BBQ East North Central Region
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Q Tips, a new section lists unsolicited BBQ restaurant recommendations that showed up in my email. Congratulations to my wife Connie for coming up with the name. Q Tips.
Smokey Bones BBQ
5910 E. 82nd St .
Indianapolis , IN 45250
In NorthEast Indianapolis at the intersection of Rt. 465 and Allisonville Rd.
A crowded place that gives beepers to the people in line. Excellent St. Louis style ribs, very meaty and falling off the bone, with a smoky and tangy sauce. Excellent sausage. Pulled pork was good but, as usual, a little mushy. Very good sauce. Cinnamon apples were good but mushy.
Overall rating – Very good. (Would have been excellent except for the pulled pork and cinnamon apples.)
Columbus , OH
Not a BBQ place but a general restaurant chain in the mid-west that also offers ribs. Had the ribs at the Columbus, OH restaurant. Surprisingly good for a non-BBQ place – meaty, falling-off-the-bone style ribs with a mildly sweet sauce. A pleasant surprise.
Overall rating – Very good.
1082 Brown St .
Kettering , OH
Small, neighborhood-type restaurant in a suburb south of Dayton. Old-fashioned place with dark oak booths and a bulletin board with tacked-up calendars and business cards for the local plumbers, carpenters, etc.
Not a BBQ place per se but offers ribs and BBQ’d chicken along with steak, fish, and so on. Ribs weren’t as meaty as I’ve had in other places but tasted very good with a sweet and tangy sauce. A pleasant surprise.
Overall rating – Very good.
Hot Sauce Williams
7815 Carnegie Ave.
Cleveland , OH 44103
A soul food restaurant rather than a BBQ restaurant. Then again, a lot of soul food seems to involve BBQ anyway so why quibble?
The place is housed in a building belonging to a now-defunct fried chicken chain and is memorable for its interior color scheme – large swaths of pink and, depending on your color sense, either purple or teal.
The place has a wider selection than the typical BBQ place. BBQ’d pork and beef ribs; fried chicken; an unusual range of fish (perch, whiting, cod, and catfish, plus shrimp and devilled crab); soul food-style side dishes like candied yams, greens, fried okra, poppers (whatever they are); hushpuppies; plus the more standard stuff like beans, potato salad, and macaroni and cheese. Desert selections include banana pudding, sweet potato pie, and peach cobbler. All in all, a cardiologist’s dream.
I got a rib and chicken combo – two big pork ribs and two pieces of fried chicken – plus two sides – candied yams and stuffing. Both meats came with a light coating of sauce which, contrary to the name, was more sweet than hot.
The ribs had a slightly crunchy crust with a moist interior. The ribs were regular spareribs rather than St. Louis ribs or baby backs so they were a little fatty and had the small tip bones that get trimmed off in a St. Louis cut, but between taste and meatiness I rate them as excellent. The chicken was dark meat, which I’m not that fond of, but it was meaty and crisp with no greasiness. Excellent. The yams were also excellent – sweet and just a little mealy. The stuffing, unfortunately, was a disappointment – very bland with a ground up texture.
Hot Sauce Williams serves cafeteria-style so you can see a lot of the activity going on behind the counter. Better still, they apparently use a real smoker for a lot of the food and it’s set up under an awning in the parking lot belching clouds of smoke.
One note of caution – This was my first trip to Cleveland and I don’t know the city at all, but the restaurant is located in what seems to be a fairly rough area.
Overall rating – Very good to Excellent, based on the ribs, chicken, yams, interior color scheme, and the outdoor smoker. Better stuffing would have boosted it to Excellent.
Thanks to Bob Dianetti and Bob Young of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the STC for taking me here. Thanks also to the guy who works for Bob Dianetti for suggesting that the Bobs take me to Hot Sauce Williams in the first place.
Max and Ermas
Wilmington , OH
Not a BBQ place but a general restaurant chain in Ohio, perhaps elsewhere, that also has ribs. (They’re the restaurant at the airport in Dayton, OH .) The restaurant in Columbus has what may be The cardiac special – a meatloaf sandwich with fried onions and melted swiss cheese. (People in Columbus must die around age 40 but they’re really, really happy.)
Had the ribs at the Wilmington, OH restaurant south of Dayton. Same as with Damon’s – surprisingly good for a non-BBQ place – meaty, falling-off-the-bone style ribs with a mildly sweet sauce. (Do Damon’s and Max and Ermas share the same cook?) Another pleasant surprise.
Overall rating – Very good.
Werner’s Pork House
5356 US Route 68 N@ I-71
Wilmington , OH 45177
Small, family-owned place just off the Rt. 68 exit off I-71 in Wilmington. Small, white-washed cinderblock place.
Got the ribs, with cheese fries and cole slaw. They use loin back ribs dry rubbed, then steamed, then covered with liquid smoke, then steamed again. Meaty, tender to the point of falling off the bone, with enough bite to be spicy but not overwhelm the taste of the meat. Oustanding.
Outstanding cheese fries – seasoned fries covered with what appeared to be microwaved Cheese Whiz, which instantly adds bonus points. Even the cole slaw was excellent.
As in many of these smaller places, the cook seemed happy to come out to talk technique. She (unusual touch) even told me who their supplier was (Hormel) and gave me the SKU for the ribs! (As it turns out, Hormel only supplies this cut to institutional customers and I’ve never found a restaurant north of Boston that orders from Hormel. But the fact that she gave me the SKU was enough to earn my eternal devotion.)
Another cute touch, which might have become irritating at another time, was the cook’s 3 year old daughter doing an endless rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” in the kitchen, with occasional road trips through the dining room.
The restaurant’s motto is “You will love our loins”, and they sell a stuffed pig wearing a vest embroidered with the motto.
Overall rating – Outstanding.
100 South Main St .
Royal Oak , MI 48067
North of Rt. 696 at corner of Main St. and 11 Mile Rd. in Royal Oak . Take Woodward Ave. exit off 696E, follow service road to NEXT light, turn left onto Main St. , and follow for about 1 mile. Place is on left at traffic light. For municipal parking lot, turn right at same light, go ~100 yds., and turn right into lot.
Primary impression of the place was dark – dark wood floors, dark oak tables and chairs, dark ceiling, etc. A very old-fashioned looking place.
My first experience with Memphis style ribs, where they sprinkle on a final layer of dry rub just before bringing the ribs out. I also had a long talk with the cook, who said that they cookd the ribs at 270 degrees for about 3 hours.
Overall rating – Excellent.