A Wednesday Night in January, just after 6 PM. It’s already pitch black out, but a fat, full moon is rising over the mountains. I’m sitting in the back seat of my mother’s SUV. Sis is riding shotgun, and to my right a sleeping toddler is strapped into a booster seat. We’re in Eagle and looking for MickeyRay’s Roadhouse BBQ, a place my mother has heard really good things about and has been wanting to try for some time now. We’re lost.
A co-worker had instructed my mother to take State Street in Eagle and go towards Star, and assured her that we couldn’t miss it, but as we found ourselves nearly in Star we knew that wasn’t the case. Mom tries unsuccessfully to reach a couple of people on the phone who might have a computer handy and therefore be able to feed us directions, and I’m trying to remember the phone number that was given so prominently on the website when I was perusing the menu earlier. I punch 939-RIBS into my phone, and after several rings I end up at a nondescript voicemail prompt. Surprised, I disconnect the call. Just as I’m thinking how certain I had been about the number, my phone rings. The caller ID shows the call coming from the same number I had just tried. I answer the phone, and the man on the other end goes immediately into his spiel, something about it being “a great day at MickeyRay’s” and inviting me to “come gitcha a little sumpin’ sumpin'” if I recall correctly. He says all of this as if he had answered the phone when I called rather than having called me back. I ask him where the restaurant is located, and he says it’s on Old State Street. We backtrack to where State Street splits off from the highway and take it back toward Star, and sure enough we find it almost immediately. I’m already a little disconcerted because I’ve forgotten my camera and have to use the crappy one on my phone, and in the process of trying to get the now awake but still groggy toddler safely from the car to the restaurant, I forget to snap a picture of the front of the restaurant and have to use a copy of their logo here…
Once inside, I’m surprised how busy it is for a Wednesday. To our immediate left is a private room where some kind of business meeting is being held, everyone looking at a presentation being projected onto a large white screen and with a plate of food in front of them. The first thing Mom and Sis notice is the decor.
|Homey, kitschy or creepy?|
Some of the dividers separating areas of the restaurant are topped with blown-up, semi-transparent old-timey photographs. I think it’s cute, but then again I’m a big Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan. Mom and especially sis seem a little put off by the pictures, and the toddler seems not to care. We all order Dr. Pepper, which is served to us in rather large mason jars.
|A big, heavy Dr. Pepper|
As we peruse the menu, my sister ( the one who is always teasing me about the food blogging thing) tells me that I need to mention in my write-up that they should have more options for non-red meat eaters. I remind her that I had called earlier and was told that they would put together a chicken sandwich for her even though it’s not a normal menu item. When the waiter tells us that the chicken sandwich with two sides would cost as much as the main white meat item on the menu, a half chicken with two sides, we pressure her into just ordering the half chicken. The toddler chooses Mac and Cheese without a moment’s hesitation when given the five options available on the kid’s menu. Mom is leaning toward the Burnt Ends sandwich with two sides which is on special that night, but I talk her into splitting the MickeyRay’s Large Time Platter with me. While we wait, a man who works there (manager or owner perhaps) makes the rounds of the room, and as he passes our table the toddler catches his attention and informs him that she is going to have Mac and Cheese. He hunkers down and plays along, saying he’ll see what he can do to get her order out fast. A little while later the food arrives, and there is more than one surprise.
|Mac and Cheese with fries|
As they set down the toddler’s food, two things strike me. First, that the pasta looks very much like Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Second, the “side of fries” is neither fries nor a side. They’re potato wedges, and mass-wise they comprise about 3/4 of the meal. The toddler tucks in immediately. Next up is Sis’ food.
|Half chicken with fries and beans|
Sis had asked me how the chicken would be served, and looking around at the obviously family-geared atmosphere, I told her I had to assume it would be broken down into breast, wing, leg, thigh, etc. But no, much to my delight and her surprise, out comes half a chicken more or less intact. A moment later, I’m distracted by the arrival of the Large Time Platter.
|Clockwise from top: brisket, sausage, ribs, chopped pork|
|Clockwise from top: cole slaw, bread, hush puppies, fries|
The toddler, despite having to constantly readjust her seat, pretty much just inhales the Mac and Cheese. Sis stops teasing me enough about my blog to say that I should also mention in my review that booster seats are not available for children, though there are high chairs available for the very young ones. Sis digs the beans, and I leave her to them because I can’t stand BBQ beans. I do try a bit of the chicken though, and it’s pretty impressive. On a neighboring table I see the fried pickles from the appetizer menu that I didn’t order because of my previous experience at Smashburger. They look quite a bit better here, but there is no time for regret with this mountain of protein in front of me.
Having no real plan of attack, I opt to try the brisket first. It looks a little fatty in places but has cooked perfectly and almost liquefies in the mouth. Unfortunately, it’s also a little on the bland side. Mom agrees. Still, I rarely come across brisket that really impresses me and the texture is good, so I add a little sauce from one of the little cups that are basically the centerpiece of the plate. MickeyRay’s has three sauces that I don’t remember the names of, but basically they range from mild to hot. I had ordered a mild and a medium, but can see no discernible difference in the two and am not told which one is which. I try a little of one and then the other and still can’t tell much of a difference, but I imagine one of them is a little bit hotter so that’s what ends up on the brisket. If you like saucy barbecue, it’s definitely worthwhile.
Moving on to the sausage, I brace myself, not having any idea how spicy it’s going to be. To my surprise, it’s just a simple smoked sausage. This isn’t a bad thing, but I’m used to hotlink with barbecue platters, and am vaguely disappointed. Still, can’t fault the restaurant for my not clarifying, and it’s a perfectly acceptable smoked sausage with not a single unpalatable or gristly bit to be found.
Ribs, in my experience, are pretty hit and miss. These look positively charred on the outside so I don’t get my hopes up, but I end up being very pleasantly surprised here. The outside is crispy chewy without tasting of charcoal, the inside is tender and a little juicy. The meat all but falls off when you pick them up and it is absolutely no effort to leave not even the tiniest scrap on the bone. I’m too big a fan of pulled or chopped pork to ever go straight for a rib platter at a barbecue place, but I would seriously consider it here. In fact my biggest complaint about the platter overall is that it has only three ribs on it (Famous Dave’s gives twice as many with their “Feast for Two“).
I am now left with the chopped pork, which I usually save for last because it tends to be my favorite. I prefer the pulled variety, but pork is the candy of the gods so chopped is fine with me too. One of the things I like so much about it is that it tends to end up very smoky, and I love that flavor. In fact, I haven’t come across a piece of pork that was too smoky for my liking. This pork, however, is a little too mild for me. Once again, the texture is fine, a nice selection of crispy bits, tender bits and everything in between. The pork itself, like everything else, has a fine flavor. I just wish it was stronger. I end up using the bread and sauce to make a sandwich out of it and am pretty happy with the result.
In between all of this, there are sides. Coleslaw that is so uniform that I would suspect it had come from KFC were it not for the lack of carrot. This is not an insult, I actually like KFC’s coleslaw. The fries are hot, golden brown, lightly crispy on the outside and fluffy soft in the middle. The hush puppies are a big hit with our table with their crunchy outer shell, honey cornbread flavor inside and actual pieces of corn mixed throughout.
All in all, not a bad night’s eating, but I have to admit that as I sat there, I felt a little unsatisfied. Once again, the dreaded word “safe” kept running through my mind. As we waited for the check to come, I looked around the dining room. Every table I could see had at least one small child or older couple sitting at it. Nowhere did my eyes find one young couple or group of guys safely satisfying their innate bloodlust. As I contemplate this, the manager guy appears again with what looks like a little take-out cup for sauce. After conferring with my sister, he hunkers down next to the toddler and opens the lid on the container, revealing two large gumballs (one white, one red) which he presents to her. Sis (have I mentioned that she teases me about this blog) says I need to mention this too. The demographic of this place truly seems to be families, and that being the case I can forgive the sausage not bringing tears to my eyes or the pork not being smoky enough to make me light-headed. After all, a little sauce will help both of those issues. I won’t be taking the kids to Goodwood any time soon, I get the feeling that they like their sedate atmosphere (you’ll notice the lack of a kid’s menu if you visit them), but I’d definitely take them to MickeyRay’s. At the very least it would give me an excuse to try the Possum Pie…
Final Grade: B