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John Hardy's in Rochester, MN

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John Hardy's in Rochester, MN

Jim Grinsfelder | Jul 24, 2003 12:03 PM

I ate there for lunch yesterday. According to the back of their menu, John Hardy was a real person, he grew up in Birmingham Alabama and somehow wound up opening a BBQ restaurant in Rochester MN in the early 1970's. He died in 1986. Somewhere along the way, they moved from a downtown location to a freestanding place on the industrial north-side of Rochester. They're right next to a tank farm (I dream that the tanks are filled with BBQ sauce, but it's probably some kind of petro chemical).

The whole establisment is "smoke-free" which is slightly funny when you think BBQ. There are booths and tables with red-check plastic table cloths. The waitress was friendly.

The chow was mixed. I really liked the pork spare ribs. They were smoky and chewy and bit on the dry side. I ordered them bare to add sauce at the table. The sauce is not promising when tasted alone prior to the meal, but when it is slathered on the ribs, one of those "whole is greater than the sum of the parts" things happens. Ribs & sauce is good, but not worth a special trip to Rochester.

I also tasted the pulled pork. It was bad. Had a bad smell and texture was mushy and it just wasn't any good. This was pretty much during the middle of the lunch rush, so things should have been good. I won't order the pulled pork again. And the BBQ beef was disappointing too. Didn't try the Ham, Turkey or Chicken. So much 'Que, so little stomache.

The black-eyed peas were decent. The french fries nothing special, not bad. They serve baskets of thick-sliced white-bread that's been slathered on one side with melted butter. I liked this, but I'd rather save my caloric/fat intake for the ribs.

P.S. Mpls Rib-fest is this coming up this weekend. It's a very expensive way to taste ribs from a 5-10 producers in one afternoon while listening to bad live rock music. It's on Nicollet Avenue, near the old central library, I believe.

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