I have traveled throughout Maine in search of true Southern BBQ. A nearly impossible task I thought, until I had dinner at Riverfront Barbecue and Grille in Augusta.
As I approached the door I was greeted with the sweet smell of hickory smoke. REAL hickory wood, not hickory in a bottle known as "liquid smoke."
The dining area was spacious with cozy booths scattered around the perimeter of the restaurant. The lighting was subdued, dare I say romantic. Is that possible in a BBQ joint? The unassuming bar was well stocked. The draught selections were a mix of local and national brands with the emphasis on local. I like that.
I gleaned the menu and found all the usual suspects with one exception: Memphis-style ribs. If you are not familiar with Memphis-style ribs it involves simply a dry rub on (usually) a spare rib cut, but you can get the much leaner baby back ribs as well.
Since this was my first time I wanted a little bit of everything, so I proudly ordered the Barbecue Sampler which you can configure to your liking. I built mine with pulled pork, 1/4 chicken, shredded beef brisket, 1/2 slab of ribs, smoked sausage, BBQ beans, coleslaw and cornbread. I was in BBQ nirvana.
I immediately went for the ribs. From the first bite I knew this was the real deal. The ribs were tender, but not falling apart. The rub had a peppery sweetness that complemented the meaty ribs. This chef has an attention to detail. A pet peeve of mine is some BBQ restaurants don't remove the clear membrane from the back of the ribs. No membrane here to interfere with the tenderness and taste of these ribs.
After devouring the ribs I moved to the pulled pork. Another tasty treat that might have been as good as the ribs. The smokiness of the pork was not overwhelming. There was a good smoke ring on the meat, which means the pitmaster gave this meat a good dose of BBQ love. Low and slow is the only way to go when you're cooking over real hickory wood.
The smoked sausage was a wake-up call for my taste buds. Loaded with pepper, this sausage will have you reaching for a cold beverage. The chicken was acceptable, the side dishes outstanding and the service was great. My only point of contention was with the brisket. It was very tender, but shredded? I like true Texas-style brisket, which is sliced and without sauce.
The Riverfront Barbecue and Grille might be miles away from Memphis, but their ribs will make you feel like you are there.