Finding the best BBQ in our stomping grounds is a bit of a quest. There are a few chains, a few restaurants who offer some sorry excuse for pulled pork alongside their typical midwest fare and a couple of locally-owned BBQ joints but after seeing the Mr. Pig Stuff in Shakopee hadn't yet changed to their summertime hours, we ended up in strip mall hell deciding between Panera and Dickey's BBQ Pit. We debated as we waited at the nearby stoplight. On one hand we know exactly what Panera will be like. However, I can make myself a damn sandwich with cold cuts any time I want. But we had never been to Dickey's BBQ Pit and we both love and were craving BBQ on that day. Once parked we decided on BBQ.
I immediately liked the fact that there were people basking in the sun on the restaurant's "patio" and loved the array of side dishes offered as they build your BBQ sandwich using your choice of meat before your eyes.
That, however, was the end of the fascination for us.
I kept trying to find high points. There were two coolers of freshly brewed iced tea but it wasn't as cold as it should have been and even the sweetened iced tea could have used just a bit more sweetening added. The waffle-cut fries were nicely seasoned using a mix of salt and pepper but the quantity for the two dollar price (this is, after all, a quick service restaurant) was lacking.
But we were here for the BBQ. Having both ordered pulled pork sandwiches, we could at least compare notes about our experience. The beverage island was home to three warm vats of BBQ sauce -- original, sweet and spicy. I ladeled some of the original on my sandwich and grabbed a sauce cup full of spicy for my fries.
The pulled pork, upon first bite, was obviously fresh but was short in the flavor department. At home I typically apply a dry rub spice mix on top of a slathering of yellow mustard for adhesion after soaking the pork shoulder in a reduced apple juice bath overnight and then let the smoke do its thing while the meat slowly cooks. While the pork at Dickey's BBQ Pit was tender and had an acceptable thickness of bark, it wasn't the typical explosion of flavor or juiciness that I've grown to expect from a BBQ restaurant.
I'm aware that taste is subjective but a bit of flavor isn't going to scare off your customers and expecting your choice of three proprietary sauces to do the heavy lifting is a cop out. Your meat shouldn't require sauce to provide the flavor.
Kudos, though, to Dickey's BBQ Pit for providing customers with a complimentary bucket of mighty tasty pickle spears to accompany their sandwich.
Overall, Dickey's BBQ Pit is a serviceable choice for barbecue. It's obvious that they have made compromises to attract a wide audience and that's smart business decision for a franchise but never shoud taste be compromised in an attempt to appeal to the masses. Again, a bit of flavor in your meat isn't going to send people running for the hills.
The free vanilla ice cream is a nice touch as well but it tastes like a generic store bought square reconstituted for use of a soft serve dispenser. It's a nice perk if you don't have high expectations.