I’ve always looked BBQ. Slow smoked meat, full of flavor, and smothered in BBQ sauce is something I’ve always found to be finger-licking good. I’ve fallen in love with The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que in Driftwood, Texas, with their amazing vinegar-based slow cooked meats. Found comfort in the BBQ at Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que which I can get locally at home. And now, I’ve discovered Famous Dave’s.
Who, or what is Famous Dave’s, you may ask. I’d actually never heard of Dave Anderson, proprietor of Famous Dave’s, until a couple of years ago when my husband and I were watching a BBQ competition on The Food Network and Dave Anderson was one of the 6 master bar-b-que’ers that they invited to compete on the show. What caught my attention was the fact that the show mentioned that Dave Anderson was from Minnesota. Seeing that my husband is originally from Minnesota, seeing anything on TV that mentions Minnesota usually holds my attention; add food, and especially BBQ, into the mix and you’ve got a real winner. It turns out that Dave didn’t win that cooking competition, but since that I’d been interested in dining at a Famous Dave’s. The first time I went to Minnesota to visit my husband’s family, I discovered that my sister-in-law lived just down the street from a Famous Dave’s. On my recent trip to Minnesota, I told my husband and my sister-in-law that I wanted to try Famous Dave’s.
While growing up in Chicago, Dave Anderson, became hooked on slow-smoked ribs that his dad used to buy from street corner vendors who would sell their goods out of their 55 gallon smokers. This obsession with BBQ grew into a life long passion for Dave who spent 25 years traveling all over the country trying BBQ wherever he could find it. After having dined at thousands of BBQ establishments, Dave came home to Minnesota, where he still lives, and started working on perfecting his own BBQ techniques and dreaming of opening his own BBQ establishment. In 1994, the opportunity came for Dave to purchase a small resort located on Big Round Lake in Hayward, Wisconsin. The resort had 8 cabins, a restaurant and a bar, and Dave figured this was his opportunity to realize his lifelong dream of having his own BBQ joint. So, he purchased the property, tore down the old restaurant and rebuilt a new restaurant to resemble an Adirondack Lounge and called it “Famous Dave’s BBQ Shack.” The shack was a success and people back home in the Twin Cities began to ask Dave when he was going to open a shack in Minnesota. With little fanfare and advertising, Dave opened a restaurant in 1995 in a small Minneapolis neighborhood and designed it to look like an oldstyle Southern roadhouse shack filled with fun murals and antiques. This new Minnesota location was also a hit with people driving to the restaurant from near and far to have a taste of Famous Dave’s BBQ. Soon, more and more people wondered when Dave was going to open in their neighborhood. Thus began the expansion of Famous Dave’s throughout the country. We dined at the Famous Dave’s in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul, and it’s true, when you walk in the door, you do feel like you’ve stepped into and old-fashioned southern roadhouse shack!
I loved the casual feel of the restaurant. Even though it’s a restaurant that has table service, the atmosphere is relaxed and easy. You walk into the restaurant and are greeted by menus that are hung on the side wall. Once you’ve perused the menu, you walk up to the cashier who takes your order. When you’ve ordered, you’re given a little piggie with a number on it that you take to your table. A server will bring your food over to your table when it’s ready. The food is served in a simple picnic basket with red and white checkered paper. For me, it all helps add to the atmosphere of the restaurant.
When you sit down at your table, you also have a basket containing 6 different types of BBQ sauce. These are all sauces that have been developed and perfected by Dave through all his travel around the country sampling the best in BBQ sauces. The six sauces that are put out at each table are Dave’s award-winning sauces and represent different regional tastes throughout the country. Rich & Sassy is Dave’s original recipe and represents a Midwest tomato-based sauce. The Georgia mustard is reminiscent of a sauce commonly found through the Appalachians and the southeastern states containing vinegar and brown sugar in a mustard based sauce. Wilbur’s Revenge is exactly as the bottle describes, XXX hot and only for hearty souls who can stand the heat!
Then you’ve also go the Sweet & Zesty, Dave’s newest addition to his sauces that is described as sweet but also full of flavor. The Texas Pit is a popular sauce which has a spicy southwestern kick. And finally Devil’s Spit, which is Dave’s adult-only hot sauce which he describes as straight from Hell’s kitchen.
Even though we were at Famous Dave’s for lunch, and they do serve lunch items such as BBQ sandwiches, hamburgers, stuffed potatoes and salads, I couldn’t go to a BBQ joint and not order BBQ. I ended up choosing the 2 meat combo which comes with a choice of 2 sides. The list of meats you can choose from is pretty standard for a BBQ joint: St. Louis-style spareribs, Georgia chopped pork, Texas beef brisket, Hot Link sausage, country-roasted or BBQ chicken, traditional or boneless chicken wings; Southside rib tips, beer-battered cod, and chicken tenders. Texas beef brisket caught my eye immediately, and since I wanted to taste of the ribs, I went with St. Louis-style spareribs, even though I knew it would be messy! I couldn’t resist. My sides were Dave’s cheesy mac & cheese and the garlic red-skinned mashed potatoes. I really liked the fact that the beef brisket was served over white bread, the way traditional BBQ is done. The brisket was full of flavor and had to be one of the most tender cuts of BBQ meat I’ve ever tasted. I used the Texas Pit sauce on my meats and thought it was fantastic. It was a touch spicy, but it really added to the flavor of the BBQ. The St. Louis-style spareribs were fantastic. They were so tender that they really just fell off the bone, and they had terrific smoke flavor. I also loved the cornbread muffin that came with the dish. They must have finished off the muffin with a honey glaze because the top of the muffin was crusty and crunchy and delicious and the inside was delectable cornbread! Great way to finish off a meal.
My husband also opted for the 2 meat combo. For his meats, he chose the Hot Link sausage and the Texas beef brisket. My husband has a thing for Texas beef brisket, he just can’t resist it. For his sides, he chose the potato salad and Dave’s cheesy mac & cheese. The description of Dave’s potato salad says its made with red onions, celery, hard cooked eggs, mayonnaise and a hint of mustard. Though, my husband swears there was pickles in the potato salad as well. He loved the addition of the celery to the potato salad which he said added a nice crunch. He slathered his meats with Texas Pit as well as a little bit of Devil’s spit. He says the sauces added heat to his dish, but he likes his food with a little bit of heat. My husband, as usual, loved the beef brisket. He also enjoyed the hot link sausage. According to my husband, the sausage had a perfectly crispy outside and a nice and juicy inside. He said that this was the way you’re supposed to do sausage.
My brother-in-law ordered the exact same thing that my husband did. Or maybe it was that my husband ordered exactly what his brother-in-law ordered? My sister-in-law, who is not the biggest fan of meat ordered a beer-battered cod entrée. She said she liked it because she really liked the spices they used in the batter for the fish.
Regardless of what we all ordered as an entrée, each of the four of us did pick the same side dish: Dave’s cheesy mac & cheese. At Famous Dave’s they describe their mac & cheese as the homestyle version blended with four cheeses, corn and a jalapeno kick. Oooh-eeee! Wow, that’s some mac & cheese. It was cheesy alright, and the addition of the corn was a nice touch to give the dish some contrast and a wonderful texture. But man, that jalapeno kick was something else! You can taste the latent heat right away, and it kind of spreads from there. Unfortunately, I’m not the biggest jalapeno fan, so I was only able to eat about half my side dish before the spice just became too much for me and I had to give the rest of it to my husband who was all too happy to take it from me.
I loved Famous Dave’s! And as much as my husband says he’s not a BBQ fan, I know he’s lying. He likes BBQ, he just doesn’t like ribs, so as long as you don’t force him to eat ribs, he loves BBQ. And he loved Famous Dave’s too. I know the food must be good if he comments, more than once, on how good something is while we’re still in the middle of eating! We’ll definitely be back to Famous Dave’s again!