Location: (Map It) 6175 Emerald Parkway in Dublin, Ohio 43016
The world is divided up into two kinds of people. Those who slobber over ribs, brisket on a bun and pulled pork, and those who are indifferent to the sweet smoke of BBQ.
If you are in the latter category, this article will be about as interesting to you as a review of the Albanian cement industry. If you are the former, you will be on the road to Columbus quicker than I can say “rack of ribs and a side of slaw.”
City Barbeque is to Columbus what dim sum is to Hong Kong. If you miss it, you’ll roam in the Valley of Regrets for the rest of your life.
About two years ago, my husband Paul and I were traveling around Ohio, and someone mentioned to us that Columbus had great ‘cue. We laughed. You go to Texas or Kansas City for BBQ, but Ohio? Paul is travel editor of Fiery Foods and Barbecue Magazine, and he knows BBQ the way other men know sports. Just to be polite, we headed for Columbus for some smoky dining, figuring it would be the butt of some future joke.
Well, the joke was on us. Owner Rick Malir became a BBQ fan in college, went to the country’s best smokeries, attended the national cook-offs, ate his body weight in ribs and pulled pork every few months, and hired the best Pit Masters he could find. He set some paper towels on the table for wiping up the slobber, performed the proper alchemy to create great sauces, added killer Mac and Cheese to the menu, and opened the doors of his joint.
We must have spent two hours at City Barbeque, and we weren’t reading Joyce’s Ulysses. We were pigging out, and slogged to the trough for seconds and thirds. Then, depression set in. We returned home to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and we kept dreaming about those ribs, corn pudding, greens with pork, baked beans, Texas smoked sausage, hickory-flavored brisket, turkey breast and pig.
One day, we decided to call City Barbeque and ask if they could send us a care package. To our surprise, they said they shipped ‘cue all the time, all over the country. You order whatever you want, and two days later it lands on your doorstep, in a big box, frozen like Otzi the Iceman. All you have to do is defrost, heat and serve.
We ordered enough for a battalion of BBQ nuts, and invited 23 of our foodie friends. Some are famous, some are anonymous, and they all share a craving for great comestibles. They were incredulous: BBQ in a box from OHIO???! We staked our culinary reputation on it.
Our kitchen counters looked like a wedding reception–platter after platter piled high with pig and associates. Our amigos loaded up their paper plates, slathered the whole thing in City Barbeque original and spicy sauces, and sat down to eat.
An hour later, there was one toothpick-sized sliver of pulled pork left. And here are the unexpurgated comments of our friends:
Michael and Margie O’Reilly , owners of Pranzo and the O’Keeffe Café, two of the best and most beloved restaurants in Santa Fe:
“The sausage was smoky and the hot sauce–WOW.” (Michael) I thought it was just fabulous.” (Margie)
Wes Studi, famed Native American actor and musician, and his wife Maura, an actress and jazz singer: “The sauce is breathtakingly pungent and the meat falls off the bone” (Wes). “”The brisket was a surprise because it was tender, not chewy, and the greens were very good. The regular sauce was very good too.” (Maura)
Danny and Louise Rubin. He wrote the movie “Ground Hog Day” and she is a web designer and architect. “I was so enjoying the company during the meal that I just noticed all the food disappeared from my plate.” (Danny) “You should have ordered three times as much.” (Louise)
Diego Mulligan, radio talk-show host, and Jennifer Hanan, who places guests on talk shows all over the country. “The Prairie Fire sauce is the kind of decadence Middle America has needed for so long. This is a religious experience. I am sure there is some rabbi who will bless this.” (Diego) “Even this vegetarian liked it. I ate more meat tonight than I have eaten in 20 years. It was so good that it makes me think twice about not eating meat.” (Jennifer)
Kitt Miller, artist, cook and day trader and Greg Hoel, artist: “I just can’t believe that it came in a bag….like Stoeffer’s. And when it came out, it tasted like it was just cooked in the oven. It makes me wanna sing Swannee. (Kitt) “Oh…the sauce. And Oh…the brisket.” (Greg)
David Wolf, owner of Wolf’s Bagels, composer, and Phyllis Wolf, program director for the Jewish Community Center in Albuquerque: “Well, the corn pudding was wonderfully moist and I’m still ‘pungenting’ the aftermath of the sauce. Together, they are dancing in my mouth.” (David) “After you told us to try a rib, I went to the kitchen to find one chewed-up and discarded rib on the serving platter. I guess that speaks to whether or not people liked them!” (Phyllis)
Gary (lawyer and musician) and Linda Storm (artist and teacher):
“I would say the meal was salubrious.” (Gary) “A total surprise for me was that the Mac and Cheese was the best I ever had.” (Linda)
Erika Eckerstrand (Swedish potter and beader): “This was my first American BBQ. I love it!”
Tone Forrest (stage and film actor and bass player), and Judith Bever (artist):”Best collard greens I’ve had since I came to New Mexico and I loved the corn pudding.” (Tone) “I second what was said about the Mac and Cheese and the hot sauce was tangy, saucy, and had heat.” (Judy)
John Rochester (investment broker and actor) and Larry Fodor (artist): “The only thing missing for me was those big, fat, gluey slices of white bread.” (John) “The food is as colorful as the folk art on your walls.” (Larry)
Brett Goldberg (owner of Computer Medics) and Deborah Finklestein (writer and teacher): “The first serving was as good as the sixth.” (Brett) “I think too often a spicy sauce has no flavor. I was very pleased. Also, often a meal focuses on the main dish. They focus on the whole experience. It was amazing.” (Deborah)
My husband Paul stood up and gave the guests an after-dinner blessing: “Be full, “he intoned. “Be very full.”
We’re not the only ones who slobber over City Barbeque. They now have eleven restaurants in Ohio, five in Columbus, two in Dayton, two in Cincinnati, one in Toledo and one in Findlay. But wherever you are, you can take advantage of Barbecue by Mail. website: citybbq.com.