I love barbeque. There is something about the long, slow cooking process and casual nature of the food that draws me to it. There’s also a pride people take in BBQ which nearly always guarantees a good meal. So when my friend suggested we try The American BBQ Restaurant in Rowley, MA, I couldn’t wait. The restaurant itself is in typical barbeque fashion with wooden tables adorned with rolls of paper towels and as sticky as a movie theater floor. The menu is written in chalk and hangs above the window into the kitchen where you order. All the standard BBQ fare is offered: pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket, BBQ chicken and ribs which to me makes or breaks a barbeque joint. I placed my order, a 1/3 slab of ribs with baked beans, dirty rice and sweet tea and I patiently waited for my order to be ready.
Finally my number was called and my meal was ready. I was a little surprised by the plate itself. The amount of food was fine, but the ribs were short and wet and the rice wasn’t dirty. The ribs were delicious and perfectly cooked with a noticeable smoke ring and to the point that the meat simply fell off the bone. The sauce on the ribs was a nice mild balance between sweet and spicy, however, the menu noted that the ribs are Memphis style which typically means they are dry rubbed, smoked and served with sauce on the side if with any at all. These ribs did not seem to be rubbed and if they were the spice rub was so mild that it imparted little if any noticeable flavor and they were clearly cooked with sauce. The dirty rice was not good, but rather a soggy, flavorless pile of yellow rice with soggy chucks of green pepper in it and the baked beans were clearly from a can with a dab of barbeque sauce mixed in. The meal also came with an enormous piece of corn bread that was tasty although a bit more like cake than bread which could be easily remedied by increasing the ratio of cornmeal to flour and using a bit less sugar. The sweet tea was so sweet that I had to water it down with ice and I still couldn’t drink half of the cup. I left full but slightly unsatisfied.
I do think that the meat makes or breaks a barbeque joint and the ribs were worth another trip. Next time I’ll try the brisket but will go with fires and coleslaw – two sides that are almost impossible to ruin.