First Look: Minnesota Barbecue Company is small but mighty

"Minnesota Barbecue" seems like a gentle kind of joke about the fact that our state doesn't have much history with the stuff. Thankfully, it appears we've got a future.

"Minnesota Barbecue" seems like a gentle kind of joke about the fact that our state doesn't have much history with the stuff. Thankfully, it appears we've got a future. Mike Mullen

Here's how you know City Pages is not your friend.

We're here to tell you Minnesota Barbecue Company, the long-planned smoke shop project from the minds and hands behind the illustrious Travail Kitchen and Pig Ate My Pizza, is, at last, open and slinging hot meat and sides in northeast Minneapolis.


We're also here to tell you that the place isn't open Monday or Tuesday. So if you're reading this and in need of some new-to-you smoky sustenance, you will have to drool until 5 p.m. Wednesday. Good luck explaining that to your coworkers and the humans you live with. (Don't worry, the dog gets it.)

The narrow space they've opened on Lowry Avenue allows for a walk-up counter, a few stools for hungry smoke-smellers to wait for their order, and... not a lot else. You will be eating from Minnesota Barbecue Company, but not at it. If your party has a few large people in it and there are literally any other customers present (there will be), some of you should wait outside. It's that small.

And be warned that if you're driving there, the shop has no reserved parking of its own, and the surrounding neighborhood isn't always the easiest to find a spot. Pop or sparkling water is available, but if you want beer or booze you'll need to find it somewhere else -- though in this neighborhood, that's not much of a problem. 

OK enough complaining, let's get to the important part: This is dang good barbecue, people, and worth getting over any claustrophobia or parking annoyances. 

Obviously, "Minnesota Barbecue" is sort of a misnomer, as this state doesn't really have a traditional style of smoking things. In fact, head chef Kale Thome is trying to emulate the barbecue he grew up gorging on in Kansas, as he explained to the Star Tribune a few weeks ago on the new joint's opening night.

That means a dry rub, with the diner left to add sauce. You will want to: Theirs is tart, a little sweet, a little spicy, and there for the taking in any amount you deem reasonable. Estimate whatever amount you need, and double it. We suggest you put some on every bite.

A robust smoked half chicken ($10) was superb, with skin so crispy not even a short venture locked inside a plastic container could mess with its texture. The meat underneath was perfectly rich and smoky, and you will eagerly forgo a knife and fork to pull this sucker apart and bite down, judgment be damned.

Cornbread ($3) came a little dry and crumby, but was completely redeemed by a sweetened butter spread. If you don't use up all the butter -- you should! You fool! -- spoon the rest of it out as "dessert." 

Less satisfying was the dirty rice ($6). The batch we had was mushy and a salt bomb, which is too bad, because its beans-and-greens ingredients came in just the right ratio. In hindsight we wish we'd tried the creamed sweet potatoes or the creamy-looking pasta-shells (cheekily named "cheesy nudes"), which also sell for $6. 

The temporary special of apple bacon sausage ($6) was outstanding, but just a tiny bit underwhelming, portion-wise. (Four diagonal slices? Dude, we could've eaten, like, 20.) 

Fortunately, the serving size was better when it came to the best thing we had: A brisket sandwich ($10) that barely fit inside the container it was served in. And thank God for that: It's excellent, with that strange combination of crisp/tender/rough/squishy that will leave your mouth thoroughly confused, and your dumb brain wondering why you didn't order two. 

Now, a confession: Reader, we didn't get the ribs. (What? We're only one person!) They come in at $32 for a full rack, $18 for half, $3 for just one, and if the shop's Instagram page isn't trying to trick us, look gorgeous.

This oversight, of not getting one or more racks of these bad boys and making a mess of our face and hands, will need to be rectified, and soon. 

Minnesota Barbecue next opens for business in roughly 55 hours, and runs on a while-supplies-last basis. We're not saying you and your appetite should be waiting outside at 4:45... but we're not not saying that either.

Minnesota Barbecue Company
816 NE Lowry Ave. Minneapolis