Florence, Alabama –
For our latest Barbecue review we didn’t have to venture far from home. Just a matter of fighting noon hour traffic on Cox Creek Speedway Parkway, where to many folks that traverse the section between Florence Blvd and Darby Drive, stopping at red lights and stop signs are just a suggestion, not a “real” law. Dodging the distracted drivers’ texting and talking on their cellphones can be downright hazardous to your health. But we persevered and made it to this week’s Q-joint without getting broadsided or ran over
.Rick’s Barbecue started business in 1979 and has evolved into not only a family owned barbecue restaurant chain, but has convenience stores and a wholesale operation. Several of the walk in restaurants are company owned and a couple are franchised. The wholesale operation furnishes and sells to commercial wholesale grocery companies such as Sysco, who then redistributes their products to other restaurants and schools. So, you just never know, your favorite restaurant where you love their barbecue may be serving you Rick’s Barbecue.
We visited the Rick’s location on Cox Creek Parkway during the noon hour on a Thursday. The place was rocking the business with a line in the drive through and a dining room full of eat in customers. This is a good sign for a barbecue restaurant that is doing a brisk lunch business that folks might like their food.
Now, I have a confession to make, it has been over 10 years since I have eaten at a Rick’s Barbecue. When we had our own barbecue business we did several visits to Ricks to compare ours against theirs and always felt at the time ours was better (naturally). We’ve done “cuttings” on their sandwiches to compare portions and always found our portions was larger. So, I went into Ricks gritting my teeth and dreading having to eat some inferior barbecue just to be fair and say I’ve eaten there. What I found out surprised me and as my review will show changed my thinking about Rick’s. As I stated in a past review, I’ve been accused of being bias against the small businessman, so this review may come as a shock to a couple of our distractors or they may find it funny. Who knows?
Rick’s is a fast food concept barbecue restaurant and you do have to walk up to a counter and place your order. You’re given a number to place on your table and then a cup to fix your own drink. We grabbed a seat and began people watching to see what everyone was eating. It was a mixture of many menu items from platters to stuffed taters.
It was only a few minutes until a young lady delivered our lunch orders to our table and we could start digging in. Debra ordered the chicken stuffed potato and it delivered on its promise of being a gigantic meal with a 40 count size baked potato, stuffed full of chicken, cheese, butter, and sour cream. It was so huge it couldn’t all be eaten and part of it when home for dinner. I tasted the chicken that was on the potato and it had a fairly good smoke flavor to it. Rick’s shreds the chicken fairly uniform in consistence which makes eating it on a baked potato an easy task. Debra enjoyed the stuffed potato and I thought the chicken was good also
I ordered my usual barbecue plate, or as it appears on Rick’s menu a barbecue platter. It came with beans, slaw, tri-tater, bread and a pickle spear. One thing for sure that Rick Lannings and I agree upon is the barbecue philosophy that states “If the meat is prepared properly, it should stand on its own, proudly, and without sauce.” Thus, when it was delivered the table I knew that it was going to be a better that expected experience.
I first tasted the naked meat, it was moist, tender and had a noticeable hickory smoked flavor tone to it. At that point, I thought to myself and expressed to my dining partner, “this is way better than it used to be.” In fact, I could have eaten the entire plate of meat sans sauce, but to be fair I had to taste the sauce offering also.
I tested the regular sauce first by putting some on a fork and it had the heavy smoky flavor prominent along with the tomato base and lots of brown sugar. All in all a fairly decent table grade barbecue sauce. I then taste tested the hot sauce and here’s where things got a little dicey, the first taste sensation that hits your tongue is the flavor profile of Louisiana hot sauce, not a bad thing mind you, but unexpected in a table grade signature barbecue sauce. Once I got passed the Louisiana sauce taste the balance of the flavors were a strong tomato base with vinegar undertones and a light sweetness. Definitely not the worst hot sauce I’ve ever tried but not the best either. I would have expected the hot sauce to resemble the mild sauce more but it didn’t.
I then divided the meat into two piles and sauced one with hot sauce and the other with the regular mild sauce. The meat with the hot sauce on alone was overpowered by the Louisiana hot sauce taste and didn’t blend well at all. The meat with the regular mild sauce was a much better flavor combination and was the better choice of the two. So after the taste test I mixed the two together and got the best of both sauces. The sweetness of the mild sauce took the edge off of the Louisiana’s sharp taste and I got the combination I was looking for. Good stuff!
Now, on to the sides, the beans, again, started life as pork and beans and were kicked up by adding green pepper, onion, brown sugar, bbq sauce and maybe even some finely chopped barbecue pork, hard to tell since they were cooked to a thick consistence. The slaw was a mayo based slaw that was fairly good and the Tri-tater is a wedge of potato similar to a hash brown that has been deep fried. It was OK, but what is there to say about frozen fried tater wedge. The bread was a slice of fresh Texas toast (un-toasted) and the pickle spear of the dill variety.
|Catering Service Available||Yes|
|Recommendations||Try the HUGE taters|
|Ambiance||Dine In/Drive Thru|
|Vegetarian Friendly||Ugh, it’s a q-joint, you figure it out|
|Health Score||94 (06-26-13)|
|Soft Drink Brand||Pepsi|