When I moved into town decades ago, it had very few barbecue restaurants. From the earliest days, I knew of Market Barbecue because I lived downtown. But I was disinterested in barbecue at the time, so it didn’t matter. In the last decade, I did acquire an interest in barbecue. But it arose from trying food from a St Paul food truck, the very first food truck of which I was aware. Gene “Big Daddy” Sampson sold barbecue from his truck in the St Paul midway. I got hooked, but I had little interest in trying others. But then his truck ceased to operate. So I fell out with barbecue. When he showed up again in Frogtown, the love affair restarted.
Along the way I started to wonder about other places, like Ted Cook’s, Cap’s Grille, and Rudolph’s. But I still never made it to Market Barbecue, even though I had some curiosity about this old, old local joint.
On Friday, 2/3/2012, I finally decided to satisfy my curiosity and ordered takeout. I got a full slab combination which included cole slaw, french fries, and toast. But I found it mediocre. Compared to the other barbecue I’ve had, either at the Ribfest, Big Daddy’s, or Lee’s and Dee’s on Victoria, Market Barbecue ribs are chewy, dry, and have very little meat on each bone. The gold standard is meat that practically comes off the bone by itself. Market Barbecue meat hangs onto the bone, so it is hard for the eater to get it all. I guess there must be a barbecue subculture that prefers this, but this isn’t my idea of the best barbecue. Bottomline: Haven’t missed much by being slow to try it out.
Barbecue in South Minneapolis
After my tepid experience with Market BBQ, I decided to go to two places down in the south end where I’d gone before a long time ago, just for comparison. I got small dinners from Ted’s 19th Hole and Cap’s Grille. Both are just across the LRT tracks from Longfellow. Took them home and tried them out. Both were SO much better! Night and day. Cap’s Grill gives the sauce on the side for the purists. Ted’s brushes their house sauce on. Mirrors the difference between Big Daddy and Lees’ and Dee’s in St Paul.
But they were MEATY and they were gently cooked to be tender and release without effort from the bone. Both were excellent representations of what a barbecue lover wants. Makes me proud to say that Famous Dave, Ted Cook, and Cap’s Grill are all in my part of town! The most incredible part to me is that both the S Mpls places sell their ribs $5 cheaper than Market BBQ. Real value for your money! So now when Big Daddy’s isn’t open, I have some other options in my back yard.