In shocking news, two miscreants in a white stepside pickup truck made off with Pat Martin's single-hog smoker rig right out of his parking lot during broad daylight last week. Be on the lookout for this trailer and pray the cops find the thieves before Pat does.
But as we wait for these openings and for the speedy recovery of the mini-Hog Mahal of Martin's, three new barbecue joints have opened over the past few months so I took it upon myself to check them out for you. The first new spot is Off the Bone Barbecue at 708 Monroe St. That's the former location of King Fish, and fortunately Off the Bone does still serve a pretty respectable whiting sandwich along with tilapia and catfish. But barbecue is definitely the specialty here, with ribs, chicken wings, pork shoulder and the rarely seen specialty of rib tips coming off an old drum smoker in the back parking lot. The head pitmaster goes by the name "Mista Dolla" and offers several branded sauces, rubs, etc., for sale in the restaurant.
There's nothing fancy about the interior, with funky Formica tables and a couple of televisions to provide entertainment while you wait, but there is plenty of room and it's a comfortable enough dining room. The aroma from the smoker that greeted me as I got out of my car was all the ambiance I was looking for, anyway.
I love the old-school methods employed at Off the Bone and have tried just about everything on the menu except the wings, which can be ordered smoked or fried and are apparently quite popular for bulk takeout orders. The rib tips were a special treat, since I haven't seen them very often outside Chicago or Memphis, where they are traditionally prepared in glass aquarium smokers.
Off the Bone doesn't trim their own tips, since they serve full racks of spare ribs with the tips still attached. The rib tips definitely live up to the name of the restaurant and are incredibly tender and juicy. While I personally prefer my rib meat to have a little tug to it, there is nothing wrong with the occasional "falling off the bone" texture of ribs that have been smoked low and slow for a l-o-o-o-ng time. If that's your favorite style, get down to Monroe Steet ASAP.
The shoulder sandwich is served Memphis-style on a white bread bun topped with creamy cole slaw and a pickle. The hot barbecue sauce was particularly nice, but the regular would be fine for people who don't like a sweeter sauce. As I usually do, I ended up combining the two heat levels to fine effect. It was a very respectable sandwich, but I recommend the ribs and the tips even more highly. There are also turkey legs and smoked Polish sausages available if you're looking for something a little more esoteric.
Mista Dolla must be a pretty darned organized person to be able to get so many different meats off of the same smoker, especially considering the variation in cooking times between all those proteins. From my experience, he's got it down pat. He and his partner Joshua Mundy have a good thing going on in Germantown. Check them out and let us know what you think in the comments. Tune in next week for two more new 'cue options.
Off the Bone BBQ
708 Monroe St.