T Bones Roadhouse is is a lively
joint that's big on atmosphere and that rare roadhouse that actually looks like a roadhouse. Wood is everywhere and there's a familiar attempt to make a new place look like it's old, but somehow this one is more believable than most. Oversized comfortable booths around the perimeter and large tables in the middle of a few different dining areas surround a long bar. Tables near the front of the joint can take advantage of the open windows to get a healthy dose of fresh air and people watching on Plymouth's busy Main Street.
T Bones barbecue offerings include one kind of rib (pork spare ribs), pulled pork, sliced brisket, sausage and pulled chicken (there's no quarters or halves). Ribs are available as half or full racks with or without sides. Barbecue platters feature 2-, 3- and 4-meat combos. But the barbecue just a small subset of a vast menu that's chock full of hearty pub fare. The deep appetizer roster includes chili, nachos, quesadillas, fried pickles, wings (not smoked), chicken fingers, potato wedges, peel and eat shrimp and six different salads. Non-barbecue sandwiches include fried cod, grilled chicken, Cajun chicken and three steakburgers. More featured than the barbecue are T Bones' steaks, which include six different cuts plus prime rib on Sundays. Other entrees include steak tips, fried chicken, fish and chips and grilled swordfish.
I hit T Bones for a Saturday dinner, joined by two fledgling barbecue fans.
Chili got things started on a high note, supplying just enough heat to enhance the meaty mix without trying to prove anything. The meat in said mix had plenty of tender brisket chunks, creating anticipation for the brisket that would follow on the entree. Beans were also in the mix. Scallions and sliced jalapenos were a curious addition, but the meat is clearly the focus here. I like that there's two kinds of cheese on top. I probably wouldn't put this chili on my favorites list, but it's definitely on the bubble in that next tier.
Chicken fingers are pretty standard (and probably not homemade) but pretty good, offering a bumpy, slightly crunchy crust around tender white meat. It's served in a cone of faux newspaper and accompanied by a honey mustard sauce. I also tried a spicy sauce on the side that's a super kicked up version of Buffalo. This was much hotter than the chili, but similarly offered nuanced flavor to match the heat.
The most memorable appetizer was the complimentary skillet cornbread, served warm with a huge dollop of honey cinnamon butter. It's more of a twinkie-like dessert than an appetizer, but if you like a sweet cornbread, you'll probably like this one.
The other complimentary item is the barrel of peanuts near the hostess stand, with baskets to transport them to the table. These are the largest peanuts I've ever had, and I liked that were salted in the shell. My nephew liked that you can discard the shells on the floor.
My four-meat combo ($15.95) was an absolute steal (at least on paper), providing a 1/3 rack of ribs, a sausage, several slices of brisket and a large mound of pork. You only get one choice of side, but you get fries, beans and cole slaw automatically included, plus the cornbread that came before you even ordered.
The thick ribs (from 4.5-lb racks, according to the menu) had a dense, good looking crust formed mostly by slow cooking with a little help from a light rub. The inner meat was very moist and cooked to what I think of as the ideal doneness: tender enough to allow a quick, easy bite, but not tender to the point of falling apart. The meat wasn't pink, but it was obvious that these ribs were smoked. Aside from the light smoke taste, I didn't detect much flavor on the surface or within, which was a bit of a surprise considering all that bark. A little dip into some sauce did the trick.
Brisket was dry, tough and bland. Even sauced, the one slice I tried hit the discard bin. That chili led me on.
Sausage was sliced in half lengthwise, skewered, lightly sauced and grilled to impart some char. The flavor had a nice heat component, but other than that the sausage was basically a slimier, fattier version of a hotdog. I think the rubbery texture was the show stopper for me.
Pulled pork was the surprise highlight of the combo. Like the ribs, the texture was dead on, and like the ribs, the bark was plentiful (even more plentiful, actually). The moisture was low, but I wouldn't say this pork was dry. Flavorwise, this was the best thing on the plate, with a porkiness and rub flavor that I didn't find in the ribs. A little of the mustard sauce gave this pork just the boost it needed.
So overall, four meats, one hit (pork), two misses (brisket, sausage), one somewhere in-between (ribs). I don't envision the brisket or sausage being much better on another visit, but the ribs had potential and the pork was solid.
A quartet of sauces in squeeze bottles was brought to the table with the main course. All were good; I wound up mostly sticking mostly to the tangy, spicy mustard sauce. I wish they had a Carolina style vinegar.
Sides were all about average, with none of the automatic items (beans, cole slaw, fries) striking me as home made or anything special. I should have been paying more attention to the beans, which according to the menu have a peach component. The exception was the refreshing fire and ice cukes, which packed some light heat from crushed red pepper and made a nice complement to the 'cue.
Parking can be difficult with no dedicated lot. Metered parking is in effect seven days a week and runs fairly late, so bring quarters.
I already gushed about the good value in my four meat combo with four sides and cornbread for $15.95, but prices are noticeably low across the board here. A full slab of ribs is $12.95.
Several user reviews on other sites mention the rowdy aspect of T Bones as a turn-off, but at 6:00PM on my Saturday visit the joint was perfectly safe for children and families. The bar is a focalpoint, so I could see this changing later into the evening.
The bottom line:
I wouldn't call T Bones a destination barbecue joint, but the combination of atmosphere, hospitality, value and legitimate (if spotty) 'cue make this a worthwhile stop if you're in the area.
Yelp reviews of T Bones
Urbanspoon reviews of T Bones