Review Date: 06/28/15
On a winding street past a jet port, a Coca Cola plant and a few furniture stores sits Moe's, at the far end of a strip mall. It's part of a
barbecue chain that started in Colorado but features Alabama style
barbecue; the only Northeast outposts are in South Portland and Bangor.
Much like at Southern barbecue joints, you head down a narrow walkway
that helps keep the line intact. Order at the counter and they'll
bring you the food when it's ready. Grab your own utensils and a bottle
of warmed barbecue sauce, then grab a seat anywhere. There's a mix of
deuces, four tops and booths, along with stools at a small bar. Most of
the space is wide open.
Barbecue meats include pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken, turkey and smoked wings. There's also catfish. For sides, there's a core group and several specials. Some of them are desserts, so if you don't want meat and veggies or even meat and potatoes, you can have meats and sweets.
The meat of your choosing can be had on a plate or in a sandwich. There are no combo plates as such, but they do have an option where you can add three ounces of an additional meat for three dollars. This worked out nicely on my visit, allowing variety without hiking the bill too crazily.
Even vegetarians will feel quite at home here. Beyond just the sides, there's barbecue tofu and salad.
I visited Moe's solo on a Saturday while young bride was working and the usual barbecue crew had other plans.
Wings: They're smoked and they're only a three dollar add-on, so there was no
way I wasn't going to add these on. My order brought me five pieces, all
of them crispy, most likely from deep frying after smoking. The light
sauce was more along the lines of Buffalo style wings than barbecue, but
the greatest weakness was the dryness throughout each piece. It seemed
like these wings couldn't decide whether they wanted to be barbecue,
Buffalo, frozen dinner style, or something else, and the compromise didn't
work for me.
Ribs: A small order ($12) of these got me six bones, two sides and cornbread. The size was somewhat small, doneness
was about right, and the freshness was okay enough. They had pink cross
sections with a light smoke ring at the edges and well formed crusts
that had given away during holding. They had more of a steamy quality
to them than full-fledged juiciness, but these ribs weren't bad, especially by
the standards of chain barbecue. The meat was tender without being too
tender, and certainly flavorful enough. Smoke was light but noticeable. Although
not prevalent on the surface, rub was very much a part of the enjoyable flavor
within. Overall, not world beaters, but not bad.
Brisket: Okay, it's a chain restaurant for starters, and the wings were a no go
and the ribs a little better than just okay, so expectations were fairly low. And two
kinds of sauce (lightly) drizzled over it didn't exactly get the
enthusiasm pumping. But, whoa, this $3 add-on proved to be some of the
best brisket I've had recently, and certainly better than most I've had in Maine.
A quartet of short but thick (nearly 1-inch) slices from the point exhibited very good tenderness, juiciness and just the right amount of give, with crispy exteriors and beefy flavor. Next time (and there'll probably be a next time based on vegetarian options alone), I'll make brisket the main platter and do the add-on for ribs. I was surprised and very much impressed by the quality of this brisket.
There are no sauces on the table but you can grab one of the squeeze bottles of their "Red" house sauce from a bucket filled with warm water to heat them. It's a nice touch. This sauce looks pretty standard at first, somewhat ketchupy, but it's a thinner and spicier version of a tomato-based sauce. While I wouldn't rank it up there with my favorites, it was certainly better than expected (a recurring theme here). There's also an Alabama white sauce (made famous at the iconic Big Bob Gibson's) that you can order by request. The runner asked me how I liked the white sauce drizzled on the brisket and offered to bring me more. It's a mayonnaise-based sauce with a little extra zing.
Cole Slaw: It looked very dry but turned out not to be dry at all. If you're looking for a creamy style slaw, this isn't it. But the flavors are definitely not lacking: I found a nice mix of sweet and tart that reminded me of (Rosoff's Jewish style) sauerkraut.
Macaroni and Cheese: Again, this is one that depends on what style you prefer. If you're looking for ultra creamy, look for something else; this is the tight, baked Southern style that you often find at soul food restaurants, and within this style (not my preference) it succeeded.
Cornbread: A thick block is buttered, grilled and only slightly cakey, making it adaptable as a true side or finisher. The grill marks add a nice char.
Service (spanning three employees) was extremely friendly, knowledgable, upbeat and proactive.
The Bottom Line
I'm not into chains, but (wings aside) Moe's exceeded expectation with a clean space, flexible ordering, friendly staff, very good value and brisket surprisingly better than most of the non-chains.
Yelp reviews of Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
Zomato reviews of Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
Tabelog reviews of Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
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