If you're not paying attention as you drive past Dave's Ribs on Queen Anne Road, you might mistake ot for a typical industrial building or warehouse. There are several garages on the side of the structure, but very little window space or signage. Inside, there's a counter and three high top tables with two stools each. Most of the business is take-out.
The ribs are babybacks. Among the other barbecue fare are the usual pulled pork and brisket, but Dave's also offers smoked turkey and a variety of smoked fishes. Meats are available in dinners, sandwiches and by the pound.
On the way back from a day trip further east on the Cape, my wife and I stopped in for an early Sunday night dinner. Only one other customer arrived during our stay, but the staff was in full tilt dealing with a large catering order. We would have ordered some of the smoked seafood offerings, but none were available that day. The counter server was extremely knowlegable and friendly.
We didn't try any appetizers as such.
Pulled pork was pale and crispy, with the mostly dry strings moistened with a fatty, greasy broth that tasted like Thanksgiving turkey drippings. I've got nothing against pork fat, but the flavor was also more reminiscent of something from an oven, not a smoker. Spices were minimally used if at all.
Brisket was an odd-looking, dark, sludgy pile of meat that was a little frightening. Continuing the Thanksgiving theme, it had the color and consistency of giblets. The flavor was more intense, as if beef bouillon or beef gravy were used in excess. Tenderness was good, if a little steamy.
Turkey (talk about Thanksgiving) was probably the best item of the visit: the meat was moist and tender with a pleasing, natural turkey flavor that wasn't overpowered by smoke. The flavor was closer to a cold smoke than a classic barbecue smoke. I say this because even though there was nothing fishy about it, the turkey's smoke component was similar to what you taste in a smoked whitefish.
Babyback ribs were the last item to arrive. Oddly, a man who strolled in fifteen minutes after we placed our order did the same and received his ten minutes before we received ours. The babybacks were lathered in sauce, with pale meat beneath. With no smoke ring or smoky taste, these also had that oven flavor that characterized the ribs I'd make in the post-college years of my first apartment. Most of the flavor came from the sauce.
No sauces were available on the table but two different ones were delivered in plastic cups. Both had a ketchupy consistency, only thicker and much heavier. I wasn't fond of the taste.
The cole slaw was an adventure. The large catering gig that occupied the kitchen's focus took the last of it, so they had to make a new batch. Dave himself brought the just-made slaw to the table, in curious fashion: he carried it not with his hands but very gingerly using two wrists. Why? His hands were covered with mayo, bringing visions of Poppy from Seinfeld. As with any cole slaw that's just made, the flavors didn't have time to work their way into the still-stiff cabbage, but the flavor here was mostly mayo. (If it were my restaurant, I'd take some of the cole slaw from the catering order and serve that to the customers in the store, replacing it with some of the new batch. The small amount of stiff slaw wouldn't be noticed in the larger quantity of already made slaw, plus it would have time to set during transit. But that's just me.)
Cornbread was announced as buttered an heated, but it never arrived. We got some to go, and after I bit into the stiff slice, I quickly learned why they butter and heat it.
Mac and cheese was the most successful of the sides, but only if you forgot it was mac and cheese and instead thought of it as a pasta with butter and a light treatment of cheese and breadcrumbs. As a mac and cheese, not so good.
The bottom line: Dave's Ribs isn't a joint I can really recommend. I liked the turkey, there were some other faint glimmers of promise and I'd bet the smoked seafood is pretty good, but I've already made my wife swear she'll talk me out of it if curiosity ever gives me the urge to return here.