The Dish: A Half-Slab of Ribs at Smokin' Al's BBQ

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The Location: Smokin' Al's BBQ (1216 Hampton Avenue)

The Dish: A half-slab of ribs

The Cost: $9.95 (includes two sides)

The verdict after the jump...

The Verdict: Smokin' Al's seems to inspire strong opinions, both pro and con. You can put me down in the pro column, though fairly close to the middle of the opinion spectrum. I certainly wouldn't rate it with my favorite barbecue joints in the area. (Pappy's Smokehouse and 17th Street Bar & Grill, if you're wondering.)

The ribs came basted in the spicy Wolf Sauce. (You can choose the milder Pup Sauce.) The sauce has a stronger vinegar tang than most, and the heat, though definite, is relatively gentle. I prefer my sauce on the side, even when it's a sauce I love or, in the case of the Wolf Sauce, merely enjoy.

These ribs were a perfect example why. I couldn't really tell whether the meat -- smoked over cherry wood and charcoal, according to the restaurant's Web site -- had a strong individual flavor. There was a generic, porky sweetness, but it was quickly subsumed by the sauce. The meat was tender, though it came off the bone too easily, almost as if the kitchen had pre-separated the meat from the bone.

Would I order this again? Probably, though I might order different sides. The French fries were overcooked, and the beans were more like a fatty, vaguely bacony soup. And while I'm inclined to like anything described as both fatty and bacony, in this case I'll take a pass.

- Ian Froeb

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