9148 Santa Fe Trail Drive (west of 87th and Antioch, east of the JoCo library)
JoCo's newest barbecue restaurant opened this morning for business, and by chance I ended up becoming one of their first customers.
Any time I come across a new place that does BBQ, I am compelled to try it. Every place does their thing a little differently, which is always intriguing. (Ditto for pizza joints.)
Once I saw the main sign go up a while back, I've been drive-by stalking it about once a week to see if it was open. I hadn't planned on driving that direction today, but after seeing Owen anoint spare ribs as the bracket-busting champion of meats, my Pavlovian salivation dictated that I ditch my previous plan of getting a salad at Hy-Vee. I figured I'd check to see...
The little garage-sale-sized "Now Open!" sign brought a smile to my face. Game on.
Upon walking in the door, I was greeted warmly by an enthusiastic cashier. It took me a few minutes to figure out what I wanted, because the menu was interesting: all the normal brisket/burnt end/rib offerings, plus things like BBQ Nachos and Pacific Island Ribs. They also have a huge list of sides.
I settled on a Rib & Brisket platter with beans. Yeah, I knew it was way more food than I needed for lunch, but these three things (along with sauce) are what make or break a BBQ place for me.
I ordered at one register, then paid at another. I think the logistics will probably necessitate a change once they get busy, since people will be lined up out the door really quickly.
The second register is where I found out the place had been open all of an hour. As in, it was their first day.
They offer one size of fountain drink: 32oz. Bravo, I say. They have Strawberry and Fruit Punch at their fountain station; I know a lot of people dig those with BBQ.
They called my name, and there was my food. A huge hunk of pork ribs (three of them, I think) and big, thick slices of brisket, alongside a pickle spear, 3 slices of white bread, and a styrofoam container of beans.
I dug into my side first. The beans were THICK--about the consistency of a hearty chili. There were big hunks of brisket in there. They had a nice, sweet finish. I really enjoyed them, and I normally prefer spicy/smoky to sweet.
The ribs were huge, but I ended up having to sacrifice a portion of them...they were just too fatty. Not the intramuscular "marbling"-type fat, but big hunks of nothing but fat. Don't get me wrong; the sheer size of the portion kept me feeling far from shortchanged, and I know ribs are a long way from chicken breast on the leanness scale anyway.
My issue with the ribs was that they were somewhat "undersmoked". I had a few bites that didn't have much flavor and needed sauce. But they were cooked perfectly--just the right texture.
The brisket was cut into big, thick sheets, which is how I prefer it. It always seems juicier and smokier that way. Good stuff.
The sauce definitely hits the sweet notes harder than the spicy ones, but I liked it even given my aforementioned preferences.
Overall, the food was solidly above-average, even on this first day of operation.
But what will make the restaurant succeed, in my opinion, is the quality of people running the show. I had two different employees check on me, including the owner Hope. She wanted to know what I honestly thought of the food, and she was very receptive. More than that, she's passionate about what she's doing, and she's got friendly people staffing the place. I smiled a lot when I was there, and how often can you say that about lunch?