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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mississippi BBQ Critic Has Hissy Over Montgomery Inn Ribs: 'There Were Simply No Redeeming Qualities'

Cheap Shot From Mississippi
CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Cynical Cook -- who seems to be a barbecue snob from a state where some people consider grits a delicacy and wrestling real -- passed through Cincinnati earlier this month.  In the wake of that brief visit, there are unkind words appearing about the way the Montgomery Inn prepares its pork ribs; the beloved local institution is described as serving really awful food.  According to the Cynical Cook: "These ribs weren't just different, they were bad . . . there were simply no redeeming qualities."  This is a cheap shot.   The ribs at the Montgomery Inn aren't supposed to be smokehouse-style prepped in a cinderblock shack on the edge of a backwoods cypress swamp.  They are big city.  They are supposed to fall off the bones and be gobbled up by folks who have a good time in a clean, friendly atmosphere where you eat with pals, family members, business associates.  The service is excellent and the hosts -- the Gregory family -- are public minded citizens.  And yes, even those from the South can fall in love with the place. 

Here's the deal about BBQ snobs (and The Daily Bellwether has entered several Kansas City Barbecue Society smoked meat contests and done reasonably well), they think all ribs should be slowly smoked for hours over a hardwood fire.  They just can't get it through their skulls that many people enjoy ribs period.  They like pulling a bone from a slab.  They like chomping down on the meat.  You don't have to wear a suit and silk underwear for a fine dining experience.  Ribs are about chewing, greasy lips, putting aside the silverware.  The Montgomery Inn is great because the ribs let people put aside the silverware.  They come in droves, and have for a couple generations.  They come for dates, anniversaries, First Communions, retirement parties, birthdays, all sorts of celebrations.  When one of my sons took the oath of office to become an Air Force officer, we headed off to the Montgomery Inn to celebrate his decision to serve the nation.  It's that kind of place.  I don't think an out-of-town food critic -- and I certainly think the Cynical Cook certainly is talented -- can grasp the Montgomery Inn's place in this town's psyche.

Now, one of the best BBQ restaurants in the world -- in The Daily Bellwether's opinion -- is on U.S. 45 near Columbus, Miss.  It is called Hank's, and it is absolutely unpretentious.  The food comes on paper plates.  Beans, coleslaw and potato salad are the side orders.  There is no alcohol available.  The parking lot is unpaved.  The inside is simple -- Elvis kitsch and etc.  There is a smoker out back and the meats that come out of it are to die for.  All that said, Hank's just ain't the Montgomery Inn.  It is a cinder block hole in the wall in a small town.  Great food, but you wouldn't head there to celebrate grandma's 90th or cousin Nelda getting a PhD.  Here's some of what the Cynical Cook had to say about the Montgomery Inn:

"I know that some people say that the Montgomery Inn never claimed their ribs are barbecued, but that’s how they are labeled on the menu. I had tried to go in with an open mind. I tried to tell myself that these ribs would be different. These ribs weren’t just different, they were bad. I barely ate a third of the rack, there were simply no redeeming qualities.

"Famous for their ribs, Montgomery Inn is a Cincinnati institution, but I have no idea why. Scrolling through chowhound, urban spoon, practically every food site, I kept seeing comments about ribs boiled to oblivion. I have no problem with ribs that are not cooked in a smoker, but there’s just something evil about boiling ribs."


  1. Since you are a BBQ expert, and you have attended the Royal in KC and most likely Memphis in May with a bunch of beer drinking Irishmen, have you ever seen a cook slather yellow mustard all his ribs before smoking them? BTW, Montgomery Inn nice place to visit, terrible place to eat. Take the worst cooked rib at any BBQ contest, and it is better than those ribs Montgomery Inn tries to teach to swim in hot water.

  2. Montgomery Inn is awesome. Yes, I have been to barbecues with beer drinking Irishmen. I have been to them with beer drinking Scots and Germans, too. But I have to say that I have been to the Montgomery Inn with many of those guys as well, and we have had great times and some great meals together. Are you saying that all Montgomery Inn food is terrible? Or just the ribs?

    To answer your question: Nope, never tried a mustard slather, not that I can remember. Have tried Alabama White Barbecue Sauce, which I learned about from Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ. He told me the sauce came from Big Bob Gibson's BBQ in Decatur, Ala. Ray is from Chicago and we were having an Old Style beer at a KCBS contest -- don't know if he's Irish. Do know Ray is a great cook. He's got some cookbooks out. You can probably find them online. If you like real barbecue, check them out, or order one.

  3. I bet if you ask a real close friend he might admit to at one time slathering his ribs with yellow mustard before smoking them. I saw him do it and another witness was a guy dressed like Elvis at some activity in Blue Ash.
    Were you with Ray before the weight loss or after. He is now a skinny television star, you can sometimes catch him on the food network. I spent some time with him in his fancy kitchen on wheels. He made Key Lime pie spiked with tequila. One of the Irish clan but a beating on him that day. I always thought you were part of the Irish clan who BBQ.

    I have had a decent meal at the Inn, but nothing to write home about. I do like the ambiance.