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Restaurants & Bars

Hello Road House, Farewell American Grill (OLY)

Peter | Apr 11, 200510:07 PM     3

I finally made it to the Road House last weekend. This is a relatively new barbeque joint run by a couple of women who have won lots of awards for their smokecraft. I guess it’s been open for several months, but they don’t advertise, and word of mouth didn’t make its way to the mouths of people I know, so I didn’t find out until now. They’re located a few miles out of town, off Route 8 toward Aberdeen. (You can’t miss it: there’s a helpful sign that looks like it was put up by the state, saying BBQ and pointing to the turnoff.)

The location itself has some good things going for it. It’s out in the country, so they can smoke up the vicinity without fear of irritating the neighbors. It sits adjacent to Kennedy Creek (upstream from the salmon spawning reach), and outdoor seating will be pleasant in the summer, although traffic is pretty noisy. And it looks like a barbecue joint ought to look, somewhat shack-like. When we got there it was packed, and we had to wait an hour to be seated. So we drank a little, stared at all their awards hanging on the wall and wandered around the grounds.

First take: the beverage selection is not very wide. There are no beers on draft, which doesn’t make sense given the fare. The bottle selection is adequate, however, with a smattering of locals (including two Fish Tail numbers). Wine by the glass is Berringer: nuff said.

Second take: the barbecue itself is excellent. It justifies all those banners and trophies. Very smoky yet moist and tender pulled pork and brisket, meaty, flavorful ribs, good (but not stellar) smoked chicken. This is impressive work; I rarely see the basic barbecue skills deployed so well.

Third take: the rest of the menu is a notch or two (or three) below. The sauce is served separately, in a bottle sitting on the table when you sit down. This is just as well because it is mediocre, bland and too sweet. It’s a good thing the meat has so much flavor on its own. The sides are fair to middlin’. The cornbread and biscuit were both OK but not very interesting; the cole slaw was saddled with an overly sweet vinaigrette; and the potato salad was just dull. Go straight for the protein, I say. Desert was a bourbon pecan pie and strawberry shortcake; both were acceptable but not worth saving an appetite for.

Bottom line: this is a one-note symphony at present. That’s more music than you can find at most Olympia eateries, so it’s a welcome addition. If they can give as much attention to the peripherals (and the sauce, which is not peripheral at all), this will even be a destination for non-Oly hounds.

On another topic: American Grill announced it is closing. This was probably the most reliable breakfast spot in Olympia, and certainly the best for having a leisurely conversation in the process. Farewell....

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