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So, having a conversation with some Restaurant friends this past week and we got into a lengthy discussion.

Instead of just me talking, I thought I'd come I'd come in here and ask you two questions because we've all eaten in restaurants we like and don't like.

1. What do you LOVE about any BBQ restaurant you've eaten at?

2. What do you NOT like about them?

Please try to be specific. I mentioned things like BBQ that just doesn't taste like BBQ. Everything covered in goopy sauce.

What about menu items. Thinks you they had that no one else had? Things you really like you don't see on a menu?

Just want to help them out, so thought this thread could help with some friendly discussion.


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My 1st impression has to do with the overall gestalt or feel of the venue. My nose radar is looking for the smell of smoke. Short of it, my assumption is the meat is being smoked at a commissary and being trucked in. Or perhaps even worse, the meat is being prepared in an oven, steamer or Lord knows what.

Next, as in any dining establishment, I look for a clean facility. Nothing's a bigger turn-off than tables cluttered with dirty dishes, filthy restrooms or a messy kitchen (if viewable to the public).

Next, attitude of the staff. Everyone enjoys a warm greeting and a smile. The staff should be knowledgeable as to what's being prepared and served.

If those points have all been addressed favorably, I know that the food will be good...for the fact that management cares.

As for the food...personally I prefer BBQ menus that don't wonder off in 20 directions away from SMOKED MEAT. I didn't come in to order a pita wrap stuffed with hummus and micro greens. I can understand burgers, hot dogs, fried catfish...items that offer an alternative from a marketing perspective. As for personal menus wants...

Brisket - a place that offers point and flat gets the nod. The briskets should be moist and reasonable warm. Sauce should ALWAYS be left to my decision. Chopped beef...OK I know they're gonna sauce it but don't saturate the meat.
Ribs - Spares, St. Louis's, Loin or all, no matter to me. They should be cooked through but not mush. I prefer them dry but will enjoy them sauced so long as the sauce compliments the meat (vs totally overpowering the flavor of the pork).
Pulled Pork - be it pulled or chopped, I prefer a light vinegar based finishing sauce as a moistener if the meat isn't being processed RIGHT out of the smoker. As with ribs, I want to taste pork...just enough F.S. to compliment and moisturize. Unless the menu specifically features a southern style bun+PP+cole slaw+ sauce sammy, leave it to me to decide the sauce.
Chicken - whole, halves, breasts, thighs...all fine by me. It needs to be reasonable moist with enough rub to pop the flavor of the 1st bite. Undercooked chicken is a HUGE turn-off.

Sides - unless I come across a "middle of nowhere" shack in the backwoods of N. Carolina, serving whole hog and nothing but whole hog, I expect at least a couple of the basics....beans (any kind) cole slaw, potato salad, corn bread and maybe a bag of chips. I'd rather be limited to 4-5 things done well versus a salad bar line-up of 25 things including lime Jello with mini marshmallows Smiler

Desserts - I'm not a big dessert guy but again, maybe 3 well done desserts (hopefully including Pecan Pie) vs 15 varieties of Mrs Smith's pie.

Prices - OK so being a chef, I'm painfully aware of what things cost nowadays. Just don't rip me off for marginal quality food.
MaxQ hit the nail on the head!

I agree with all his points, well said.

If it is a BBQ place, keep the menue to BBQ! Rustic, very clean and a good smoke smell from fresh smoking!

Keep the sauce on the side and let the meat speak for itself. Meat must be nice and moist with a good flavor.

Potato Salad, Cole Slaw, Baked Beans, and some Peppers are a must, and they must be made well.

Side salad would be nice if available, hate salad bars!

Have the basic meats, brisket, ribs, chicken, sausage and pork. And as MaxQ said, ribs should be St. Louis style or Baby Backs.

Do not like places that keep everything under a heat lamp and it is dry as a bone.
Great questions and a great thread. I hope you get a huge response.

When I walk into a restuarant I want to be greeted with a pretty smile and a friendly face. This is the start to the whole experience. Mom and pops usually get this right. It's the chains that usually fail. I'm there usually because someone recomended the place. And I almost always do a little research before walking into a new place. I just like to browse a menu before arriving. So I think websites are a plus even if it's really basic with an up to date menu, location, directions and phone number.

Like a previous poster mentioned. I want to sauce my own food. I really am not a huge fan of "bbq sauce" but recently have started to enjoy it a little more. Especially home made versions. So I always ask to sauce my own if it isnt obvious that it comes plain.

I really like unique items. I had a Mac N Cheese dish once that had goldfish crackers for the crust. It was so good. My friends and I still talk about that dish. The smoked meats were great! But simple side was what we remember and talk about.

We have talked about bread before. Really important to me. Spend the extra pennies and get good quality rolls.
^^^^^ What they said.

I go to a pretty good Q place in town that has scrumptuous beef ribs. Light sauce, smoky, moist, tasty...not real fatty. Kinda looks like Ribdog's.

The problem I find with some barbecue places is the hit or miss on the main dishes. Sometimes the ribs or brisket is done to perfection, sometimes too dry. I suspect it has something to do with holding the product cause as you know most smoked items aren't being cooked to order. Who'd want to wait 10 hrs for their brisket? Comes down to how long or well things are on hold or resting before you order. Curious how some places seem to get it right but others have trouble with it.

Sauce always on the side. Whether I use it at all, lightly or heavily depends primarily on the mositure of the meat.
Last edited by pags
Thanks for the feedback keep it coming I appreciate the comments.

Let's talk BBQ.

Not so much the cleanliness (that HAS to be there) but what are you looking for in BBQ when you go to a BBQ restaurant. I do like the comments, especially that we want a BBQ restaurant to be about BBQ, not all the other stuff, unless you like that other stuff more than the BBQ and that's bad.

Unique dishes, standard dishes. When you go to a Q restaurant what have you seen on the menu you like. The way it was served, styles of sauces, different sides, etc, etc

Ever been to a Q restaurant that was a destination because of the food? What was it?

Let's talk food Big Grin
I have to agree with MaxQ.
When I walk in to a BBQ joint the first thing I want to smell is SMOKE.
The BBQ has to be good, I prefer ribs and brisket.
The places I've found in Denver that I really like have somewhat limiuted menues, but what they do is usually very good.
It's what kept me coming back for more before I started doing my own.
I think for a chain Famous Dave's doesn't do too badly.
Locally I like 2 mom and pop places, Sam Taylors and Winston Hills.
As for a destination BBQ place- I'd recommend Pappy's in St. Louis MO. Great Q, healthy portions, decent price, very friendly staff and you just get to know the people sitting around you. What a place.

My 2cw
I'm not into the chain Q I'm more a mom and pop guy but that goes anywhere I like to eat not just Q. I really like a place with history but on the other hand some new places are good as well. My Harley buddies and i almost always have a place to eat figured into a ride. Every place will do something really well. I'm bad to ask what is good on the menu willin most times to let the waitress order for me. I hate when they tell me it all good. I know better. Back to Q. I really like a mix plate. Ribs, brisket, sausage, chicken. Font matter I like them all. As for sides I really like potato salad. Beans are good but we have a place that makes killer Mac and Cheese. Not sure any of this is helpful but it is making me hungry. To sum things up, if it's good I'll be back with hungry friends and I'll pass out recommendation to anyone that will listen.
For the Q: I want Q that at least tastes/appears like it came out of the smoker within the last 4 hours. I don't care if it didn't as long as it tastes that way.

We don't have much authentic Q up here in Northern Michigan but there is one 'small' place in Traverse City. I went in and ordered their brisket sandwich for lunch. I thought this would be a good place because their smokers were in evidence outside the bldg.

1) They went back to the cooler and brought out slices of brisket, separated by wax paper.
2) They PUT THEM ON THE GRILL!! to warm them up.
3) Served on a bun... nothing added.
4) I had to ask for sauce (it was dry) and they seemed to have a hard time providing any.

Won't go there again.
I agree with several of the posters above about sides. There's a good place not too far away that I go for lunch every now and then, the problem is that I don't care for most of their sides, which has meant that I don't go up as much as I used to. They have killer burnt ends, that I order almost every time, but when it comes to sides there are only a few that I like.
Funny story, a hot dog place opened up near the house earlier this year. Over the summer they put a sign out in front, "Best Pulled Pork in the area", so after a few months of driving past the place I finally figured why not.

Walk in to the place and have the following conversation:

Me: Best pulled pork eh, Ok I'll try one. Sauce on the side please.
Them: Sauce on the side? The sauce is the best part. Best sauce you've ever had.
Me: Is it South Carolina style vinegar sauce? That's the best sauce I've ever had.
Them: No, it's a sweet tomato based sauce.
Me: I like to taste the pork not the sauce.
Them: Well everything is already sauced in the crockpot.
Me: CROCKPOT?!?!? Don't you smoke it?
Them: No, we cook it in the crockpot with the sauce all night long.
Me: I'll have a hotdog, no relish.
Them: A hot dog and the pulled pork?
Me: NO, just the hot dog.

Hot dog wasn't that good either.
Originally posted by S & H:
Local place just north of Little Rock called Smokin Buns ( I can drop names to ). They have a Wednesday night special of Prim Rib. Only time on the menu. You better get there early. First come first serve. Nightly specials help bring in the crowds I think. Sure works for this place.

My brother lives down in Benton. Will have to give this place a try later this month when I'm down there for deer hunting.
In regards to the food. I want the meat to be the highlight of the plate. Don't make me move a pile of french fries or some cheap bread out of the way, because you were skimping on the meat. Just a fair portion is needed, but if your skimping don't try to hide it.

A slaw that does not taste like you bought it from your local food supplier because it was on sale. Make it yourself and be proud of what you made.

Baked beans should be an extension of who you are. If I can go into any BBQ place and ever thing is the same as down the street, then I'm just as likely to go down the street.

Make sure things taste the same week from week. I go to my favorite places because I know what I'm going to get and I like it.

Although not food related, that full figured guy sitting behind me better not have his chair up against mine. Take a table out and give me some room. If I'm comfortable and the food is good and the same from week to week, I'm coming back. Like old Abe Lincoln said "what ever you are be a good one".
Originally posted by smoke025:
there is this place in rocklin called lucilles that i heard is good bbq.

I've been there well over a dozen times. That's the place with the very good beef ribs. Give them a try. Their smoked ham sandwich is to die for. Some of the best mac and cheese around. Quite a few good sides to choose from.
Originally posted by Cook One:
Make sure things taste the same week from week. I go to my favorite places because I know what I'm going to get and I like it.

Although not food related, that full figured guy sitting behind me better not have his chair up against mine. Take a table out and give me some room. If I'm comfortable and the food is good and the same from week to week, I'm coming back.

Cook One- I'm that full figured guy behind you pushing on your chair- and believe me- I hate it as much as you do- I agree- give me some elbow room when I eat.
Originally posted by Pags:
Originally posted by smoke025:
there is this place in rocklin called lucilles that i heard is good bbq.

I've been there well over a dozen times. That's the place with the very good beef ribs. Give them a try. Their smoked ham sandwich is to die for. Some of the best mac and cheese around. Quite a few good sides to choose from.

tell me about the beef ribs and ham sandwich, what was " to die for"
So, the consistent comment seems to be along the line of a dive, that looks and smells like a BBQ place and that features the BBQ.

Consistency is tops.

Other than the regulars (briskets, ribs, chicken, sausage) any unique things that you like, food wise?

Pags mentioned ham.

One place I went has an awesome stuffed potato. Had more brisket piled on it than potato itself.

Another item was a garbage sandwich which had everything, beef, pork, chicken sausage.

It's funny, but most people I talk to over the years (when I was on the National BBQ Association) and when I ask my friends "what's your favorite restaurant" the #1 answer is sauce. "Oh, I loved their xxx sauce". I think more people are getting used to BBQ not covered in sauce, but the public still wants a great sauce.

I think it's Tony Roma's (not BBQ) and an old chain Red Hot and BBQ that served a 6 pack or so of sauce at the table. I can just see the Oklahoma crowd NOT going for any Mustard sauce....

So, what's the best thing you've ever had at a BBQ restaurant and why?
Adding to the sauce discussion... I appreciate having more than one sauce at my disposal. If I'm in the mood to sauce brisket, the last thing I want is a sweet Carolina/Memphis/KC sauce on it. Nor do I want a bold, spicy Texas style sauce with chicken. An ideal line-up would be a Texas style bold, a Memphis style sweet and a Carolina vinegar style.

One sidetrack, does anyone else get turned off by cheap, flimsy plastic knives, spoons & forks? If you're going to skimp on stainless steel tableware, at least provide the public with sturdy plastic.
The folks above have given good thoughts.
My "destinations" would be about the barbecue meats,the dive type feel,and hopefully being able to see-as well as smell the cooking.

Have folks come to the counter to order,where they can see and smell the cookers being opened.

Naturally, dried pork and brisket go into the beans and you get a good serving.
Make a good potato salad with eggs and cooked bacon and acceptable slaw.Folks don't go to a "destination" for them.

One day a week[Sunday brunch?] leftover brisket and bakers are made into hash.

If your location is moderate priced,to allow you to serve your own hours,do lunch 11 AM until about two-or until you run out of the quality meat you will serve.

Dinner/supper from 4:30 until 7:30,or when the quality meats start to run out.

Seve meats to match your location.
Don't waste time with brisket in the SE.people won't order,cooks can't cook it,it doesn't hold well.Your supply is expensive.

It is pork country.Always pork shoulder,St Louis spares and loinbacks.
Cold weather maybe Brunswick stew/burgoo.

Do a chicken special Tuesday night,maybe all you can eat.
Hotdogs for kids,always.

Like Smokin' ,stuffed bakers go well anyplace.
Down South try it with a large sweet potato.

The Ridgewood,near Knoxville,TN uses hams for their bbq and does well.

Another near Williamsburg does whole cured hams ,slo smoked overnight and thin sliced.

In SW forget pork,except Spares.
Brisket,both ways.Smoked sausage and half chickens.
Cold weather,chili or pintos.

In any area do smoked turkey breasts one day a week.

Have good,fresh,condiments at all places.
Better to buy a top sauce and private label,than spend your time and money to make an average batch.

Unless you are skilled at desserts,have the best local baker make their best pie for everyday and alternate their 2nd,3rd,4th one variety each day.

If no good pies available,do a really good banana pudding.

For drinks always have the local regional favorite and a national cola and lemon-lime.
Same with beers.

A couple days a week offer one different item.
Could be mac n cheese.
Smoked corn in the husk with your rub in butter.
Could be a free deviled egg.
A small free ice cream.
Smoke wings and give one with every order.
An ABT with every order.on Tuesday
Don't get too much hand labor and overdo the cooker.

Give every diner a treat to go.

Homemade pralines,etc will be remembered.A small special cookie/fudge.

Here is Tuffy Stone's 2nd restaurant.He was a high end caterer with a lot of good ideas and then became a bbq cook.

We set up together a bunch at cookoffs and he is meticulous and does everything correct.

Here is an interqiew with him and check his main website for good ideas.[Q Barbeque]
Last edited by tom
Originally posted by SmokinOkie:
Originally posted by Pags:
Originally posted by smoke025:
there is this place in rocklin called lucilles that i heard is good bbq.

I've been there well over a dozen times. That's the place with the very good beef ribs. Give them a try. Their smoked ham sandwich is to die for. Some of the best mac and cheese around. Quite a few good sides to choose from.

tell me about the beef ribs and ham sandwich, what was " to die for"

I had made this comment about the beef ribs in an earlier post, so I didn't explain or connect the two bad. "scrumptuous beef ribs. Light sauce, smokey, moist, tasty...not real fatty. Kinda looks like Ribdog's." As far as the ham, it a honey baked type...very, very tender, smokey, a little sweet, always fresh and piled high. My wife orders the ham sandwich often, while I go for the loin backs or beef ribs. The beef ribs are consistent, but sometimes the loin backs are a tad dry.
Last edited by pags
Back in my Army days many, many moons ago I was in Georgia. There was a place I will never forget. It was a true Logcabin building. Dirt parkin lot with picnic tables under a huge old oak tree. When you went insaide the whole place smelled of smokes from BBQs past. 8' Picnic tables is all you would find inside. Very good chance you would be setting with total strangers. 2 very seasoned ladies worked the pit and counter. I don't remember the menu but it was simple. Meats and maybe 3 sides. First time I every had a fired pie. Unbelivable food. They called it the Georgia Pig. It's been 30 years. I wonder if it's still there?
Yep,still there,just off the Brunswick,Ga I-95 exit.
It has enough room to park yout comp trailer and still get out.Room to run your dog,if you need it.

Looks inviting,still usually sorry,and if you stand at the counter to watch, the old ladies still bark at you.
They say the sweet tea is pretty good.
Last edited by tom
S & H - I can vouch that the Georgia Pig is still there. Well, it was around 2 years ago when I dropped by during a stay on nearby Jekyll Island. And the 2 nasty, surly women Tom mentioned, or their clones, are there also. After I got my order, I was looking around at the place when one of them said "Watcha you all looking at?" I replied, "Oh nothing special - Just looking around". She came back with "You got your order, now get on out. We've got business to tend to". I obeyed.

They also had a big sign by the counter prohibiting picture taking inside the restaurant. I can't vouch for it, but the story has it that one of the cooks was chopping a big piece of smoked pork with a cleaver when someone decided to take a picture of him. The flash startled him and he supposedly ended up in the hospital with 2/3s of a finger.

I've been there twice and the food is consistent - It sucks. At best, the pork is mediocre. I tried the Brunswick Stew my first visit, and it was wretched. That said, I tell everyone I know who are first timers to the area to check it out, but to do so with a very low level of expectation. If nothing else, it's colorful and interesting.


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Last edited by dls
Ok next to mine (haha) the best place here to eat BBQ the smoker is in a shack right in the parking lot. I drive by at midnight or 5 am and there is smoke rolling out the stacks. Its a simple place one guy cutting meat and one lady on the register. Ask for brisket and he starts slicing and throughing it up on a scale and when it looks right to you thats what you pay for. If you set there long enough you will see them rolling a cart from the smoker filled with the smoked goodness. All the tables are over sized wooden picknick tables so you never know who you will eat with or who you will meet. Sides are simple but one odd thig is instead of potatoe salad they serve potatoes with onions cooked in a butter sauce. The owner often gets a plate and comes and sits with the customers and askes for your feedback. Its just one of those places you eat at just cause you havent been there in awhile.
Originally posted by S & H:
I'm sorry I brought it up. 30 years is a long time I guess. I'll
Not go back so as not to screw up good memories.

Not sure how I always get mixed up in jackin Smokin's threads.

Hey. I'm sure it was good when you were there. Things change. No apologies necessary. We're talking barbecue, so it's all good. Cool
What I like most is the meat, just the basic, nothing fancy. Charge .75 cents more and give me a pile of great tasting meat. The menu does not need to be 3 pages long, I am going into a BBQ place for BBQ. Not pizza.However, there has to be something on the menu for the ladies who for some reason think eating BBQ 4 times a week is wrong.

What I like least is bad atmosphere, being crowded and rushed. Make me comfortable with good food and I will be back time and time again.

There is a place in Alabama named Dreamland, the food is good, but the best thing is the banana pudding, because my wife loves it and can eat it 4 times a week. So good food a fair amount of just the basic meats, after all that's what I'm going for, and nothing has to be fancy. Hope this helps.

I haven't really talked about what I like. Personally the only time I go out to a restaurant is because 1) I have company in town who's buying and I don't want to cook or 2) they have a menu item that I really want.

I can't really knock on the local restaurants as I don't eat them enough, but without exception, every time I eat there, I don't want to go back.

It's usually because of a lack of quality, or more specifcally CONSISTENT quality. One time great ribs, next time ribs so tough I wouldn't feed them to the dogs.

I dislike restaurants that put no seasonings on the Q except for a quart of sauce and call it Q.

I was looking at a local Q menu and I would say 90% of the menu has nothing to do with what we are calling "traditional Q" and one of the things they say they do best is .... hamburgers.

I think too many restaurants try to be everything for everyone.

But if you're selling Q, even if it IS a side item for a normal restaurant that sells non-Q I hope the Q is good.

Here's a challenge.

How do you friends/family feel? When I ask people they love to tell me "oh, I love their sauce" but when I ask for details, they can't really describe the sauce and they don't describe the meat.

Local Q place sold me BBQ chicken and it was boneless, skinless chicken breast. That's now Q, that's rabbit food. DIET doesn't belong on a Q menu. Go to a salad place... LOL

1. What do you LOVE about any BBQ restaurant you've eaten at?

Consistent and high quality
Real smoke in the restaurant (I want to smell it walking in)
Staff that loves BBQ as much as I do
I like the Pitmaster coming out and smelling like an all day smoke and talking to me
Sauce on the side (and in varieties)
More, not less food for the price
Fresh, not SAM's premade food
View of the smoker/kitchen (let me see the food)
Food with a little TLC, more smoke and rub.

2. What do you NOT like about them?
Cooks and wait staff who don't know what they are serving (can't answer questions)
Same people who can't answer a question about what it's being cooked on and how
Catering. Can't stand getting catered lunches that taste like McDonald's reheated/microwaved food
Seeing the food come out of a foil pouch and then reheated in a Microwave
Food with no seasoning

3. So, what's the best thing you've ever had at a BBQ restaurant and why?
Love the butcher paper with so much food on there I couldn't finish
Free samples of their food if I wanted
Last edited by Former Member
I want everyone to know that this is all ya's fault, but I just can't eat BBQ out anymore. The quality of the product is just not what it use to be, or maybe I'm just getting use to the product to be cooked correctly.

When I use to eat out, I wanted a big glass of ice tea and the waiter to make sure it never ran out. Yeah, I wanted GOOD service.

I would eat a burnt end sandwich, I knew that would be moist, cause too often the food would be dry. The product is not cooked long enough or they just had held it too long.

Too many places around here is more a fast food counter type, that I just don't do, unless the order is to go.I want a clean place to seat down at so my guests and I can visit.

Most of all, I want a place to have a tangy sweet sauce. I don't use much but I do enjoy a good sauce.

Thanks again for everyone ruining my eating BBQ out, I do appreciate it more than you will ever know!

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