There is good BBQ in Minnesota. It doesn’t matter that most Minnesotans consider BBQ to be anything they toss on their grills. A rather large percentage of people here are transplants and transplants always bring their yummy stuff with them. However, there does seem to be either a lack of knowledge or interest in BBQ joints in MN so it’s hard to find information on them. I’m going to change that. Over the course of the next few months, I’m a gonna do what I swore I wouldn’t and write some restaurant reviews. They’re only going to be reviews of BBQ joints… and possibly a few other places that are known to have a good BBQ or smoked meat product.
We (myself and the good folks I recruited to eat with me) had been told that the-best-BBQ-in-the-state-bar-none was at Roscoe’s in Rochester. We went. We ate. We were underwhelmed. The bottom line: the people know how to cook the meat – which was exactly what it took to make us crave the full-on sweet and smokey flavor of some quality Q. The flavor just wasn’t there. We were sad.
The most interesting feature of the site was the cooker seemingly connecting the shack to the house next door.
We pulled up on the original Roscoe’s on 4th Street. It’s a bright, shiny, orange and white striped shack surrounded by picnic tables in an open parking lot. The sun was shining, we were hungry and there were slow cooked meat products to be had. Here’s how it shook down:
Really good: Baked Beans and Garlic Bread
Action shot of beans and garlic bread sitting there being tasty.
The baked beans were very well done. They were sweet with a nice molasses/tomato flavor that was tempered by savory chunks of jalapeno pepper, onion and pulled pork. They made the corps happy.
The garlic bread was also very nicely done. It had the perfect amount of butter to be nice and buttery but not greasy. It was also crisp and browned on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside.
Good: The Meat (Ribs, Chicken, Beef and Pork)
Action shot of shiny ribs with JoJo potatoes peaking out from underneath.
The ribs, chicken and pork were perfectly cooked. The ribs had an excellent mouth feel; tender but firm, came away from the bone easily without falling off in a heap. The chicken was also cooked to perfection; nice and juicy but fully cooked. The only problem with it was that the skin was a bit odd. The pork was very nicely done and went well with the sauce. The beef was a bit overcooked.
The biggest problem was the lack of flavor. Granted, I’m a little crazed for the smell and taste of smoked meat. Hell, when Marv is about half way through smoking a brisket I have a tendency to start burying my head in his chest and inhaling deeply. (I can tell this is incredibly attractive from the way that he starts running from me with his arms flailing about yelling, “stop sniffing me! STOP SNIFFING ME!”) So, when I have the opportunity to eat some really nicely slow cooked meat and there is no smoke flavor – it’s like Christmas without the yelling. It just ain’t right. Then to make matters worse, they really didn’t add any other spice to enhance the flavor of the meat, to fill in for the missing smoke. It was a shame. What could have been awesome, ended up being just good.
Fine: The Sauce, Slaw and Onion Rings
For me, the sauce was too sweet. I think sauce needs to work well with the flavor of the meat – which it didn’t. It needed to be more savory because the meat didn’t have much flavor so dunking it into a sweet sauce just left you with a sugary taste rather than a nice balance of contrasting tastes. Marv’s reaction was that it was, “… too tart which lends it’s self well to pulled pork but not much else. It needs to be more well balanced to work with the different meats.” He Harkni had a different view. He liked it, saying, “as far as sauce goes, I have a hard time calling one style better than another, personal taste is the biggest factor. What I care more about is if it seems to have been made with good ingredients and a little bit of thought, which theirs did.” Sauce is clearly in the mouth of the beholder.
The slaw was pretty run of the mill slaw. Nothing special about it. Nothing bad about it. It just was. Ditto on the onion rings.
Bad: The JoJo Potatoes and the Chocolate Chip Shake
Gosh, those potatoes were bad. It was really unfortunate. They could have been good. A JoJo potato seems to be a cross between potato chips and fries. The problem was that they weren’t really fried or baked well. They were stuck together in clumps. There was no crispiness. In addition to that, there were no spices added. A sprinkling of chili powder mixed with garlic salt and a bit of Parmesan would have done wonders. Yeah, that would have been good.
The shake brought frowns to the faces of the corps. I suspect that the corp who ordered it was thinking she’d get something pretty special passed through the window of the former A&W drive in. But alas, it was just watered down soft serve. It got thrown out.
Extra: Pulled Pork Sandwich
We also tried the meat in a sandwich; pulled pork. It was the right meat for the sauce. The bun was good, fresh, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It would have been enjoyed more if the bun had been toasted, but this is the picking of nits. (I also think it could have used a thin slice of cheese, but that’s just me.)
While Roscoe’s doesn’t have the best BBQ in Minnesota as far as the corps is concerned, it’s definitely worth looking up if you happen to be passing near or through Rochester. We just wouldn’t drive for more than a half hour to try it out. (Although, those beans were really good, so maybe if you’re a big fan of beans. And if they get that smoke thing going – we’d definitely be back to check it out.) Nonetheless, you will get a good meal here. The site was cheerful and had the owner operated charm that is quickly disappearing in America, the service was quick and friendly and the natives don’t bite. There are far worse ways to spend your lunchtime.