Located in a commerce-heavy section of downtown Bath, Beale Street Barbeque has two big plusses right away: tons of free parking in an adjacent lot (but beware, the one across the street is permit only) and the smell of fruitwood and meat from the smoker pulling you in. That smoker isn't the ancient contraption closest to the sidewalk; it's the enclosed Ole Hickory a few feet back. Inside, the dining room is small but inviting, with mustard colored walls, understated Memphis memorabilia and a choice of seating in booths, at tables or at the Elvis-themed bar.
Smoked meats include St Louis cut pork spare ribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork, brisket and sausage. These are available individually, as fixed pairings (e.g., chicken and ribs, chicken and sausage) and as a four meat Barbeque Sampler. The menu goes well beyond barbecue, featuring such appetizers as calamari, Maine crabcakes, Buffalo wings, garlic fried cheese and a few different salads that can be had as is or topped with chicken, crab cake or haddock. Sandwiches include the boneless barbecue meats plus jerk chicken, blackened chicken, grilled chicken, chicken pesto, pan fried or blackened haddock, a burger and a steak and cheese sub. Non-barbecue entrees include jambalaya, shrimp creole, fish and chips, a sweet potato and black bean burro, mac and cheese and penne al pesto.
This was one of those Fridays in December when I just didn't feel like going to work (yeah, I know, it's not only Fridays and not only December). Anyhow, one thing led to another and I found myself driving up the Maine Turnpike for a little solitude and a little barbecue, and Beale Street was the first stop for lunch.
Dining solo, I made this a one-round affair, bypassing appetizers to focus on a four-meat combo that still achieved a good sampling of their 'cue.
Pork ribs: Having ordered the sampler ($25.95) to get as many meats as
possible, I was expecting three ribs at best, but this platter had five.
All were unsauced, individually cut and neatly trimmed St Louis cut
spares with well formed crusts and easy-to-spot smoke rings. The crust
was more from the low and slow cooking process than rub, but there was a
faint rub taste along with the light but noticeably fragrant smoke. Moistness
was decent. Tenderness was perfect, requiring a bite to get them off the
bone but still fully tender without straying anywhere toward mush. Back
to the flavor: despite lowish rub and smoke levels, these ribs were
alright. Not blow-you-away level, but I could see these dazzling a bit
more at night.
Sausage: A single long uncut link of Andouile sausage nearly spanned the length of the plate, bearing a perfectly crusted surface, good moisture (actually, juiciness this time) and pink cross sections. This was the smokiest meat of the day and also the best. The snap of the casing and the soft but unsteamy interior would have made this a winner anyway, but the smoke and strong flavor pushed these into a must-try item and one if the better examples I've had recently.
Pulled pork: The pulled meat on the combo is a choice of beef or pork, served over a thick slice of cornbread (more on that later). I went with the pork and this time it was steamy and mushy and not as fresh as the other meats. It was also the only meat that arrived sauced (I purposely didn't specify no sauce, just to see how they'd do it). On the plus side, the meat did have some bark and appealing pink color. But the meatloafy flavor and texture made this the most skippable meat of the visit.
Chicken: The quarter bird was dark meat: leg and thigh, which I'll take over breast and wing any day. The skins came loose but were stilll crisp. Not much to say here, as all aspects were above average but with nothing to hang your hat on. Light but noticeable smoke. Light but noticeable rub. Decent moisture. Decent tenderness. Decent flavor.
Most of the meats didn't really need sauce, so I didn't get too into it, but an unusual approach here. A golden mustard sauce with the typical tangy/spicy/sweet was included with the plate. On the table was the house sauce, a brick colored number with a more tomatoey approach to tangy/spicy/sweet with some nice chunkiness.
Cole slaw: Perfectly cut into razor thin slices retaining good crunch, this mix of cabbage, creamy condiment and toasted black seeds made for a nice complement to the meats and a flavorful side in its own right.
Beans: Listed on the menu as having not one but two meats included, this disappointed a bit in the meat department but was a pleasant but soggy homestyle rendition of the canned classic. A faint sourness gave these some character.
Jalapeno cornbread: A superb interpretation of the cakey model was thick of slice, firm of crust, tender of interior and fantastic of flavor.This cornbread was a highlight even if buried by the pork. Next time I'll ask for the cornbread on the side, because it's too good to blemish. They sell it to go by the slice and by the loaf.
The Bottom Line
Overall, an unspectacular but solid meal, with just about everything at least good and the sausage and cornbread very good. The lunch visit gave enough promise to imagine Beale Street Barbeque being a little better at night, so I'd consider giving it a dinner visit with my young bride come vacation time.
My 2006 review of Beale Street Barbeque in Portland (now closed)
Yelp reviews of Beale Street Barbeque
Urbanspoon reviews of Beale Street Barbeque