Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Famous Dave's

The first time I ever saw a Famous Dave's was in the Mall of America outside Minneapolis. My friend Min and I walked every level of the place - about a two mile walk - to work up an appetite for lunch. We ended up going to Bubba Gump, but we passed by Famous Dave's. I made a note to myself to look it up. When I did, and learned it was a chain with a massive menu, I doubted it would be any good.

My suspicions were somewhat confirmed when I went to a Famous Dave's for the first time a few years later in Palmdale. My food was pretty lousy, however the restaurant had just opened a few days earlier. Knowing that most restaurants, and especially barbecue restaurants, cannot be accurately judged when they first open, I went back several months later. It was fantastic the second time. I knew eventually I would try it a third time.

Over the weekend Elizabeth and I went down to hang out with our friend Zach in Oceanside. We decided to go to Famous Dave's for dinner on Friday night. It was packed but we grabbed seats at the bar and had a drink while we waited. The server gave us a small bowl of fries so we could try the five sauces they had on the table: Devil's Spit, Georgia Mustard, Texas Spit, Sweet & Zesty, and Rich & Sassy. They were all decent, although none of them were amazing. (Both Zach and I thought the Rich & Sassy was spicier than the Devil's Spit; maybe they switched the sauces?)

Elizabeth ordered the brisket sandwich. It was fantastic. I did not see any smoke ring, but the brisket was amazingly tender and the slaw was very good. I love a well-smoked piece of brisket, but I never imagined I would find it at a chain barbecue restaurant.

Zach ordered the two meat combo with pulled pork and brisket. He liked the brisket more than the pork. As his two sides, he ordered fries and mashed potatoes, which I thought was just awesome.

I ordered the BBQ Buddies - four mini sandwiches, one each of pulled pork, brisket, pulled chicken, and hot links. I was incredibly disappointed when they arrived: they were all drowned in the Sweet & Zesty barbecue sauce, which was by far my least favorite of the 5. This is unforgivable. It does not say on the menu anything about the sandwiches being served with sauce and, as I mentioned, there were FIVE bottles of sauce on the table. What the hell is the point of having a variety of sauces if they're going to serve your food with sauce already on it? It's one thing to be insecure about the quality of the meat you serve and feel the need to drown it in sauce before serving it. That's annoying, but many places do that. But it's quite another thing to think that the same sauce is going to complement pork, brisket and hot links equally well.

Three of my four sandwiches were good. The chicken was dry but the pork was very good and the brisket was the same excellent beef that Elizabeth had on her sandwich. The hot link was great, too: juicy and full of flavor. Of course, the quality of the sandwiches was a double-edged sword: I was happy that they were good, but I couldn't stop thinking how they good could have been if I had been allowed to sauce them myself. I would have loved to try the mustard sauce on the pork and the Texas Pit sauce on the brisket. The hot link was so flavorful it would have been better without any sauce.

Still, despite my frustration, I enjoyed the meal. It could have been better but it could have been much, much worse. We were near a sign the read "EAT LIKE A PIG." So we did. Zach had a couple slices of bread left and some mashed potatoes, and Elizabeth had some fries on her plate, so I piled it all onto the bread and made, as my friend Geordie taught me, a butty. I even added some barbecue sauce. We all took turns trying it and we all decided it was a bit much. But it needed to be done.


Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it. It isn't the greatest export of the Twin Cities, but it's still far better than Market or Rudolph's. Next time here, go to the one in Calhoun Square; it is better than the others. And maybe check out Market. I'd like to see your thoughts on that.

PulledPorker said...

Well, no, it certainly isn't as good an export as Target or the Lakers. (And none of them are as good as the Replacements.)

Anonymous said...

Recently the house that they shot the cover for "Let It Be" was on sale. I don't know how much it finally went for, but I'm sure it got a good bump from all the local news reports.

Don't forget Husker Du (and if you like furious noise punk, The Cows.)

PulledPorker said...

Husker Du is all right, but certainly not in the category of the Replacements. If I were to create a diagram of my favorite Twin Cities exports, with the Target/Replacements/Lakers trinity at the top, and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Prince just below that, then Husker Du would be somewhere down the ladder, after you get to MacGuyver but before you get to Jesse Ventura.

My God I know a lot of useless facts about a city I've only visited twice.

Anonymous said...

Are you stalking us? Should I call the State Troopers?

As an aside, as a teen in the late 80s, I broke into Fitzgerald's mansion in St. Paul. Unfortunately there were no ghosts present, which the Siouxie-Sioux-looking, crystal-wearing friend promised there would be.

Ah, youth plus incomplete synaptic integration...

PulledPorker said...

I love Minneapolis. My first trip there, when I was 23, I didn't think much of it at all. I thought the Metrodome had all the charm of a hospital or airport (although I saw a Twins game; I've heard the stadium is much better suited for football games), and I thought the Mall of America was one of the most overrated things I have ever seen. And the weather (early August) was lousy.

Then I went back 4 years ago, when I was 26, and I freaking loved it. I saw a St. Paul Saints game, which was the complete opposite of the Twins. I went sailing on White Bear Lake. I went to several cool pubs. And the weather, while again early August, was perfect.

TaqueauBelle said...

I completely forgot what I was going to say, now all I can think about is which do I want to listen to first - Let It Be and Zen Arcade?

TaqueauBelle said...

Um, that should be "or" not "and".