig

                      Scott Ja-Mama's is where I head for Q ...

                      1. re: Latinpig

                        Whick place did you go to, LP? Think I'm losing track.

                      2. You should really make the trek down to Austin for Piggy Blues. I haven't been there in a few years, but I grew up in Austin, and that restaurant was an almost weekly event with my family after it opened. I think they do a really killer job.

                        John Hardy's is great, too. Always loved the pulled pork, beans, slaw. Good sauce, too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: amgarrison

                          Went there last month - not bad - not great - It's a good addition to downtown Austin - but what wouldn't be?

                        2. MSP has a rundown of some spots including Mr. BBQ and Sassy Pig , has anyone been to JC's?


                          19 Replies
                          1. re: sporkgirl

                            I read somewhere (here I think) that JC's is now another fish & wing joint. How original!

                            1. re: KC612

                              Went to Ted Cook's last week. Not on this list, as it has been around for quite awhile. However, was my first visit. And it will not be my last. Oh my! Loved the pork ribs, chicken. Truly smoked in the old world slow style. Didn't like the sauce (asked for medium) and would go naked next time. I will be back. Cole slaw, potato salad just like grandmas. So sorry to have missed this place over all these years.

                              1. re: rp1760

                                Isn't it funny how we can't get a great all-around BBQ place around here?

                                Big Daddy's, JC's (now apparently closed) and Ted Cooks really hit it on the meats, but only offer one sauce. I happen to like Ted Cooks' sauce, but people have a really wide range of BBQ sauce preferences. And I always order on the side anyway.

                                Then, for example, Rack Shack in Burnsville (my neck of the woods) absolutely sucks at meats but has a vast array of outstanding, scratch-made sauces.

                                The other long-standing places like Baker's, Market, Rudolphs, Lee's & Dee's, Pastor Hamilton's, etc, seem to vary from bad to good without any logical reasoning.

                                Then, you get a constant stream of places with promise that close up shop before they can even get off the ground (again, JC's, Speedway, etc.).

                                The thing is, this is why I don't blame anyone at all for liking Famous Daves. In fact, I recently took advantage of the "Free Meal for Daves" day and had a far-above-average plate of ribs. They do just good enough on the meats and just good enough on the sauces to make it worth the money (at least the ones I end up at -- Apple Valley, Burnsville, Calhoun Square).

                                1. re: MSPD

                                  I too took advantage of the free meal for Daves. :)

                                  1. re: Davydd

                                    That food looks like it should be free. That said, did you go through the line twice? You sly dog.

                                    1. re: kevin47

                                      Famous Dave's is not a cafeteria. It is a sit down dinner place. I think MSPD said it right. It might be fashionable to knock Famous Dave's but not too many BBQ places in the Twin Cities can compete with them with overall consistent quality. Their BBQ meats are fine. Check out that smoke ring on the brisket. That's real.

                                      1. re: Davydd

                                        I don't knock it because it is fashionable to do so. I knock it because I don't enjoy the food all that much. The ribs are okay, if skimpy. The mains are competent, but invariably dry. The sides are usually flavorless. I mean, my name isn't Dave, so I have to pay if I want that broccoli :) I don't wanna.

                                        1. re: kevin47

                                          Kevin47... Which Famous Daves do you go to?? The Uptown one is inconsistent but my mains, ribs, and side always have been way above Q Fanatic in taste and presentation at the Minnetonka location. After all the build up about Q I was sorely disappointed. I'm glad I was driving by instead of making a special trip to Champlain. Everyone seems to like different things.
                                          You do seem to be knocking because it's fashionable, you did make reference to a chain.....(Q Fanatic blows Famous Daves out of the water. It is not close. I put this in the same category as those who compare Al Vento to Olive Garden) sounds like a knock to me.

                                          Al Vento
                                          5001 34th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                                          1. re: ibew292

                                            Oh, I'm absolutely knocking it, but doing so based on my experiences at the Uptown, Harriet, Rochester and Roseville (though I thought the pork cheeks at the state fair were a decent experiment), and not because it is fashionable to do so.

                                            Maybe it has gotten better. Maybe the food just doesn't suit my tastes. To me, it looks, feels and tastes like a chain, and I think it is far worse than Q Fanatic.

                                        2. re: Davydd

                                          Those are some odd looking slices of brisket. Maybe they sliced the point end which I'm used to seeing pulled or chopped?

                                        3. re: kevin47

                                          I considered, and joked about with my other friend Dave, going from Apple Valley over to the Famous Dave's drive through in Burnsville for some for another day.

                                          The "free for Dave's" day got me wondering if they didn't up the ante on the food quality a bit that day. To the contrary of "skimpy", the ribs were way over to the large end of the spectrum. I had about 6 bones and it was a ton of meat...more than I'm used to from them. I thought maybe they were putting on their best face to have people think "we really should come here more often".

                                          Anyway, just to confirm, I was up in the neighborhood of JC's yesterday and it is indeed no longer a BBQ place at all. Terrible.

                                    2. re: rp1760

                                      This thread got my cravings going full blast for BBQ! This week I tried Big Daddy's. Loved the ribs. Slightly chewy, lovely smoke ring. I would rate thier ribs slightly ahead of Ted Cook's, but their chicken slightly below Ted Cook's. (Good taste, but soggy skin kinda made a lackluster impression.)

                                      1. re: rp1760

                                        We recently had chicken from Big Daddys. Wow. Chicken was moist, flavorful and tender. Agree about the skin (but the sogginess of it probably accompanies the moistness of the chicken.)

                                        1. re: karykat

                                          I have been wanting to try Big Daddy's ribs forever, so I made the trip there last week - phenomenal! Loved the pork ribs, tried some of the beef ribs too (not so good). The pork ribs definitely took me back in my mind to KC and Memphis - I would recommend to everyone!

                                          1. re: Minnesotapix

                                            Beef ribs are never good. I honestly don't know why anyone barbecue's them. It's a horrible cut of meat.

                                            1. re: alpa chino

                                              I had the beef ribs last summer and they were incredible. Giant pieces of nearly fork tender meat. Has something changed since then?

                                              1. re: BigE

                                                It's nothing against their particular beef ribs. I'm just not a fan of beef ribs to begin with. They're too greasy and they just overall fail in comparison to the traditional pork. Pork ribs, IMO, are always the way to go. And Big Daddy's are very good.

                                        2. re: rp1760

                                          We had the chicken last night for dinner. So great -- moist with great smoky flavor and bbqed skin. Just the thing with some sweet corn.

                                          1. re: rp1760

                                            I tried Big Daddy's on Saturday. I liked it. The ribs were definitely smoked. The sauce was nice. They were a bit more tender than I like them but plenty of people like them really tender. I like to chew them just a little more. Almost nothing on the bark in terms of spice rub. Definitely needed the sauce. I'd go again.

                                    3. I'm getting hungry for some ribs,with all this talk of rib joints.to bad there are no decent places for ribs in the tc area;well,not anymore.if i only had the money,i'd reopen the best rib joint the twin cities ever had.
                                      anybody hungry?

                                      1. I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Market BBQ. I live so close by and I've never tried it. I've been meaning to. But since no one mentions Market, it must not be that good.

                                        26 Replies
                                        1. re: alpa chino

                                          hey alpa.....the MARKET BBQ has it's loyal following,but lets face it;it aint that good...ribs are dry and tasteless,but if thats what ya like,go 4 it.... I havent been there in years,but i understand it hasnt changed at all.

                                          1. re: elliot w

                                            I gotta agree with Elliot's take on Market BBQ. What was the best rib joint the TC ever had?

                                            I'm looking forward to trying the ribs next Friday at Brasa.

                                            1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                              Hey JIm...The best was a place back in the early 70's in St.Paul,called "MAMA LU'S BBQ".

                                              1. re: elliot w

                                                Was it still running in 1983? I seem to vaguely remember Mama Lu's, but it could be just a fevered hickory-smoke induced hallucination.

                                                1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                  MamaLu's on Lexington was the original. There was MamaLu's Too in Bloomington (now Da Afgan) that was still open in 1983. After ownership change in or around that time (food went down hill, no respect for original recipe's...etc) they expanded I believe to Bandana Square and hwy 7/Minnetonka (since bulldozed and the site of the Famous Dave's)
                                                  MamaLu's BBQ (especially in the St. Paul days which had a real smokehouse Pit!) had great St. Louis Ribs, a memorable sauce, and decent pork loin.

                                                  Back then it was just Rudolphs, Market (Minnetonka store just closed the doors, btw) and MamaLu's. Mama was Marion and Lu was Luther and the origins of the recipes were straight out of Texas back in the 70's.

                                                  I have been to Tonka Grill & BBQ twice lately and loved me some baby Backs ( and I'm a spare rib guy) skip the "heralded" beef ribs and went to Lone Spur in Tonka last week and had a very nice rack of Spares ( consistent food that day) and the brisket Chimi was as good as I remebered it from years ago (same manager for years and years has helped them)

                                                  1. re: infamousdavid

                                                    Hello again,Jim,andDavid...The bbq pork sandwich at Mamalu's was one of my favorites.
                                                    The pork came from the shoulder,and the recipes did not originate in Texas,but rather Arkansas.Thats where Luther came from.

                                                    1. re: elliot w

                                                      thanks for the correction on Luther. I remember spec sheets from a place i thought originated in Texas. At MamaLu's Too (where I worked in 1979) we did use pork loin for some reason and not shoulder/butt.

                                                      I had a conversation a few years back with the granddaughter of Marion (She was doing a college paper in regards to her grandmother. Nostalgia sometimes clouds the senses but I do know we put out some dang good 'que back in the day.

                                                      1. re: infamousdavid

                                                        I didn't know they used pork loin there.What did you use for the bbq beef sandwich? In St.Paul,it was bottom round.

                                                        1. re: elliot w

                                                          yes...we used the same for the Beef. Back then I did not know the wonder and barky beauty of a nice piece of Brisket! Lulz!

                                                          1. re: infamousdavid

                                                            Oh man.....David,yer killin me here.Can you imagine how great that would have been?Mamalu's marinade,and cooked on the pit.I'm salivating.
                                                            Good thing i'm doin ribs tonight for dinner;I 've had a hankering for some time now.I got some baby backs on sale for cheap,so i had to buy them;and a few weeks ago i had some texas beef ribs i slow roasted in the oven using mamalu's marinade,and it actually turned out pretty good.i"m gonna try it the same way with the baby backs.
                                                            I'll post the results later on tonight.till then,happy q'n.

                                                            1. re: elliot w

                                                              Well...I won't do that again...I think the biggest reason for that is;in my opinion anyway,baby back ribs just dont have as good a flavor as spare ribs,and when I say spare ribs,I'm refering to St.Louis style ribs.Opinions anybody?

                                                              1. re: elliot w

                                                                Spares are better. I only remove the membrane before smoking. I'll trim them St. Louis style if I'm worried about presentation, but that's only if I'm cooking for someone else.

                                                    2. re: infamousdavid

                                                      I am pretty sure I ate at MamaLu's Too in Bloomington. Thanks for the info.

                                                      1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                        you are welcome Jim. speaking of MamaLus and the Backribs V. Sparerib talker, I can remember us putting "this little known or used back rib" on our menu in 1979 and how it started a debate even back then. Again, real BBQ is subjective as heck, but to me (and I will eat them both) the KING of ribs is always a nicely squared (trimmed) pork sparerib. back in the day our ribs from Ellison Meats (Kent was one of the owners, after Marion/Luther) were the best and meatiest available and to be honest, it is hard to get them these days w/out the surface meat being trimmed off both commercially and at the meat counter. too bad. there are sure to be a nice rack available raw here or there, but w/ the advent of so called by-products become household names (chicken wings) the industry has been changed for a long time. I used Duroc Pork at my last venture but could not afford to use it exclusively.

                                                        1. re: infamousdavid

                                                          I never knew that they used baby backs at Bloomington.I guess they did a few things different then we did at St.Paul.Just St.Louis spare ribs that came from Armour meats.To set the record straight;when the new owners came in,there was a debate about what meat company the ribs came from,so they had samples from five different companies.To make it short,Armour won the contest.My mother=Marion=Mamalu,was the only one who picked it right,and has never handled ribs.Luther was the rib master,and didn't get it right.That was surprising.Also,Luther never had ownership in Mamalu's,he came in with the recipes.One more thing:The pit in St.Paul was really not a smoking pit,but rather a bbq pit.It might have been confusion there,but,the ribs were barbecued,not smoked.
                                                          Well,I hope these few facts help with the history of Mamalu's bbq.Till then:KEEP ON QUE'N.

                                                          1. re: elliot w

                                                            not to hijack this thread, but I am thrilled to know you are kin (there's a southern bbq reference if I ever heard one) of Marion. Would I have talked w/ your daughter then or a niece who was researching MamaLu's?
                                                            To clarify a few points on my experience with MamaLu's (Bloomington) we were always supplimented in the early time i worked there w/ ribs from Lexington, and we, as well had ONLY spareribs, until around 1980 and loinbacks were added to the menu (may have never been on printed menu. When Kent Ellison, Marno McDermott and another (silent...Max Mcgee of Packer fame???) were owners after Marion, we got our ribs from Ellison.
                                                            I appreciate the info on the St. Paul pit. I never looked very closely when we would pick up Lexans of ribs back in the day. what was used for fuel the?
                                                            apologies to qfan lovers

                                                            1. re: infamousdavid

                                                              David:If anybody is doing the hijacking,it's me.But if it were not for you being here,I probably would not have signed up,so I thank you for that,and now more people who love bbq,knows more about the local bbq scene of the past,and who knows,maybe the future(one could only hope).That was my niece,Jennifer(my sister's daughter)who interviewed you.
                                                              I cant remember ever cooking baby backs in St.Paul.But when Bloomington first opened, Luther,and Mamalu worked at "TOO",and they had a rotisseri there,and Luther cooked ribs on that,so thay could keep up,but the quality was terrible,and customers could tell the difference,so I had to do extra duty,by cooking more ribs in St.Paul,and delivering to Bloomington.
                                                              Here's another tidbit:Max Mcgee, of Packer fame,backed out,and a guy who owned a trucking company took his place;that was Darell Swanson.
                                                              You asked about the fuel:Just your regular kingsford charcoal.We would start by tearing open a couple of 20lb.bags,and light it up with a piece of paper,and let the venting start it going.
                                                              Just one more thing,and then I'll stop being so boring... You must have forgotten,but we met a few years back(after my niece interviewed you).I was a truck driver on my way to South Dakota,and I saw you website and mentioned Mamalu's bbq.So naturally I wanted to check it out."American Pastime",in Raymond.I came in and introduced myself and had a tasty lunch;we talked a bit about Mamalu's,and then I was on my way...Maybe it was all that hickory smoke fogged your memory.Ü....Hope to see you againg,and do some qu'n.

                                                              1. re: elliot w


                                                                Are you ready to do another MamaLu's?
                                                                contact me on the MamaLus's FB page. (I noticed you are the only one on it who is NOT my relative...LULZ)

                                                      2. re: infamousdavid

                                                        I remember Momma Lu's in 1982, I was 8 and my Dad would take me there and I to this day I have yet to have BBQ as good, I loved their Lu Lu Potatoes. I know they are gone from MN but any word if they are still up and running elsewhere? I would make the road trip.

                                                        1. re: kati1212

                                                          hi Kati... I'm looking to someday start up another MAMALU'S BBQ,with all the original recipes,right here in the twincities.that's so cool that you remember MAMALU'S at such a young age. if I could be fortunate enough to do this,I'd like YOU to be the very first guest.however,there was no such thing as LU LU potatoes at the original MAMALU'S,where i worked.I dont even know what they are...Ü

                                                          1. re: elliot w

                                                            I moved to MN in 1973. When I first went to MamaLus in Bloomington I fell in love with barbecue and have since tried it all over the country. The original cinder block warehouse, picnic tables and plastic trays. I felt the quality dropped a bit when they opened MamaLus2, on Hwy 7 in Mtka.

                                                  2. re: JimGrinsfelder

                                                    I think Ted's has always been the best. Even on their third or fourth owners it's still great. Of all the ribs I've had around the country they're in the top five. I forgot about Mama Lu's. I went a couple of times but being farther away made all the difference for me.

                                                    I tried Tonka Grill once. The ribs were like what you'd get at Perkins. Market's chicken is good. Famous Dave's is a wise choice over McDonald's or Old Country Buffet. Dave himself goes to Ted Cook's.

                                                    There are two new places very near to me, on Nicollet and on Chicago but I'm not willing to be the first.

                                                    All of the others mentioned I don't plan on going to except for Big Daddy's. I can count on Ted's and don't care if it's only take-out. If the weather is good it's great to go the next two miles to sit by the river.

                                                    1. re: JulianPantangeli

                                                      Ted cooks is da bomb. That sauce is something else. What are those two new places on Nicollet and Chicago that you mentioned? That's my area. Just wondering what they were.

                                                      1. re: alpa chino

                                                        I would assume C&G's at 47th and Nicollet is one of them.

                                                        1. re: MSPD

                                                          I checked out C&G's on Nicollet. It's not terrible and it's not terrific. I ordered the rib tips and it came with the sauce right on it. The pork ribs were not bad, by themselves. I wish they were a bit more flavorful though. I wasn't getting any of the smoke or rub flavor. But apart from the meat, everything else was mediocre and sub-par.

                                                          Side dishes are pretty important to me, so it's disappointing when they mess those up. The medium sauce that came with the ribs is bland. But I ordered the "hot bbq" sauce on the side, because I wanted to try it and someone from Mpls. mag recommended it. This "hot bbq" was horrible. It was red jelly with pepper flakes--that's what it looked like and tasted like. The coleslaw was made with black pepper. The fries were pretty standard. And the greens were also par.

                                                          But it did come with a peculiar side order of what is called "hot water bread." They looked like two almond cookies, which is what I thought they were at first. But apparently they are baked disks made of flour?. I have no idea what purpose they served. I guess you were supposed to eat those thick, mealy, slightly salty, wtf, hot water bread thingys.

                                                          If I'm going to drive that way, I'll stick to Ted cooks which is the total package. And 10 blocks closer.

                                                          1. re: alpa chino

                                                            I tried C & G today for lunch after reading the Onion review. I skipped the fries, having a half-rack, beans & cole slaw. The wonder bread I tossed.

                                                            If the 19th Hole is 10/10 then C&G's is maybe 8/10. It's worth going to once in a while, especially since you can eat there, but with no vestibule it gets cold when people come in. The baked beans are better than the 19th Hole, the cole slaw fine. The ribs are good, the rub gives them a decent flavor but I did not taste much of anything in the way of smoke. (I didn't see any smoke stack billowing as I walked up) The bbq sauce on the table is okay. I'll stick with the 19th Hole, thank you very much.

                                              2. Now that the full article is available I see the Tonka Grill & BBQ in Spring Park in the Lake Minnetonka area is not mentioned. They have the best pulled pork sandwich I've had in the Twin Cities.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Davydd

                                                  Had an awesome pork sandwich from Scott Ja Mama's yesterday. No, not BBQ, but a solid sandwich, lot's of meat, good hot sauce, tasty cole slaw, bag of chips. Price......$5 and he said go ahead and grab a soda from the fridge. It's solid.

                                                  1. re: Davydd

                                                    That is a big sandwich. Did the meat have a nice smoke taste?

                                                  2. Just got back form lunch at Big Daddy's. Excellent. Tasty, smoky, and tender ribs. For those that like a little chew on the bone, these don't offer much, but the flavor is intense. Served naked. The beans were fantastic - a unique bean flavoring, that at first makes you really wonder what's in there. A little sweet, a little sour. Very interesting, very good. The cole slaw was pretty bland and uninteresting.

                                                    Next time there, I'll be trying the beef ribs. But for pork ribs, Big Daddy's gets a huge thumbs up.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                      I had lunch from Big Daddy's as well. I had pork ribs and beef ribs. The pork ribs are pretty much as you described.

                                                      The beef ribs are worth mentioning because they are miles away from what I got last year. Last year, the 'Flintstone' ribs were removed and the meat was presented almost like a roast (bones removed, sliced to order almost like brisket). This time around, the meat was served on the bone, with considerably less meat. I'm not sure how to describe the spice rub...it almost had a taste of beef jerky flavor to it. Still good, but a long way from the prior experience.

                                                      1. re: BigE

                                                        you have to special order the "Flintstone" ones I think. dont know how far in advance but I was there on Sunday(had the chicken, very good) and they described them just as you did to a lady asking about them.

                                                        1. re: BigE

                                                          Where you there at noon, almost on the dot? The customer right before us ordered a full rack of pork and full rack of beef ribs. Paid extra (a buck fifty something) for extra sauce.

                                                          Anyway, on line, I was debating between pork and beef ribs. Because I've never been to Big Daddy's, I figured pork ribs were the best to get the base experience. But I'm really interested in the beef ribs. I did notice, though, there's a big price difference in the lunch version of the beef ribs, and what would be a full rack of beef ribs. And not just amount. I wonder if that accounts for the off-the-bone versus on-the-bone difference. Odd on the spice rub.

                                                          Huh. OK, next time, beef ribs. But then again, since I've never had BBQ beef ribs before, what's a good place to compare to?

                                                      2. Hey Qfans:I had an urge today to re-try BIG DADDY'S,and HICKORY HUT ribs today,cause it's been several years since.Ok;here's my side by side take:Both were(for the most part,St.Louis style pork ribs).First I tried both ribs naked,then with each of their sauces,and on each others sauce,just to see how they match up,because the sauces were quite different.Hickory hut sauce was to vinegary for my taste,but some people like that,and I think that would be refered as Memphis style,(correct me if I'm wrong).Big Daddy's sauce was to sweet for my taste,then again,some people like that,as well,and that might be considered Texas,or KC style sauce,again;correct me if I'm wrong.Now the main event,the ribs:Big Daddy's ribs had a good trim,good apearance,good bite all the way through,also a good smoke flavor,however,the seasoning lacked,but overall.not a bad rib...Hickory hut,I'm sorry to say lacked everything Big daddy's had.A smaller rib,with a bad trim,(who wants to bite on a load of fat,throughout the whole thing).The apearance didn't even look like bbq'd ribs,kinda light looking,and the flavor was surface only.Sure,fat has a lot to do with flavor,but lets face it.You want meat with your fat.
                                                        Big daddy's wins this one.One last comment :This is just My opinion,and as Infamous David once said something to the effect of:"BBQ IS VERY SUBJECTIVE".He's right,and I'm just trying to be fair.
                                                        Here's something I think would be cool.Q fans meet at some of these rib joints,and critque the food.It would be a great experience.It's just a thought,be cause there may come a time when I have a chance to open a rib joint,and I'd like nothing better than to have opinions from everybody.
                                                        Till next time:HAPPY Q'ing.

                                                        8 Replies
                                                          1. re: KTFoley

                                                            Thanks for the link,KT...
                                                            I certainly would like to check out the next time they have that.

                                                          2. re: elliot w

                                                            I don't think Texans like sweet. They like stuff spicy....I think.

                                                            1. re: KC612

                                                              Hi KC:You may be right,but for the most part,Texas is more known for their beef ribs,rather than their pork ribs,and sauces are usually designed around the meat they will be served with.However,there are always exceptions,simply because when it comes to bbq,there are no rules.Here we go again:It's always going to be subjective.Everybody has different tastes,and you are right about Texas for the most part,they do like it hotter down there,and there's nuthin wrong with that.

                                                              1. re: elliot w

                                                                Brisket is king in Texas. I never use a bbq sauce when I make brisket and aren't sure if Texans do. What I do is defat the drippings left in the foil and pour it over the brisket. Beef butter....mmmmmm.

                                                                1. re: KC612

                                                                  KC612, I think you might like Bayport BBQ. I'm not sure they pour the drippings over the brisket, but if they do maybe that's why it's so moist. I've tried almost everything there (they have a different special every day - haven't tried all of them) and I would recommend sticking to the brisket and the links. Although I see they just added smoked salmon, which I will definitely give a try.

                                                                  The brisket is sliced thin and is very moist (i.e. started night before so all the fat melts into the meat). The links are medium coarse and very spicy. Other items - pulled pork, chicken - I've found to be flavorful, smoky, but a little dry. The BBQ sauce is very thin and medium spicy. I love that you can buy everything by the pound (or 1/4# or 1/2#) including a mixture of different kinds of pickles and sliced white onion. It's a bit of a drive, but it's my tops for brisket and links. I think Ted Cooks rules for ribs, as they have passed up Big Daddy in my book.


                                                                  1. re: rp1760

                                                                    I love hot links! I will definitely give them a try next time I'm in the neighborhood.

                                                            2. re: elliot w

                                                              I went to Big Daddy's last night for ribs. Wow!!! My spouse and I ordered the rack of pork ribs and they were delicious. First off I was awed by the smokey aroma when we entered the place. The ribs themselves were lean (for pork), meaty, tender, succulent, and addictive. We had the hot sauce and it was truly hot, a slight bit sweet, and nicely contrasted the smoke of the ribs. I also ordered the collard greens. They were pretty good, but also a bit too salty for my taste. They were also rather expensive at $1.50 a half cup container. Most likely will not get sides again, but will return for the ribs!.

                                                              Big Daddy's Saturday Barbecue
                                                              609 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

                                                            3. I was over at The Onion the other day looking for a good laugh when I stumbled on a link to a fairly decent article over at avclub.com titled "Finger-licking good: a search for the best ribs in Minneapolis." Apart from the sacrilege at not including Big Daddy's it was still a good read and worth checking out.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: griff321

                                                                true that it's horrific to omit big daddy's-- however, big daddy's isn't located in mpls-- it's in st. paul. so they should have said to grab your big daddy's to go box, cling to it tightly, and skateboard as fast as you can westward, and then in 15-20 blocks you've got the best ribs in mpls, and comfortable curbside seating. . . ;-P

                                                                i just went over to the onion online to read the piece, and perhaps i'm search-function impaired on other sites besides chowhound, but i can't find a link to post! help!

                                                              2. I tried the Cap's Grille ribs today, per that AVguide article. They were very tender, falls right off the bone. There isn't much smoke flavor to them though. The sauce was nothing spectacular and didn't really add anything to it. I doubt you guys will like the ribs. Big Daddy's and Ted cooks are far better. However, the sides were good over there. The steak fries, the coleslaw, and baked beans were very flavorful.

                                                                Now, there was a piece of meat at Cap's Grille that far out-shined the ribs. I had a big, thick center cut pork chop. This was really good. They definitely brine it before they BBQ, and it shows. Very juicy and flavorful.

                                                                Cap's Grille
                                                                5000 Hiawatha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55417

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: alpa chino

                                                                  Caps isn't really what I would call a BBQ joint. The pork chop is legendary, and I think their breakfast/brunch is good as well.

                                                                  1. re: alpa chino

                                                                    I had been to Cap's a few times because I live in the neighborhood, but haven't been recently. I would agree with BigE that it really isn't a BBQ place. Setting your expectations for BBQ, you'll be disappointed. I thought it was a BBQ place the first time I went, and had a pulled pork sandwich, and was somewhat disappointed. It was OK, but not great. They might do a disservice to themselves by advertising as a BBQ joint. Other things on their menu are excellent, though. Overall, it's a great little place, with some great items. But as a BBQ place (which is how they advertise themselves), it's just not in the same league as many others.

                                                                    1. re: foreverhungry

                                                                      I'll have to third or fourth that center cut chop from Cap's. Their chicken isn't bad either.

                                                                  2. In reference to the C&G's comments here - I tried it today for lunch. First off, it's best to call ahead - everyone else that walked in had done this. Since this was my first time, I didn't know about it. Since there's only one guy working there, he prepares everything as it's ordered. My order took about 30 minutes and I took it to go.

                                                                    Now, I'm surprised that this wasn't covered but C&G's uses an electric smoker because Mpls has a city ordinance that prevents wood or charcoal smoking unless that restaurant has been grandfathered in. This surprised me a bit and I was wondering if I had made a bad lunch choice. I ordered the BBQ beef brisket, wings, and a side of red beans and rice.

                                                                    When I got home, I dove right in. Not a lot of smokiness, maybe due to the electric smoker. The brisket was smoked, then let to cool and slice thin - not like TX brisket (or how I've made it in the past). As a sandwich, it was good and I'd get it again - as BBQ, I would have a hard time comparing it to other BBQ briskets. The wings were great, heavily seasoned and fried. I got the hot sauce on the side and it was a nice complement to the wings. Red beans and rice was a nice side dish and the fries were good as well - fresh cut and fried - no food service fries here.

                                                                    I would classify C&G's as an "urban" style BBQ. It reminds me of some of the places on the south side of Chicago (not the really good BBQ places but rather the fast food "chicken, ribs, fish, and wings" type of place). I'll go back and maybe try the ribs but honestly, the ones that I smoke on my WSM may be better just because I can use real wood / lump charcoal.

                                                                    I'm very interested in the homemade corned beef sandwich and coney dog (the owner is orginally from Detroit). I wouldn't mind checking out some fish and I will for sure be getting wings again in the future. I may check out the pulled pork, it seemed to be a popular sandwich while I was there (I saw that Chef Pampuch of Corner Table and Muir Glen fame, had ordered this at lunch today).

                                                                    I wouldn't judge it by text book BBQ standards though, you may be a bit disappointed. This place is much more than that.

                                                                    Corner Table
                                                                    4257 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55409

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: tyrus

                                                                      We split some interesting discussion of Electric Smokers over to our Cookware board, since that''ll be a subject of general interest: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/765480

                                                                    2. Just ate at Q Fanatic for the first time. It was delicious. We had a sampler platter. The babybacks were good (though not amazing). But the spareribs were melt-in-your-mouth tender. Good smoky taste to themeats. Nice variety of sauces. The garlic sauce was nice on the already garlicky and buttery rolls. We'll be back. (I'd rate it even higher, but they really should figure out a way to get the food out faster.)

                                                                      Q fanatic BBQ
                                                                      180 Miller Rd, Champlin, MN 55316

                                                                      1. amongst other things had some rib tips from Brasa(Grand) this evening, I didn't care to much for the sauce but the tips were fantastic.

                                                                        1. I went to Big Daddy's a few weeks back and had an experience that can only be described as uneven.

                                                                          An order of rib tips and a half rack of beef ribs.

                                                                          First, the tips. Good, tender (for the most part) with that little bit of fat that I love. Didn't even use the sauce for these.

                                                                          Now, the beef ribs. Back when Big Daddy's opened, these things were insanely good. They were served as a gigantic slab of meat (think boneless rib roast), sliced by hand to order. Flat out one of my favorite foods in the state. What I got on my last two visits, however, was as far away from that as possible. Inedibly dry meat shriveled and clinging to the bone. There was MAYBE 4 ounces of actual meat in my order, but it was hard to distinguish between edible meat and that which was charred beyond recognition. It makes me sad to see what these things have become and at $14, I'm never getting them again.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: BigE

                                                                            I think you have to special order those 'Flintstone Ribs', never had em though.

                                                                            1. re: getgot211

                                                                              If that's the case, you have to special order >3 pounds at $17/pound...not an attractive price tag by any standards. I don't understand why they can't serve them the way they did a few years back.

                                                                            2. re: BigE

                                                                              I go to Big Daddy's quite often. I could be wrong about this, but I believe they completely scrapped their outdoor cooking method. I think people in the neighborhood were either complaining about the smoke "pollution" emanating from the smoker, or the city of St. Paul banned outdoor cooking outright. It may be a reason for the decline in quality.

                                                                              1. re: alpa chino

                                                                                yeah, that would sure do it! loved those 2 big barrel smokers they had.

                                                                              2. re: BigE

                                                                                Interesting. I went a few weeks ago for lunch, and thought it was good, and a great value for the money. But I also didn't understand all the fuss about the ribs.

                                                                              3. Very mediocre. The baby backs were "OK", but nothing memorable. The brisket was fatty and tasteless.

                                                                                1. hi bbq lovers:I went to famous dave's last nitght,for the first time in years;I had a hankering for ribs.wow did those ribs go way down hill!I ordered them naked,cause I dont like any of their sauces.I got home,opened the container,and they looked good.but when i started eating them,I was shocked.They tasted very plain,even with my sauce on them.no smoke flavor at all.needless to say,I wont go back.I thought I'd warn you all so you can spend yer hard earned buks somewhere else.Have a bbq day.

                                                                                  Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que
                                                                                  2131 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55113

                                                                                  1. Try Bob's smoke stack Ribs in Plainview, and recently added to Rochester. Good ol finger lickin ribs baby!!

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: seisler80

                                                                                      Went to Bob's Smokestack (Rochester) this past weekend for their soul food buffet. I loved the ribs in Elgin, and I love them even more in Rochester. Seriously tasty. They also made up some beef brisket which was perfect. Wish I spent more time down in the area to warrant more visits.