Located in a small strip mall on Main Street, the former Depot Sports Grille is now under new ownership and now called Depot Grille & Bar. It's fairly small, with about a half dozen stools at the bar, a few hightops nearby and about a half dozen booths in the dining room. There's no large screen and the decor is only marginally sports related, but there's a TV in every booth. Just don't touch the dial.
The menu is a mix of pub food, pizza and barbecue, in that order. The barbecue includes babyback ribs (billed as smoked), pulled pork ("slow cooked"), brisket (ditto) and chicken (grilled). You can get babyback ribs by the rack, half rack or half rack with chicken; there are no other combos. On the bright side, you can get pulled pork chili as a side.
I visited solo on a Friday toward the end of the lunch rush, bringing a Groupon with me. During my stay I observed two other parties in the bar and two takeout orders.
It's the same strip mall location and the same generic menu (and same website URL), but apparently the new ownership makes it a new place where my Groupon wasn't welcome. That's not to say that I wasn't made to feel welcome; service was both thorough and friendly.
Pulled pork chili: They may call it chili, but the cup of mostly meat had minimal enough broth that it looked like your basic sauced pulled pork. I've certainly had pulled pork sandwiches that were far wetter, so for all practical purposes this was pulled pork. One strategic piece of bark on top enhanced the appearance. Beans were in there but not overdone. Chili flavorings were obvious but not potent enough to make it feel more like chili than ancient pulled pork. Broth or no broth, this pork was fairly dry. And chili seasoning aside, there wasn't much going on with the flavor. Texture was a little on the soft side but close enough.
I went with the babybacks and chicken combo ($16.99), selecting the pulled pork chili as one of the sides for a $1.99 premium.
Babybacks: Though a half rack was promised, the plate actually overdelivered, yielding about 8 bones. They might have been short but the meat was thick. And though not technically overcooked, they were very, very soft, as if smoking wasn't the only cooking methodology. I don't know if they hit a crockpot before, after or instead of the smoker, but the texture and sauced-in flavor sure had me guessing (and I'm guessing "after"). Either smoke and rub didn't get an invite or were given the same treatment as my Groupon. Sauce was the only real flavor on these ribs—sweet but neutral enough to have been used more as a moistening agent. Overall flavor was as generic—and oven-like—as everything else.
Chicken: Usually a 2-meat combo with chicken and ribs gets you a quarter bird, but here they included a half, and a fairly plump one at that. Skins were borderline crisp in some spots, droopy in others. The meat, while not smoked, still had a nice flavor from the sauce seeping in, and the texture (moist throughout) was pleasing too. Nothing exciting, but better than a lot of smoked chicken I've had. And better than the babybacks beside it.
There are no sauces on the table and none offered as extra; what you get is what's on the meats and it's yet another example of generica: dark, sweet but thinned down enough texturewise and flavorwise to wind up being more of a nudge than the crutch it can be elsewhere.
Cole slaw: More generica, but in appearance only: looked storebought, tasted mostly storebought, but a little crushed pineapple added some refreshment. Not bad.
Pulled pork chili: Don't forget, this was my other side ($1.99 upgrade).
Cornbread: In another context, this could pass for Duncan Hines. Very cakey, fairly moist and nice flavor make this one of the better examples of the cakey style.
The Bottom Line
Depot Grille scores points for portions but loses more in the execution and much more in customer relations. This is 1980s barbecue where soft is in, flavor is out, smoke is questionable and sauce does most of the talking.
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