My wife and I are self proclaimed connoisseurs of Memphis style ribs. Memphis has become our Mecca, for a time becoming a yearly pilgrimage of ours to the land where they get ribs right. We’ve come to learn what we like in ribs and what we don’t. For a time it felt like we were at a disadvantage living in Des Moines. “It’s only 12 hours to Central BBQ,” we would joke. In reality, when we used to leave Memphis it was sad, because each mile closer to home was a mile farther from good ribs.
And then something happened: we found two great places for ribs in the Des Moines area. The first one is Woody’s Smoke Shack and the other is Smokey D’s BBQ.
When it comes to BBQ, I’m a pork guy. Pork ribs and pulled pork are my go to choices. I love a good dry rubbed rib, with plenty of meat and with minimal fat. If ribs are done right, the fat should be rendered, helping to add moisture and flavor into the meat. The rub should add a nice “bark” (like a tree) to the rib adding flavor and creating a crunchy texture.
Smokey D’s serves dry rub ribs. They aren’t slathered with BBQ sauce before being served. They leave the slathering to you so you can slather to your taste. I’ve been to Smokey D’s a few times recently and they’ve impressed me with their consistency. The quality of their meat is good. Their ribs are prepared very well. This time however, there was a touch of fat on a few ribs, but I can attest that even the Memphis BBQ joints suffer from this same fate too. Doing ribs perfectly is extremely difficult. There’s just so many variables to get right: the right piece of meat, the right rub and application, the right heat on the grill (not too high, and not too low), allowing for plenty of time, etc, etc, etc. Considering the difficulties of producing a perfect rib, I often times am quite easy on BBQ joints when they slip up. But tonight, I wanted to be a bit more critical.
Personally, I’ve had better ribs, but these were very good, and frankly they’re much closer to home than Central BBQ in Memphis. They were a touch dry, requiring me to pull the meat off the bone versus sliding right off. Also, I personally prefer more “bark”. I like them slightly blackened on the outside with a good amount of crunch. Also, I’m not sure whether they are going for Memphis style ribs, but if they are I didn’t detect an Apple-Vinegar mop in the bark.
In addition to the ribs, I also ordered pulled pork. Now this was done to near perfection. Flavorful, moist, perfectly pulled, and I couldn’t detect any fat. If the ribs are a 7/10 these are at least a 9/10. Next time I think I’ll be getting a pulled pork sandwich.
The garlic bread was also stand up. Cut thick, it had plenty of butter and had a lovely garlic flavor. My only problem is that I had just one slice!
For my sides I ordered the Mac ‘N Cheese and Beans. I really enjoyed the Mac ‘N Cheese — nice big macaroni pieces, swimming in a creamy (and slightly runny) cheese sauce. My youngest loved the Mac ‘N Cheese as well and ate quite a bit of it. The beans were also very good, with chunks of meat and a good helping of BBQ sauce.
My eldest had their corndog bites. She wasn’t too keen on them and I can concur. Think small corn dogs made with Vienna sausages. Not bad, but a little bland. My wife suggested they should use Lit’l Smokies’ instead, and I concur.
One thing that does set Smokey D’s BBQ apart from other BBQ joints is their desserts. My wife and I thought long and hard and couldn’t think of a single BBQ place that really does desserts well. The closet we could think of was Bandanas in Ankeny with their fresh donut holes that are rolled in powered sugar. We chose three desserts at Smokey D’s: a brownie, a sugar cookie, and a scotcheroo.
The brownie was my choice (of course). I thought it was great… nice and moist, chocolately, and coated in chocolate frosting.
My eldest daughter chose the sugar cookie. I usually steer clear of sugar cookies because they’re just sweet with very little flavor. But we all agreed this might have just been the best sugar cookie we’d ever had. The cookie itself was nice and chewy with a hint of vanilla we thought, but it was the frosting that was super moist that we all loved.
Finally, my wife had the scotcheroo. This was mostly because she was running out of choices. Her mom makes the best scotcheroos I’ve ever had, the corn syrup-peanut butter mixture that makes the gooey base, is the best I’ve had. So often scotcheroos have too much rice crispies making them seem dry. You need to have the right ratio. I’m on the fence, but these may just be better than her mom’s scotcheroos. It’s tough to say… I may need to sample them both again before making that call.
In the end, it’s no wonder why Smokey D’s wins so many awards. They’ve got a good product and they’ve mastered the toughest part of BBQ: consistency. I had no problem recommending them, although next time I would probably go for the pulled pork sandwich over the ribs.