Saturday, April 21, 2012

Great People, Not So Great Food - Barb-A-Rosa's

[NOTE: This restaurant is now closed.]

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.

Barb a Rosa's Real Pit Bar Bq on Urbanspoon


  1. Barb-A-Rosa's B-B-Q is the best in Millington, in my opinion. Compared to places like the Pig n' Whistle, Tops and the defunct Millington Pig (owned by the same people who own Pig on Beale), Barb-A-Rosa is clearly better, mostly for the reason that you cited in not liking Barb-A-Rosa (dry meat). I'm not sure how well it would do in Memphis, but by Millington standards, Barb-A-Rosa is good enough.

    1. The meat wasn't too bad this time around, other than the fact that it was served cold. It was a lot better than the ribs I had there. Those had big chunks of cold, unrendered fat on them. The sides were also very unimpressive to me, although you can start fights in the south with conversations about the "right" and "Wrong" way to make cole slaw and potato salad so that is obviously a matter of opinion. I personally don't like the taste of either to dominated by mayo.

      That said, it is certainly "good enough," for a quick lunch around the $5 price point. I think a meal at Pig-N-Whistle would be better tasting, but it would also cost about twice as much and probably be a longer drive for most people.