Five Minnesota BBQ Sauces

Scott Theisen / Heavy Table

Not exactly barbecue central, Minnesota still boasts a solid number of local, high-quality barbecue sauces. Good news, because nothing ruins a night of grilling faster than the crummy, glorified ketchup of most mass-marketed sauces (a notable exception being Sweet Baby Ray’s). A trip to Linden Hills Co-op and Lunds turned up the following five sauces, all locally produced.

Demon Pig ($6 for 13 oz.) Made in Breezy Point, MN, the mild version won second place in the National Barbecue Association’s 2009 competition in the “Tomato Mild” category. This sauce, much sweeter and with a strong vinegar taste, wasn’t peppery and was chock full of tiny onion and green pepper chunks. This sauce would be great on poultry or pork and, with Wee Willy’s, was the best among the five.

Ken Davis ($2.19 for 17 oz.) A stalwart from a former Minneapolis jazzman and restauranteur, St. Louis Park-based Ken Davis doesn’t try too hard but does the trick. It smells like a charcoal fire and has no extremes — mild taste and spice. This sauce would be great in small quantities with ribs or slathered on a chicken sandwich. It’s a very solid, everyday sauce you won’t get tired of, and at $2.19 a jar, a real value. In this company, though, it’s overshadowed. But for one-third the price, what the heck. Keep a jar in the pantry.

Down Under Blackberry Chipotle (Price varied, $3.99-$5.39 for 16 oz.) From South Minneapolis, this dark, thick sauce hits you hard with a deep yet not too spicy heat. Perfect for beef, but pork or poultry probably wouldn’t work. This sauce is ketchup-based with no vinegar and would be better with less pepper and / or chili powder. In fairness, it’s not really straight-up barbecue sauce but more of a niche meat sauce, so don’t buy this expecting anything resembling traditional barbecue sauce. Yet for a special twist, say with little smokies or for dipping, this sauce is definitely worth a try. It won first place at the 2009 Big Island BBQ competition in Albert Lea.

Triple Crown ($4.29 for 14 oz.) A three-time winner at the Minnesota State Fair, Triple Crown from Frederic, WI, smells like beef jerky and is slightly sweet and smoky. It won’t overpower the meat, yet contains anchovy, which could be the ingredient behind the unique tang / meat flavor. This sauce is intensely rich and will add a subtle sophistication to anything. A very solid sauce.

Wee Willy’s ($4.29 for 18 oz.) From Afton, this sauce screams “tang.” A legitimate aftertaste sticks to the back of your throat. This thinner, salty sauce had the best balance of flavors: vinegar, sugar, smoke. Bite after bite, the flavors seemed to expand. Put this sauce on a chicken breast and you’ll forget how dry the meat is. With Demon Pig, the Jack Daniel’s World Championship-winning Wee Willy’s will be a permanent and versatile addition to the fridge. On pork roast, it’s stellar.

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About the Author

Jason Walker

Jason Walker was born and raised in Kansas, where he grew up loving his grandmother’s homemade noodles and weekly fried fish. A summer internship in Milwaukee turned Jason and his wife, Leita, into die-hard fans of the Northwoods culture, and they moved to Minneapolis in 2006. Immediately the quality of food and drink in the Twin Cities was impressive – that even the most unassuming bar usually had a decent menu – and Jason knew he was home. Now living in the Fulton neighborhood with two kids, Jason grows tomatoes, cans voraciously, and badgers his neighbors with conversations about restaurants.

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11 Comments

  1. Brian Ames 02/15/2010 Reply

    What no Daddy Sams?

    Clearly the best in the state.

  2. Stuart Borken 02/15/2010 Reply

    So? Where is Rudolph’s BBQ sauce?

  3. Author
    Jason Walker 02/15/2010 Reply

    I gotta try Daddy Sams. I’ve had Rudolph’s and didn’t think it was too memorable. Any other suggestions would be welcome.

  4. downtowner 02/16/2010 Reply

    Famous Daves?

  5. Charlie 02/17/2010 Reply

    I’d put Q fanatic’s Pepper Vodka up against any of them. Does it have to come in a bottle?

  6. Author
    Jason Walker 02/25/2010 Reply

    Brian, I realized – I didn’t get Daddy Sam’s at the co-op because the bottle said it was made in Texas. Yet there was a “local” sticker on the shelf tag … and their website lists a 612 phone number to order. So, probably could have included it, yet I’m a little baffled by the Texas address on the bottle.

  7. I’ve had the great opportunity to try the Demon Pig. WOW, Zoowie, BamBam! Fantasti-co. Hate to run out of the sauce. They also have an Orange version. It is also top-notch! Mmmmmm, didn’t realize how hungry this conversation makes me.

  8. Demon Pig is hands down my favorite! My 2 year old grand-daughter even eats it just on a slice of bread with no meat–it’s THAT GOOD!

  9. Ramona Teisan 02/02/2017 Reply

    Where can you get Wee Willy’s sauces and rubs? They no longer ship from their source and state that they sell through stores. Would appreciate a listing of stores and locations in California and Nebraska, a source that ships. Willing to pay for the shipping.

  10. I believe Wee Willeys is still available through Kowalski Markets, as well as Lunds Byerlys.

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