Re-view and Review of BBQ Revue

(Guest post by The Boyfriend)

In the months that Julie has been writing this blog, we have both learned that the quickest way to ignite a firestorm is to make unfavorable comments about local establishments that have a loyal following. A couple of months back, for instance, Julie mentioned that the bread on a sandwich that we purchased at Taste of Cincinnati was stale and that the meat wasn’t particularly flavorful.

Hilarity did not ensue.

Name-calling occurred. Taste buds were insulted. Family genealogies were challenged (not by Julie, but by anonymous commenters). “This place is the real deal! You obviously have no idea what you’re talking about. You don’t know anything about food.”

To see if we would change our minds about the food, we made two separate visits to the establishment. We both concluded that our initial thoughts were justified, or at least were not wildly off-base.

To true fans of the establishment: If we disagree, sorry. If you love the place, great. Enjoy.

This episode has been in the back of my mind for the past few days.

A few months back, Julie and I had lunch at BBQ Revue on Madison Road in Oakley. We were less than impressed, but Julie never did a formal review. During the ensuing months, in conversation with friends who are BBQ Revue fans and in the comments section of wine me, dine me, the place has been mentioned several times. As with the previously mentioned incident, our less-than-favorable experience was met with incredulity.

“You don’t like BBQ Revue? That place is awesome! You must be crazy. You don’t know anything about barbecue.”

After Julie’s mini-review of City Barbeque, a couple of commenters again sang the praises of BBQ Revue.

Because of the burning need to settle the BBQ Revue question (and because I was hungry and live five minutes away), I decided to have lunch there on Tuesday.

On our first visit, Julie had the pulled chicken sandwich while I had the pulled pork sandwich. We both had the same complaint: What we were eating was no better than standard crock pot barbecue. (Aside: Doesn’t it drive you mad, the countless ways to spell barbecue, barbeque, BBQ, Bar-B-Q, Bar-B-Que, etc.?)

Not that there’s anything wrong with crock pot barbecue. I’ve made it myself dozens of times, and I’m sure I’ll make dozens more times in the future. BBQ Revue’s version might have been made with genuine, on-site-smoked meat and the restaurant’s own sauce. Still, it was standard crock pot fare. (Check the internet and/or your stash of cookbooks. I’m sure you’ll find scores of crock pot barbecue recipes. Most will involve some combination of pork butt, store-bought barbecue sauce, onions, and Liquid Smoke, cooked for several hours in a crock pot, and then chopped or pulled.)

The typical comment from friends or from commenters here on the blog ended with something to the effect of “You need to try the ribs.”

On Tuesday, I did both. I had the ribs, and I got a pulled pork sandwich to go.

Nothing I tasted or saw on Tuesday caused me to re-think my original impression of the pulled pork sandwich. Barbecued pork, chopped or pulled fine and mixed with sauce, simmering in a warming tray. In other words: crock pot barbecue. In the ten minutes it took to get it home, the sandwich bun had become soggy from the mixture of sauce, grease, and/or juice. With real chopped or pulled barbecue (sauce added after the fact), this shouldn’t have happened.

As for the ribs, I must say that I wasn’t a fan. The meat was quite tender, though not falling-off-the-bone tender. Prior to smoking, they were covered with a dry rub, heavily laden with pepper (cayenne, I suspect). The end result was incredibly spicy. The sauce that was served with the ribs was also very spicy and hot. Again, I think the sauce was pretty heavily loaded with cayenne pepper.

What makes for good barbecue is the perfect marriage of meat and smoke. Whatever sauce or rub that one chooses to use should enhance that union, not hide or overpower it.

I thought that the ribs were best without the sauce. With the sauce, I almost couldn’t taste the meat.

I saved all leftovers for Julie to sample. She basically concurred with my thoughts.

It’s probably worth mentioning that BBQ Revue has received numerous awards and accolades, including City Beat’s Best Barbecue award in 2004, Cincinnati Magazine’s Best Barbecue award in 2001, and The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Best Ribs award in 1996. Who am I to argue with such an impressive trophy case?

So to the fans of BBQ Revue: If we disagree, sorry. If you love the place, great. Enjoy.

(P.S.–Just after I finished this post, I found the following comment from one of Julie’s readers: “re: BBQ Review [sic] I’ve never been crazy about the ribs nor the pulled pork. However, the brisket and chicken are phenomenal. Give it another try…”)

(Sigh.)

Barbecue Revue on Urbanspoon

  • Toddy-O

    Terry, I’ve not had the ribs with their sauce. What I look for in the ribs are that they pull off the bone, tender but not fall apart and have seasoning that isn’t over bearing. I dislike Montgomery Inn ribs. I like Goodies, I like Burbank’s less (I miss Flo and Eddie’s) and have a fond memory of Hitching Post.

    To me, the term Crock-Pot would be in the league of Golden Corral, the former Shuller’s Wigwam and any family reunion. If it’s congealed and been sitting around, it’s not for me.

    I don’t mind a sloppy sandwich, as long as the bread holds up. I miss East Coast bread that can handle it (and I’m not a fan of sourdough fu-fu).

    BBQ Revue was something I didn’t like the first or second time. It takes getting used to, like chili or goetta or fried bologna :)

    There is a rib joint attempting to open in Loveland. They are working in the parking lot of the former Lee’s Famous Recipe on weekends for now. They are negotiating a lease for the Lee’s building, which hasn’t seen usage in almost 10 years.

  • TJ Jackson

    A few seperate comments

    1. I agree 100% with your assessment of BBQ Revue. I've heard the positive comments, and been back to try and retry nd retry gain, all with the same disappointing results. I think a part of the problem is that Cincinnati has not really had legitimate real smoked bbq until very recently, and most Cincinnatians therefore have a different definition of what BBQ is than most folks from elsewhere. I equate it to our chili – folks from the outside don't understand it, and a frequent objection is "this is not chili". I think that what BBQ Revue serves is a sauce-focused product while real bbq is meat (specifically smoked meat) focused. and that works fine for most born-and-bred Cincinnatians who untl recently had not been exposed to real BBQ

    2. I agree 100% with your assessment of City BBQ. This is real bbq, the true test of which (for me) is that the meat stands on it's own with no need for sauce, but is then *enhanced* with the addition *at the table* of some small amount of sauce. It's not the best I have had locally, but it is very good. I prefer the pulled pork there, and the wife likes the brisket.

    3 Crock pot bbq (not really bbq, but called that, you know what I mean) is quite simply very popular locally. The JM product as well as numerous other tubbed and frozen or refrigerated ready-to-heat-and-eat products you will find in every local grocery store are fairly popular, and versions thereof are served in almost every school cafeteria. So local kids grow up on it, become local adults, and then look for it as adults. Quite honestly, I did not know any better myself until a few years ago. My current local favorites are Pit to Plate (Mt Healthy) and Boston Butz (Ross).

    4. There has been an explosion of REAL bbq joints of late in grater Cincinnati. Pit to Plate, J&W in Reading, Jim Dandy in Sharonville, Boston Butz, City BBQ, Scott's in Forest Park, Geno's in Milford, and numerous others I am sure I am forgetting or do not yet know about. To a lesser extent, Id include Smokey Bones because I do see the smoke ring on their product. 10 years ago, none of these places existed in greater Cincinnati. I for one am quite happy this is occurring – people need to learn that what Montgomery Inn serves is not really BBQ. It will take some time for the public to become educated.

  • Kelly

    My boyfriend is from NC, and his opinion is that you simply cannot get truly good barbecue (meaning pulled pork; to him, there is no other definition of “barbecue”) in Cincinnati. But the place that comes closest for him is Pit-to-Plate.

    Me, I just like ribs, wherever they come from. Never had BBQ Revue, even though I live close by – maybe I’ll try it to see what all the fuss is about.

  • JKNEPFLE

    Haha…can’t believe I spelled it wrong. I m dum. :)

    Glad you gave it another shot, tho! And, no hard feelings about it. I wasn’t crazy about NuVo, and Polly Campbell from the Enquirer seems to think it’s one of the better restaurants in the area. To each, his own. :)

  • Julie

    Kelly– NC barbecue is very different. If he likes a vinegar-based sauce, I can’t even think of any place that has it!

  • vudutu

    Interesting, nothing like dising some ones fave BBQ to light a fire, pun intended, Boyfriend and TJ, Toddy-O, great feedback, but there is a need here a need to pull together and finish this. Seems to me we need to do some coordinated road trips, put this thing to rest, pile in a couple of pickups, (a limo just does not sound right here) and pick the best. I have always said "if you want to know what the fair is like go to the fair, you can talk about it , walk around it but in the end you have to go to the fair" six or so of us in the room at one time should be able to extract the truth here! I suggested to 5chw4r7z recently when he was expressing a need to explore burgers we do the triad of burger trips, hit Terry's, Zips and Quatmans in one pass and end this controversy. Lets decide on the top three or four and hit em all.

    BBQ Revue, City BBQ, Pit to Plate, J&W, Jim Dandy, Boston Butz, City BBQ, Scott's, Geno's, Smokey Bones.

    Pick em.

  • Julie

    I think Vudutu is onto something here. I sense a blog post!

  • ShannanB aka Mommy Bits

    Man, it breaks my heart that you didn’t have a great experience. I don’t know what it is that I love about BBQ Review. Did you try the mac-n-cheese? It’s ridiculous.

    Sign me up for the BBQ Road Trip! I can’t get enough of it.

  • The Boyfriend

    toddy-o–I thought that BBQ Revue’s ribs were tender and quite meaty. But, as you say, the spices (between the dry rub and and the sauce) were just too much.

    TJ–You’re absolutely right. Barbecue means vastly different things to people all around the country. And that’s what makes it the quintessential American food. I love that Carolina barbecue is different from Tennessee barbecue…which is different from Kansas City barbecue. (Of course everyone knows that the best barbecue comes from Alabama.) And if crock pot barbecue is what people like and want, then so be it. I’m glad, however, that what you and I consider to be “real” barbecue is making headway into the area.

    Kelly–I’m pretty sure that Julie and I had Pit to Plate barbecue at Taste of Cincinnati. It was really good. We’re planning to get to the actual restaurant to get a plate full, rather than the nibbler portion from T of C.

    jknepfle–Please believe that nothing I said was intended to be a knock or slam. I was just making the point that so many people said that our problem with BBQ Revue was that we ordered the wrong thing. On Tuesday, I ordered what most people said was the “right” thing…and didn’t care for it. I just amused that as soon as I posted the review, I found out that, again, I ordered the wrong thing. I think I’ll try the place again and try the brisket and chicken. That way, I will have covered all my bases.

    Vudutu–I’m all about a barbecue road trip. Let’s do it.

  • Kelly

    Julie – good point. Pit-to-Plate serves their pulled pork plain and has like six sauces to choose from, including the very runny, vinegar-y stuff that is the standard in NC.

    Meanwhile, City Barbeque has a sauce they describe as NC-style, but it doesn’t taste much like vinegar at all, from what I remember. That’s probably why my boyfriend can’t stand that place.

  • vudutu
  • Anonymous

    Best kept secret in Cincinnati: KT BBQ in Reading, across from Skyline. The pulled pork is my favorite in town. The owner always asks if the sauce should be on the side, and the bun is more like a roll – substantial. The greens are terrific, as is the mac and cheese. The only bad thing I ever had was the brownie, which tasted too much like BBQ — not good for a brownie.

  • WestEnder

    Given Cincinnati’s legendary pig and brewery history, it’s ironic that there is no corresponding BBQ history. Never thought of that before.

  • Curt McAdams

    I’m glad to see someone not think this place is the end all of bbq… I’m a bbq guy, and I don’t find the BBQ Revue to be great bbq at all.

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