Great prices, service worth savoring at Madison's BBQ Joint

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By Bill Livick, Special to The Gazette
Thursday, June 5, 2014

MADISON—That BBQ Joint doesn't do anything flashy or fancy. It's pretty clear that the owners are talented in the kitchen but novices when it comes to operating a restaurant.

In fact, the small eatery, which opened on Williamson Street last October, is about as homemade as they come. But what the place lacks in style it makes up in good food, low prices and friendly service.

We visited the east-side dining room on a Thursday around dinnertime, and it was steadily busy. With just three tables and two counters, eating at the Joint quickly became a communal affair—which is fine if you like that sort of interaction with strangers. My companion and I were pleased with the informality.

Owners Maureen White and Clement Henriques began the business on a shoestring and intended to make That BBQ Joint half carryout and half dine-in. Much of the food is prepared as take-out, and eating in the restaurant is a little like having an indoor picnic except that you don't have to use plastic silverware.

The menu and daily specials are printed on large chalkboards that fill most of the dining room's wall space. Customers place orders at a front counter, and the same person who takes your order delivers your food within minutes.

The menu is mostly sandwiches. Entrees come with a choice of two sides, while the solo sandwiches are pretty much the same minus the sides.

The options are what you would expect from a down-home barbecue restaurant: pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, smoked chicken, chicken wings and an Italian beef sandwich. The menu also has a bulk category, which offers a whole smoked chicken ($11.99), rib tips ($12.99), a full slab of ribs ($19.99) and enough pulled pork ($16.99) or brisket ($18.99) for four buns. Sandwiches come on a fine selection of rolls with crusty exteriors and soft interiors.

My friend Beth ordered a chicken salad sandwich ($7) from the list of daily specials and loved its blend of chicken chunks, sweet walnuts and cranberries. Her order came with a deliciously creamy cole slaw, while I ordered the spicy vinegar slaw to go with a half slab of ribs. Either side would go well on a pulled pork or beef brisket sandwich, and this place uses rolls hardy enough to handle the load.

The ribs ($13.95, three ribs with two sides) were tasty but a bit tough and dry. I managed to improve them by liberally using one of three house-made barbecue sauces.

The four-bean salad was standard fare, while a side of collard greens was a pleasant change of pace.

Our server didn't catch our request for sweet potato fries, but that turned out for the best. We actually had room for dessert: a slice of the kitchen's homemade pecan pie ($3).

The restaurant doesn't serve alcohol, but its cooler holds an assortment of sodas and other beverages.

Next time I'll check out the Italian beef sandwich, which comes with hot or mild giardiniera, provolone and a side of au jus ($6). Another sandwich piles pulled pork, sliced ham, mustard sauce, pickles and Swiss cheese onto a French roll for the same price.

Vegetarians might like the Boca Crumbles sandwich with sweet peppers and onions that are simmered in the kitchen's barbecue sauce and served with lettuce and pickles ($6).

Would I suggest that you make the drive to Madison simply to check out That BBQ Joint? Probably not. But if you're in town anyway, you probably won't find a better deal than a pulled pork sandwich for $5.

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