The Theodore's saxophone neon sign and "Booze, Blues & BBQ" sign tell you all you need to know about this downtown Springfield hangout. As soon as you enter, you get the feeling of familiarity, of being in a place that's been around for years (a little over 22). There are old brick walls with lots of vintage cigar and soft drink signs. The ceilings are high and the wooden floors are well worn. An assortment of booths, tables and stools provides comfortable seating. There's a huge bar area with more stools. TVs are scattered throughout the place. Theodore's has a stage for nighttime entertainment and an entrance to a separate billiards area. You get a bowl of popcorn as soon as you're seated. The beer is ice cold.
The menu lists a few of the typical barbecue staples such as babyback ribs (no St Louis or spares), pulled pork and brisket, and a lot of different sauces. But despite that and the name of the place, Theodore's seems to be more of a pub food kind of place. They have sandwiches, burgers, salads and a long list of appetizers (including ribs). Considering this on my weekday lunch visit, I started with the fried pickles. They were hot, tasty spears with a crunchy batter and a creamy, slightly spicy dipping sauce. I had a hard time not eating all of them.
For my entree I got a ribs and pulled pork combo. The pork automatically comes with their Bourbon BBQ sauce, which is fairly sweet. It was a humongous mound of strings that I would have expected on a plate of just pork and no ribs. The flavor of the pork seemed pretty good, but there wasn't much bark and there was too much sauce. I didn't get much smoke in either the pork or the ribs. For the ribs, I opted for the Cajun sauce on the side. It was a good blend of sweet, tangy and spicy, though not Cajun spicy. In retrospect, ordering the sauce on the side was a mistake, as the ribs were pretty pale, without any of the natural crust that comes from slow smoking. The meat was moist, but pale inside too, probably not cooked in a smoker. The sauce was good enough to make the ribs an enjoyable lunch if not enjoyable barbecue. The plate came with waffle fries, which weren't bad but nothing special.
The bottom line: It's not authentic barbecue, but Theodore's is a fun place to enjoy a drink or two, some appetizers (or two), and even a few ribs. The portions are good, the service is friendly, and the beer is ice cold. If you're in Springfield, it's easy to get to, right off Main Street, with a huge parking lot and a park nearby. Like I said, it's not authentic barbecue, but for pub food and atmosphere with a barbecue slant, I'll take this place over any chain.