I love that pie, but Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ is, of course, really about barbecue. And not just any barbecue oh no, it's barbecue in most of its hotly contested variations. There's a great divide in the barbecue world between those who love the sticky, spicy-sweet version hailing from Kansas City and those who are convinced the only barbecue worth eating must be made vinegary and hot in North Carolina. Of course, Texans weigh in with a version that's somewhat in between, both spicy and slightly sweet, with a more pronounced tomato base. All, however, take pork (and sometimes beef) and slow-cook it over a smoky fire until the meat begins to fall apart in tender chunks that, when prepared properly, are a joy to eat.
This little barbecue joint on Route 250, with its oil-drum barstools and plastic checkered tablecloths, takes its mission seriously. The ribs are more smoky than sweet, and the meat obligingly falls off the bone just as you take a bite. These aren't Buz and Ned's ribs, but then, they're not supposed to be. Here, the savory meat is emphasized instead of a pungent sauce, and frankly, it's a refreshing change. I used to be a die-hard Commercial Café loyalist (if anyone has a copy of the recipe for that sauce, please send it to me in care of Style Weekly and you'll earn my undying gratitude), and since its demise, I've been on the lookout for a worthy replacement.
At Grandpa Eddie's, I realized that I needed to broaden my barbecue perspective, so to speak, and embrace a style that is equally delicious but different.
Like most Richmonders, I don't like change, but then the beef brisket, an entirely new incarnation of barbecue I hadn't encountered beyond the confines of the Food Network's coverage of the various barbecue cook-offs, earned my respect and tickled my palate with its beefy succulence and mildly spicy, tomatoey sauce. Little pig sliders North Carolina-style pulled pork with coleslaw on a griddled dinner roll were a great idea. And though I liked their slow and sneaky burn, I thought they needed more vinegar and even more spice.
Last, I tried the burnt ends sandwich. Granted, it doesn't sound too appealing at first, but at the famous Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City, customers line up out the door just to get a bite of these crispy leftovers from that day's pork barbecue. Like its Kansas City counterpart, Grandpa Eddie's takes these crispy bits, douses them in more sauce and smokes them again. The result is a smoke flavor that hits your mouth like a bulldozer, and though the meat is not quite as tender as regular barbecue, the flavor will blow away fans of the aforementioned traditionally spicy-sweet barbecue.
You need to pace yourself when eating this kind of heavy food. The sides pair nicely with the main offerings but really can't (and shouldn't) compete. The beans are mild, the coleslaw innocuous (in a good way), and the little corn muffins with honey butter are absentmindedly addictive. Like any self-respecting barbecue place, the beer selection is extensive, and my Belgian Stella Artois was a refreshing and apt pairing.
A children's menu sealed the deal. It had all the usual offerings and, according to my daughter, included the best mac and cheese she'd ever had. If my children will eat, I've just found a new place to go to avoid having to make dinner. And that, as they say, is priceless. S
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