recently heard about a new bbq place in downtown rochester called penny black, so we tried it with some friends last night. it is in the old post office on 4th, just west of main. outside the front door proclaiming "now open" "best bbq" and "open for lunch." the place is a sister restaurant of "the hills" (one at rochestwer and tienken in the papa joes plaza and one at rochester and big beaver - the old ram's horn next to hooters). i have been to the hills on tienken a couple of times and thought it was decent food for a sports bar.
we walked in around 7:00pm and there was a 35 minute wait for tables. the bar area to the left was packed but after a few minutes, we wrangled three seats at the bar, which is really big and sits on a peculiar angle that seemd to take up way too much space in the room. about 10 beers on tap including dragonmeade (eric the red and final absolution), shorts (humma), and michigan brewing (porter) along with a dozen mainstream bottles (three 23 oz micros and a bud light = $24). we were seated after a half hour wait on the other side of the place, squeezed into a booth.
ready sample a lot of different bbq, the initial comment from one of our group after looking over the menu was, "i didn't expect the menu to be so mexican." sure enough, there is a big selection of fajitas, southwest salads, cuban sandwich, tacos, enchiladas, and quesodillas. the web site proclaims, "rochester's bbq hq" but the very bottom of the menu says the place offeres a variety of southwest cusine including texas bbq, tex-mex, and cajun. no a bad thing, but we were expecting all or mostly bbq.
we ordered several things to share and here is the rundown:
smokehouse platter: 1/4 lb each of pulled pork and brisket + a 1/4 rack of ribs. the pork was dry and a bit mealy. the brisket was mositer but not very discernable from the pork. the ribs were the best, but just ok. none of us noticed any smokey flavor or a smoke ring on any of the meat. for that matter, there is no smell of smoke inside or outside of the place. $14.
catfish, blackened or cornmeal dusted: we ordered blackened. two smallish/medium filets with very mild blackening and a creole-esque type sauce over the fish. just ok and they went unfinished. $9.
jambalaya: decent flavor, but more of an etouffe (sauce over dirty rice) than a jambalaya. $10.
sides (2 per entree): some big holes here for a bbq place. no potato salad, greens, green beans, black eye peas, mac-n-cheese. we settled for fries (not crispy enough), sweet potato fries (good), tater tots (!?), baked beans (very dry and pastey), dirty rice (not a lot, not very spicy), and i thought we got slaw but i don't remember seeing it. here are the sides we passed on: corn on the cob, house salad, southwest salad, refried beans, onion rings, baked, mashed.
bbq sauce: carolina (mustard, not vinegar), pit (one comment was that it was like open pit with hot sauce), sweet (plain), hot (little off flavor up front with lingering heat), and hickory (the favorite).
fish taco: offered grilled or fried. ordered two grilled. two small flour tortillas, with a few pieces of grouper with pico and an excellent lime chipotle sauce with slaw and a dollop of sour cream on the side. at $2 a piece, these stole the show.
overall it was just ok. i would not get bbq again but i would go back for more fish tacos and to try some of their other mexican fare.