Friday, February 02, 2007

No. 22 rewrite

Just a quick and inexpensive airplane ride from the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport away, among other destinations, lies the ever expanding, brightly lit tourist trap that is Las Vegas, Nevada. I personally visit Las Vegas regularly, not to gamble or to gawk at the showgirls, mind you, but simply to eat. In general, any tales of culinary enjoyment which I've been able to bring back from Sin City would sadly have no equal here in Colorado Springs. There is, however, (at least) one exception and that exception would be Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que.

Started in 1994 by entrepreneur and barbecue enthusiast Dave Anderson in Hayward, Minnesota, Famous Dave's quickly did become famous for the quality of it's food, winning several awards at barbecue competitions across the country. Dave built on his quick success by expanding to nearby Minneapolis in 1995 and, as of January 2007, there are Famous Dave's locations in 37 states (including one right here in Colorado Springs). Despite all of this recognition and renown, I was personally unfamiliar with Famous Dave's until just recently during one of my many and aforementioned trips to Las Vegas.

As I said before, I go to Las Vegas to eat, an endeavor which either requires a heavy amount of research and pre-planning or friends that live in the area. Thankfully, I'm blessed with the latter, locals who also love to eat and are quick to recommend restaurants that either they have tried themselves or that their co-workers rave about. To tell the truth, I'm much happier when we all go sight-unseen to one of the "co-worker recommended" sites because it satisfies two necessary elements for me: first, I'm in for a culinary adventure and second, the group has a built-in scapegoat if the place doesn't turn out as you would like it to. My first-ever trip to Famous Dave's turned out to be one of the sight-unseen variety, recommended by a random co-worker of Andy, one of my eating companions. The others who would join in on this barbecue lunch run were Andy's wife Andrea and my brother-in-law, affectionately known as "Big Al."

Pulling into our parking space in front of Famous Dave's, we saw an exterior that wasn't remarkable, but that wasn't uninviting either. The appearance of a wood "barbecue shack" was obviously was was intended and the slogan "Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que" above the front door let us know exactly what to hope for. Once inside, I noted that the interior definitely continued with the "barbecue shack" theme - wood paneled walls with "whimsical" items and signs hanging all about, old blues and R&B playing on the PA, nice big wood tables and chairs and large comfortable booths. I personally found the atmosphere comfortable and inviting, something which likely had a lot to do with the music; I found the selection darn near perfect for a barbecue joint and, come to find out, so does Famous Dave. All of the music is hand-picked by the founder and is straight from his personal CD collection. He and I need to get together someday to discuss food AND music, but I digress. In addition to the interior items which I've already mentioned, Famous Dave's also boasted the one piece of "atmosphere" which I feel is necessary in all barbecue establishments (and one which can make up for shortcomings in other areas): the pervasive and mouth-watering smell of smoked meat.

With this wonderful, meaty smell filling our nostrils and lunch-sized voids in our bellies, our group took our seats in the booth that we were led to. Upon opening the menu, I realized that making a choice wasn't going to be as simple as "chicken or ribs." The offerings at Famous Dave's are diverse and include soups, salads, fish, barbecue sandwiches, two kinds of chicken, hamburgers and, as you would expect, ribs, both the diminutive (yet sweet) baby backs and St. Louis style spareribs, the baby back's meatier cousin. Wanting to take in as much as we could of what Dave's had to offer, we decided to first try the sampler appetizer platter which boasts barbecue spare ribs, chicken wings, chicken tenders, catfish fingers and onion strings. As a whole, the quality of the food on the appetizer platter was very good, my personal favorite being the catfish fingers, small portions of sweetwater catfish, breaded and crispy fried. I liked them so much, in fact, that I may have made eating my actual lunch too much of a challenge. Speaking of which, our lunch choices were delivered to our table not long at all after we had collectively polished off our appetizer.

When you open the menu at Famous Dave's, you will see (unless you're completely distracted by thoughts of smoked meats, which would be understandable) that Dave himself has some advice for you. It reads: "never eat anything bigger than your head." Now, I can't be sure, exactly, but I'm thinking that all of what I ordered all tolled may well have been slightly larger than my cranium an. I know for a fact, though, that what two of my companions ordered certainly was larger than their individual heads. More about that in a bit though. My lunch choice came from the "classics and combos" section of the menu, and was the rib-n-meat combo (I chose barbecue chicken to compliment the spareribs). Al had the same platter with the addition of a "hot link" and Andy and Andrea decided to split the "XXL ribs," what Famous Dave's calls "The Big Slab," a 12-bone full slab of St. Louis style spareribs served either wet or dry (sauces are available at your table which range from mild to sweet to hot and I'll offer my opinions on them in a bit). All of the platters came with a corn bread muffin (mine was just a bit dry), corn on the cob (sweet, juicy and flavorful) and a choice of two side items. I chose potato salad (which I enjoyed) and "Wilbur Beans" (which were pretty basic) while Al went with the "Drunkin' Apples" and the famous fries, neither of which I was able to sample. Other sides on the menu include green beans, garlic red-skin mashed potatoes (which I'll surely try on a future visit) and creamy coleslaw. I can't exactly recall what sides, if any, Andy and Andrea chose due to the fact that, when the monstrosity which they ordered was delivered to our table, all activity ceased and we just stared in awe. It was certainly the largest slab of pork ribs I'd seen in my lifetime and when it was set in front of tiny little Andrea, Dave's advice from earlier came to mind. It was a good thing for her that she would have help from Andy, as the XXL slab was, indeed, "larger than her head."

My only service complaint for the entire lunch is this: despite the fact that I had ordered my ribs "dry," they came out wet. As I soon found out, though, this development would not ruin my day since the "Rich and Sassy" sauce which graces the wet-style ribs by default was just about perfect for my taste, slightly sweet with a smoky flavor and not too much ketchup-type flavor. Of course, I'm aware that there are likely as many (if not more) opinions as to what makes a fine barbecue sauce as there are barbecue grills in this country and, if your tastes differ from mine, Dave's likely has you covered. At the table sit a variety of sauces in addition to Dave's original Rich & Sassy including "Hot & Sassy" (I liked this one quite a bit), "Texas Pit" (not too bad), "Georgia Mustard" (not for me, thanks), "Sweet & Zesty" (my hands-down favorite) and, finally, "Devil's Spit." I have to say, despite the name, I didn't find this sauce to be enjoyable at all. Don't get me wrong, I love spicy and hot, but on the day I visited, the Devil's Spit tasted a bit too much like an unholy marriage of vinegar and tabasco for my liking. With that said, I have to say that the variety of sauces which Famous Dave's makes available at their tables should be more than enough to be able to make even the pickiest Barbecue fan quite happy.

Back to the food, though, which certainly didn't disappoint the eager eaters in our group. I found the ribs on my platter to be tender and flavorful and, to be honest, I wished I had ordered more once I was finished with them. The barbecue chicken was also nice and tender but it lacked a depth of flavor beyond the crispy skin which I found only slightly disappointing since a quick hit with one of the many available sauces (Sweet & Zesty) made up for that shortcoming. Al also felt the same as I did about his ribs and chicken and the hotlink which he ordered disappeared itoo fast for me to taste which led me to believe that he enjoyed it quite a bit. Andy and Andrea both loved their massive rack of spareribs and had enough left to feed themselves for a day or two even after offering samples to both Al and I. Sadly, following our massive platters, we were all too packed full of foods to even think about trying dessert. This really is a shame since the bread pudding and the pecan pie both piqued my interest. Other dessert items on the menu include an ice cream sundae and a hot fudge Kahlua brownie. Just so you know, Famous Dave's does offer lunch specials, has a children's section to the menu and, if you'd like to take their delightful fare home, they offer "Family Style To Go." All of their meats are available by the pound (except chicken-they sell them roasted and whole), ribs by the slab and sides available by the pint or quart (except corn bread muffins-, available by the half-dozen or dozen). Granted, you can't judge an entire chain by an experience in one single location but my experience at Famous Dave's on Rainbow Road in Las Vegas, Nevada made enough of an impression on me that I'll surely look to frequent the Famous Dave's on Razorback Road here in Colorado Springs. I should throw in that I considered the prices at Famous Dave's in Las Vegas to be quite reasonable but, like it says at, pricing and menu items vary by location so I can't speak to the prices here in the Springs quite yet (but I doubt that they'll break the bank). To put it simply, I felt the meal I had at the Las Vegas Famous Dave's was a good value.

Famous Dave's (Las Vegas) Grade: A-

Local Information:
Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que
8330 Razorback Road
(just off Highway 83 near Cracker Barrel)
(719) 265-9534


Anonymous Anonymous said...

famous dave's is a disgusting chain restaurant. why would anyone review it or go back twice?

1:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No more chain restaurants. There are so many other fabulous places to eat.

12:35 PM  

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