Linebackers who serve Baby Backs
When my wife goes out of town, I like to take my young son out for dinner. Its a bonding ritual and allows me to seek out restaurant fare my wife dislikes. BBQ rates very low on her scale but very high on mine. In the 8 years Ive lived in Baltimore, I have yet to find a decent BBQ restaurant that gets all the elements right. To me, the elements are:
A dining room that is something more than a roadside shack with picnic tables. This may sound counter to the quintessential BBQ experience, but I dont care. I want a comfortable setting with a waitress, chairs with backs, a table cloth that isnt made from petroleum products, and place settings that could actually be washed and reused. Ill slum it for lunch, but I want some creature comforts at dinner and dont understand why BBQ must be eaten in a hovel.
Oh yes, and then theres the food. BBQ comes in many disguises and I am willing to meat it on its own terms as long as its moist, tender and flavorful. As for the sides: fries should not swim in grease; the plate should be dolloped with free coleslaw as a garnish; and the baked beans should not wander too far from their classic ketchup and brown sugar roots. Rarely do all these elements come together in one restaurant.
The Full Moon is in the Can Company complex (be prepared to valet) and looks right at home with all the other franchised, corporate restaurants there. I usually avoid these kinds of places, but BBQ is limited in Baltimore and so, despite my trepidation, I ventured inside.
The restaurant is a typical sports bar: two giant screens above the bar and a bevy of beautiful waitresses with winning smiles. We sat in the downstairs section in a very comfortable booth that rings the outer edge of the bar area. Ray Lewis towers from above in a series of life size photos of him twisting and frugging in his unique and inimitable pre-game style. (I was struck by how inspiring it seems on Sundays but how silly it looks out of context.) The rest of the décor is post modern warehouse with metal, wood, and exposed HVAC painted black.
The service was just okaythey were clearly still getting their footing. I ordered the pulled pork platter with beans and fries. Slaw counts as a side on their menu: Argh! Come on people, coleslaw is cabbage and in my estimation its not worth paying for as a side. Cant restaurants provide a bit of cabbage free to their patrons? My 3.5 year old got burger and fries off the kids menu. I was grateful they had a kids menu, otherwise you pay full price for them to pick at their food.
The pulled pork was minced to a fine grind. It took me a while to adjust to the consistency. The pork was moist but without the real smoky flavor. I read somewhere that they use open flame and hickory chips rather than smokers to cook their ribs. If they do the same with the pork, it may explain the lack of smoked flavor.
The pulled pork platter came with a small, buttered (oleo?), toasted bun--not my thang. The BBQ sauce was already drizzled on the meat and so I guess theres just one sauceit was middle of the road slightly sweet, slightly smoky. All in all the pork was just okay but not awesome.
The good news food wise was that their sides were very well done. It was apparent that they take some care and dont just slap dash the stuff. The fries were done to perfection; golden brown, somewhat crispy outsides, and perfectly done insides. The fries were about a 1/3 of an inch thick and all very long as though theyd caste aside the smaller potatoes. The beans were also very well done with bits of beef crumbled in the mix.
The manager came by to ask about our experience and I took the opportunity to campaign for my free dollop of coleslaw legislation. To his credit, he offered to bring me a sample. It was a vinegar based affair and very tasty.
My platter was $14.95very reasonable. If memory serves, baby back ribs were $20.00 for a full rack w/o sides and the half rib platter w/sides was $19. The combo plates were also close to $20.
All in all, it was better than I expected but not sublime. I would go back but only after resurveying the BBQ restaurant landscape and deciding whether Im willing to rough it a bit.