Barb-A-Rosa's B-B-Q on U.S. Highway 51 in Millington was a major disappointment the first time I visited. Since it was just my second stop on my current barbecue quest, and they had a big "under new management" sign hanging in the store on that visit I decided it was time to stop by again and see it things had improved. The place always has plenty of cars in the parking lot, so it seemed like they had to be doing something right.
The restaurant was full of customers when I dropped in on Thursday. A few of them were people I recognized from my job and I even had one of my customers invite me over to his table. I had to give him a little background on my barbecue sampling obsession when my plate came out and I started taking pictures of it.
Since I had a bad experience with the ribs on my first visit I went with pulled pork this time, since it tends to be more forgiving. The prices at Barb-A-Rosa's are super cheap. My plate was only $5.45 after tax and was supposed to include three sides. I wasn't a fan of the mayo-heavy potato salad on my previous visit so this time I asked for beans, slaw and onion rings. They ended up giving me the standard beans, slaw and fries with an extra order of onion rings at no extra charge.
Earlier this week I compared Old Style Bar-B-Q in Olive Branch to Moma's Pit B-B-Q in Bartlett. Barb-A-Rosa's seemed even more similar. The staff was truly infectiously friendly. I didn't know them but was laughing and joking with them by the end of my meal. The food wasn't a big step up from what I'd had on my first visit. The pulled pork was better than the ribs I'd tried, but was still relatively dry and flavorless despite being covered in sauce. It was also served room temperature, just like the ribs had been. I know that they were dealing with a large crowd on this trip, but cold 'que on two separate visits is hard to overlook.
The beans were canned beans with a little pork added in and the bland, creamy, finely chopped slaw wasn't any more impressive on this trip either. I didn't eat any of the fries, but they looked like standard crinkle-cut fries from a frozen bag. The onion rings were the best part of the meal. They had a batter similar to what you get on the fish at a fast food place like Captain D's or Long John Silver's.
The low prices and friendly service seem to keep plenty of repeat customers coming back for lunch every day. There seems to be a specific niche in the local barbecue market for independently-owned joints serving up low-cost, underwhelming food to a familiar cast of regulars. One thing that works in Barb-A-Rosa's favor is that it is located near a lot of fast food places. For the five dollars and change I spent on my meal, I couldn't have eaten any better at the nearby Krystal's, McDonald's, Taco Bell, etc. And the service definitely wouldn't have been as nice. Like Moma's in Bartlett, the staff at Barb-A-Rosa's was friendly enough to make me feel bad about having to write so dismissively about the food.