Review Date: 07/28/15
Visit Date: 07/16/15
Tucked into a strip plaza between a Chinese joint and a pizza chain outlet is Rock 'n' Roll Rib Joint, opened in late spring 2015. It's one large room with a half dozen four-tops, three booths and a dozen or so stools at a 3-sided bar in back. The walls are decorated with rock and roll posters, tickets and vintage album covers. The smoker is a Southern Pride.
It's a fairly small menu with a mostly-barbecue focus that drifts into pub grub. Appetizers include pulled pork egg rolls, wings (fried or smoked), fried pickles, fritters and a few salads. You could also make a snack out of smoked meat sliders, available in quantities of one, two or three with pulled pork, sliced brisket or smoked chicken. They're also available as full size sandwiches, with the chicken all breast.
Meat entrees include ribs by the third, half or full rack, brisket, pulled pork and smoked chicken leg quarters. All come with beans and cole slaw. Cornbread is a separate add-on, other sides are offered a la carte and multiple meat combinations are not offered at all. The slider option is a good way to get variety without having to order two entrees and double up on the same sides.
My brother-in-law and I hit Rock 'n' Roll Rib Joint for a weeknight dinner about a month after they opened. Late in the week, business was light but steady. Mostly late 70s rock played at a high volume.
Wings: An order of eight smoked, sauced, bone-in wing pieces ($10) brought good size on most and great size on one particular piece I managed to snag. The saucing was thorough but unobtrusive, just the way it should be. The skins were cooked just enough so that you couldn't say they were soggy or flabby, but not enough so that you could say they were crisp. Overall, decent without being notable.
Pulled Pork Egg Rolls: This house specialty ($8.50) supplies two well-girthed egg rolls stuffed with smoked pulled pork and crispy cabbage, cut into three pieces each for a total of six, then topped with a drizzle of a creamy, zingy sriracha mayo. You might guess that the cabbage plays a big part here, since it's so much cheaper than pork, but not so: the pork admirably comprises at least 90% of the filling. It's gray, stringy, semi moist, more than semi tender and not quite semi smoky. The shell is thick, crunchy and tasty without getting greasy. This isn't going to wow you, but I give it an A for effort. With the drizzle and a little extra sauce (I preferred mustard at home with the leftovers), it's a nice alternative to a sandwich for around the same price.
Ribs: We went big time and split a whole rack ($28 with beans and slaw), split into two stacked half racks to fit on the plate. They arrived lightly sauced, lightly colored and tender enough for the meat to slide off the bone with little effort. Moistness was certainly there. Flavor was pleasant enough but didn't bring anything special, especially given the price tag that's a noticeable step up from their more seasoned competition. Smoke, rub and overall flavor were all very light.
Pulled Pork: Tried on a slider (3 for $14), the pork benefitted from a little extra sauce and a gentler texture than what was in the egg rolls. Beneath the sauce, the meat was more arid and fairly straightforward, with no uplifting powers from rub or smoke. If you're going to have three, though, the egg roll option is better for quantity, flavor, pricing and not having to get the same beans and slaw yet again.
Chicken: Also tried on a slider (3 for $14), this meat came exclusively from the breast (dark meat quarters are available on platters). All of it was very chickeny and all of it was very dry. Smoke was more noticeable here, but rub was again light.
Brisket: Another slider brought a couple of fairly thick slices of monotone beef that rivaled the chicken for dryness. Some light flavor surfaced but it was mostly a one-note (beef) experience. Smoke and rub both came up light. The edges did display some nice bark and spices, but they didn't stand out on the surface or penetrate further in.
A sweet, tangy and generic sauce is available in a squeeze bottle.
Baked Beans: Warm and soupy, these distinguished themselves from the canned variety by virtue of size (puffier), reduced sweetness (blander), thinned-down broth and shreds of smoked meat in the mix.
Cole Slaw: Crisp cabbage meets a thick condiment without much flavor, even from the wasabi.
Cornbread: The best of the sides was thick, soft and coarse, with a cakey flavor accented with a corny aspect. Interestingly, we ordered this as a separate item, as cornbread isn't included with the platters. We received a small plate with two huge blocks of cornbread (about 2x3x6). Then, about two minutes later, we received another small plate with two small blocks of cornbread (2x2x3). Maybe there are two different people in the kitchen handling this with two different cutting technique's Or maybe the second plate was for the entrees and they're rethinking the no-cornbread thing?
Parking could not be easier.
And servers could not be more friendly and helpful. Plates, questions, napkins, you name it, they took care of it with enthusiasm and good cheer. That said, I get the impression that neither they nor the kitchen staff are all that experienced.
The Bottom Line
They say even those in the lower half of their graduating class at Harvard must still be bright, so optimists can think of this as the barbecue equivalent. I had a hard time finding good flavor and good texture in the same bite, but it's still early and there are still kinks that can be worked out. For now it's a barbecue experience that's best had if you happen to live close by.
Yelp reviews of Rock 'n' Roll Rib Joint
Zomato reviews of Rock 'n' Roll Rib Joint