Monday, October 27, 2014

Great Barbecue Just Beyond HoCo

I'm on a barbecue kick lately, and I've been to two barbecue joints in the past several days.  On Saturday, following my church's service, I stopped by Famous Dave's on US 1 in Laurel.  Famous Dave's is a nationwide chain, and while I would rather go to a standalone hole-in-the-wall, they do a very good job with their barbecue.  Then, tonight, my daughter and I met my in-laws at Urban Bar-B-Que in Sandy Springs.  Urban Bar-B-Que is a local, DC-area chain.

I decided to create an online account with Famous Dave's and try out their app for online ordering.  It works very well, though making edits to the cart isn't easy.  I ordered a two-meat combo with the beer-battered cod and the Georgia chopped pork, with a side of mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and cornbread.  The food was ready for pick up within 15 minutes.  I had paid online when I ordered, but was given a receipt to sign at the counter.  As usual, there is an expectation to provide a tip.  I'm always a bit torn on tips for carry-out food.  Obviously, you're not getting quite the same service that you'd get if you were dining in and receiving table service.  Many times, the person handing you your bag of food at the carry-out counter didn't even prepare your food in the packaging.  So I gave a little less on the tip (15%), and got a stare that told me I wasn't giving as much as they were expecting.

I headed home to eat, and enjoyed the meal a lot!  The chopped pork is easily the best of the meats.  I've tried many of the other menu items, and I always come back to the pork.  It is so tender and juicy, and while sauce really isn't necessary, Dave's has a nice slightly thick sauce which is sweet and tangy and just right.  The cod was a nice surprise.  While I wasn't impressed with the presentation (it looks like a store-bought freezer-style fish stick shaped like a rectangle), it tasted really great.  It was light and flaky, and paired with tartar sauce, it was really good.  The breading wasn't as good as others I've had, and, frankly, it's typical of what you get from a chain (I had beer-battered cod at a dive bar right across from the ocean on a deserted stretch of highway A1A just south of Palm Coast, Florida, that did it right!).  Famous Dave's does give you plenty of food.  The sides are more than plentiful.  The corn-on-the-cob was juicy and sweet (I expected it to be dried out since I got carry-out), and the mashed potatoes were adequate.  The cornbread wasn't too heavy and was nicely sweet.  All in all, I give Famous Dave's a solid B+.

Urban Bar-B-Que is a bit of a surprise.  I had never heard of it up until the last year, when we regularly passed through Sandy Springs on our way to meet my in-laws for dinner in Olney (the halfway point between our place in Laurel and the in-law's place in Damascus).  I finally talked them into meeting us here a few months ago, and it was good enough to try a second time.

They have half-price appetizers on Mondays, so we got the nachos.  The chips are seasoned with (I think) Old Bay, and they come with chili and cheese for dipping.  The chili is good, though not very spicy, and there's just a little too much cheese piled on top of it.  My father-in-law got the pulled pork platter on a sandwich roll and a side of BBQ ranch beans.  He enjoyed it, but he left a lot on his plate upon announcing he was finished.  Mom-in-law got the sliced beef with a side of mac and cheese.  My daughter, who doesn't care for barbecue (I KNOW!) got a full-size bowl of mac and cheese.  I got the 2-meat combo plate of pulled pork and pulled chicken, with a side of potato salad and cornbread.  The pulled chicken was good, not at all dry (which is what I was expecting).  While the food is served without sauce, I added the slightly spicy sauce (they also have a sweeter version, and a vinegary version).  I liked the pulled pork a bit more than the chicken, but it was really fatty.  (As a comparison, Famous Dave's seemed much leaner, if that's even possible).  The potato salad doesn't have much flavor, and so I was disappointed.  I wish more places made their potato salad with eggs.  The cornbread was okay, but not as sweet as Famous Dave's.  I really like the ambiance of Urban Bar-B-Que.  This one, right in Sandy Springs on Route 108, is never crowded, it seems, and appears to cater to the local crowd.  I give Urban Bar-B-Que a C+.

Have a great evening, everyone!


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