Nancy’s Bar-B-Q, Sarasota, FL
301 S. Pineapple Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236, (941) 366-2271
Cuisine: Barbecue, Southern, Soulfood
Price Rating: $10-$15 per entree
Review Date: June 7, 2012 and June 14, 2012
This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s new restaurant review guidelines.
Background Info on the Review
Nancy’s Bar-B-Q is a great little lunch and dinner place that serves traditional barbecue, located at the new roundabout at Pineapple and Cross near the Burns Court district of Sarasota. This place is more like cafeteria-style, where you go and order at the counter, choose your sides, grab a drink and pay, and then go choose a seat at one of the picnic tables either inside or out on the screened-in patio. Really informal, as a barbecue place should be. And Nancy is the type of hands-on owner that you just love — while we were there, we noticed that she really spends time greeting the customers and helping wherever she is needed. Her staff that is behind the counter is, for the most part, pretty young and I think they could have used a bit more pep/enthusiasm/friendliness, but other than that, this placed has a great ambiance. I think the decor of this place is absolutely flawless and there is a lot of attention to detail — especially with the landscaping outside.
Cheri’s Food Review
Tamas and I ordered a couple of the Combo Trays so that we could get a taste of 5 of the menu items at once. These each came with 2 sides and we got dessert as well, so we ended up with a pretty good spread. The entrees we ordered were the “Nudnik” and the Texas Holy Trinity.
The “Nudnik”, which is a Yiddish word for an annoying person, I assume gets its name for the person who can’t make up their mind, because you get several different options with this one. Why Yiddish? Because Nancy, the owner, is Jewish! A white Jewish woman making pork barbecue — I love it!
Anyhow, altogether we ended up ordering some pulled pork, chicken, ribs, brisket, a Texas Hot Link and a Kielbasa Mild Link.
Whatever it is that you order, it all comes piled high on a metal tray covered with wax paper — real cafeteria like with no pretention!
So I just want to talk for a second about real, traditional barbecued ribs. The experts that I know say (Nancy herself of course, and the Doctor of Barbecue, who I met recently at a food blogger conference in Tampa, Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ) that barbecue ribs are not meant to fall off the bone. Is this news to you? Well, it may be if you (like me) were raised on the typical American chain restaurant version of ribs — which I will admit, I think they’re great, but I can see why there is a disconnect between the two. The best explanation I’ve seen is from Meathead on a website called Amazing Ribs. He eloquently writes:
Properly cooked ribs will not, not, not fall off the bone! The only ribs that fall off the bone are ribs that have been boiled and steamed and that process usually robs them of flavor because water is a solvent. Steamed and boiled ribs usually have a mushy texture. Properly cooked ribs will pull cleanly off the bone with your teeth, but they will still have some resilience and chew, like a properly cooked steak, but not be tough. Remember, boiling meat is the way to make flavorful soup, not flavorful meat.
Before I went in, I tweeted Dr. BBQ to ask him to weigh in on the 3 things to look for in a good barbecue place and his expert response was this:
@thewatermouth Tender and juicy, sauce on the side, piled high!
— Ray Lampe (@DrBBQ) June 7, 2012
So naturally, him being the Good Doctor and all, I made sure to keep this in mind when we went in.
Like bread at any restaurant, at Nancy’s you can get some cheese straws, if there’s a wait, I think. These were as good as any cheese straws but they had a real kick to them, so have a drink in hand while eating them! They even looked so pretty on the plate with their own garnish of fresh rosemary!
Maybe I oughtta leave the best for last but I just gotta say, the pulled pork is ridiculously good. It’s juicy, tender, pulls apart easily with your fork, the sauce is left on the side so you can slather that baby however you want — the way traditional barbecue should be served, I’m told. It just melts in your mouth with that dense-ness that you can feel with your teeth — you know? Grab a big forkful and slide it through the sauce of your choice. At Nancy’s you get three different homemade sauce choices on the table – one sweet, one spicy and a vinegar based “finishing” sauce that is typically used in eastern North Carolina barbecue places. Tamas and I switched between the sweet and spicy with everything and there was not a complaint to be had!
I assume they mean bone-in when barbecuing, to retain flavor and juiciness and then since it pretty much falls apart on the plate, there are no bones when it’s served to you. I loved the flavor here; the bit of rub they use is just right. I’d say this was the driest of the meats we had. I’d have preferred it to be juicier, so use sauce with it if you order that when you go. I should have tried the finishing sauce with this one, I think it would have been great and would have added the right level of moisture.
The brisket and the pulled pork were in a close competition for first place in my eyes. I still couldn’t decide between the two, so please don’t make me choose. The brisket was super flavorful and tender, not to mention juicy. The rub used was a great complement. None of the rubs are overpowering — they lend just enough flavor while not overpowering the great taste of the meat. The brisket pulls apart with no effort and all but melts in your mouth like the pulled pork does. A great choice.
We got 6 ribs with our combo tray and they were piled on top of each other like some kind of pork work of art. From the picture, you can see the juiciness there – when you bite into the meat, it takes but a split-second for the flesh to peel from the bone, requiring no effort at all. The way barbecue should be. And I have to say, they were super flavorful compared with other ribs I’ve had in the past. Like meaty-flavorful – not barbecue sauce flavorful. I love barbecue sauce, but I have to say that the flavor of these ribs came through so much better than things I’ve had in the past. They were awesome even without sauce. And boy are these messy on your hands; just how they’re supposed to be!!
Texas Hot and Kielbasa Mild Links
These all-pork links are made locally and while I thought they were okay, I would order other offerings before these. Tamas and I both liked the Texas Hot the best, while he thought the Mild ones had a strange flavor. I liked them both, but would definitely have to put preference on the Texas Hot as well for flavor. It is pretty spicy though, so be careful. But, to be honest, I would MUCH rather have all ribs or brisket or pulled pork instead of the links. But if you’re a sausage lover, give these a try. They serve them with whole-grain mustard and bread, which, as any sausage lover knows, is the perfect accompaniment.
At the end of the meal, Nancy came over to check on us and I asked her, having read on the menu, what the “burnt ends” were. She explained to me that that’s name for the section of the brisket called the “deckle”, which is basically twice-smoked, as opposed to the rest of the brisket which is only smoked once. It is like the “delicacy” of the place, and is only available until it runs out. Some folks like it so much that they order just that plain or on a sandwich. So I had to give it a go, of course, as did Tamas.
It’s definitely a bit different but in a really, really great-tasting way. I’m not sure if she uses the same rub/sauce on these, but boy are they delicious. The texture is a bit more dense and slightly more chewy, and it’s really a treat. They are sweeter, owing to the sauce, I think, and a bit firmer than the other cuts of meat. Definitely worth trying if they’re around — they just might become your new favorite!
I’ve never had this before so I didn’t know what it was. Nancy said that it was typical Southern meat stew which can be made with different vegetables or meats and that in hers, she puts in some different beans, corn and edamame, and a bunch of the different types of meats. I actually really liked this stew; it was sweet and was a nice change from regular baked beans.
Cool Cucumber Salad
Tamas and I are used to having a cucumber salad that we always eat in Hungary or with Hungarian meals that we make here. So I think we both wanted to try Nancy’s take on a cucumber salad. Hers has thinly sliced cucumber and dill, and a thin sauce probably made with vinegar and sugar – it was sweet and pleasant and actually made for a great refreshing break between the spicy, heavier foods we were eating.
Baked Macaroni & Cheese
The only thing I can say about this baked macaroni & cheese is holy wow this was great. Warm and soft and ooey gooey — it is obviously made with real cheese. This isn’t the boxed kind, it’s the real deal. If this side is one of your favorites, you’ll be happy you ordered Nancy’s.
Local Collard Greens w/ bacon
I have to admit up front that I have never had collard greens before (Hey, I’m from Michigan – sue me) so I thought I’d give them a try here. Having no basis for comparison, I was still quite pleased with them. I thought from what I know about the cooking process, that these would be super mushy like plain wilted spinach or something, but actually, these still had a great deal of texture and were quite pleasant to eat. The bacon gave them some great flavor.
I’ve never had the pleasure of having Derby Pie before and that makes me sad. Because it’s a Southern thing that’s typically Pecan Pie with chocolate chips in it. I mean, how can you go wrong with that?? But let me just say something about the crust – it’s to die for. Buttery, flaky, just how pie crust should be. And with a filling like that, it’s a must-try pie.
Red Velvet Cake
This cake was delicious. The cake was super moist and fluffy, and the frosting was super sweet and sticky, really ooey-gooey. Actually, a tiny bit too sweet for my tastes, if that is possible, but somehow I managed to eat the whole slice. If you’re not a fan of super, super sweet frosting, maybe this wouldn’t be the dessert for you.
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire process in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps me honest!! Here’s what they said:
Coming across the exterior of Nancy’s, rustic and red in the middle of downtown, is like stumbling onto a BBQ oasis in the midst of a city littered with blase decor. It’s sharp without being trendy or pandering, and shouts Dixie-land without waving flags. Like everywhere in downtown SRQ, parking can be a challenge if they’re busy, but smelling the BBQ while circling the building whispers that the visit is going to be worth the wait. The inside of Nancy’s lives up to the outside. Long country-style heavy wood tables and a screened patio give an atmosphere of a family picnic more than a simple cafeteria. It’s a little warm on the inside (or at least, it was while we were there), but that only heightens the illusion that you’re outdoors waiting for a dinner fresh from the smoker.
The Texas Holy Trinity – an excellent choice for those who want BBQ meat, variety, and plenty of it. The ribs were great – tender without being fatty – but the pulled brisket was where the flavor started to stand out. Adding traditional sweet and spicy BBQ sauces to both items made it all come together, letting you know that these are the items you search BBQ restaurants for. The sausage link is not for everyone – if you’re looking for a traditional Italian or brat link, this isn’t it. It’s made special for Nancy’s, and it has a non-traditional red-pepper flavor and soft texture that most people won’t expect the first time around. The pulled chicken was a tad dry, but that didn’t stop it from having an enjoyably rich, smoky flavor that was also immediately complimented by the BBQ sauces made available. All of the available sides rounded out the experience, from the grilled veggies that made you like brussel sprouts for the first time to the baked mac and cheese that was thick and creamy without being wet or soggy. The au gratin potatoes were a nice touch that served as a welcome departure from run-of-the-mill mashed. While I thought the cornbread was a little dry for my taste, my partner added a pat of butter to hers and couldn’t get enough. The choices of drinks Nancy’s offered showed that someone had done homework – there were specialty root beers and cream sodas that fit right in with their motif alongside Pabst Blue Ribbon and other down-home standards. The desserts were very straight-forward, with tasty chocolate chip cookies, devil’s food cupcakes and red velvet cake being among the better choices. Nancy’s is really about the meat, though, and I would love to come back for a lunch and try their sandwiches the next time around.
Nancy’s delivers on a promise of solid, tasty BBQ that is much more authentic than the chains around town. The fact that it does so with an interesting decor and atmosphere lets it stand out that much more. Ditch your plans to head to Sonny’s. Nancy’s is far superior and still takes it a little easy on the wallet.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu||3.5|
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Nancy’s Bar-B-Q Restaurant Review images set to see the full set of pics.
Nancy’s has good, traditional barbecue. The setting, ambiance and the attention to detail along with Nancy’s involvement and let’s face it – the food – everything works here and I was quite pleased.
QUESTION: What would you order at Nancy’s if you were going there tonight?