Minnesota isn’t known for barbecue, to say the least. But if you look hard enough, it’s possible to find some really good smoked meat in this state. While Q Fanatic in Champlin has been our main spot for ribs and pulled pork going on five years now, Rooster’s BBQ-Deli in St. Paul just became our go-to for barbeque chicken.
How we’ve managed to miss out on a place that’s been around for over a quarter-century and has a passionate clientele is beyond us. Rest assured, we feel an appropriate amount of shame for our negligence. As penance, we’ll include Taco Bell’s new breakfast-waffle-taco in our #30DaysOfTacos lineup (oh, how we miss The Supertaster).
Anyway, back to Rooster’s. It’s a small joint; its tagline, “two booths and barbecue,” says it all (actually, there’s also one table, but who’s counting?). Because most of the business is take-out (or at least that’s how it seemed), we were able to hunker down in a booth on both of our visits. It may be small, but it’s exceptionally charming and, most importantly, Rooster’s kicks out some damn fine barbecue. (Although Rooster’s is popular for its fried chicken and wings, we didn’t try them, because we were purposefully taste-testing as part of our continual search for quality BBQ in the Twin Cities area.)
Most of the ribs we’ve tried around town do fine in a pinch but aren’t crave-worthy. Rooster’s pork spare ribs ($13)? Good, but not spread-the-word great. Smoky and tender, the meat requires a slight tug to get off the bone (which we prefer to the fall-off-the-bone variety). Drizzled with Rooster’s punchy sweet and spicy tomato-based sauce, the ribs are tasty. If the meat was a little more moist and flavorful and the bark a bit more developed, Roosters’ ribs could compete for Q Fanatic’s business.
A pork shoulder and slaw sandwich ($7) was satisfying — and we’d gladly eat it again — but it didn’t inspire hyperbole.
The barbecue chicken ($11.85), on the other hand, led to all kinds of exaggerated, curse-filled proclamations: “This is the best f’in thing we’ve had in years! This f’in chicken brings tears to our eyes! Holy f’, we could die now and be happy!” Although none of these things was strictly true, the hickory smoked chicken made us very, very happy. The combination of smoke and spices produced so much wonderful flavor that we forgot about the barbecue sauce. Unlike the dried-out fowl found at so many BBQ joints, Rooster’s chicken is the epitome of succulence.
Although news to us, many people have known about (and loved) Rooster’s chicken for years. How else could we explain the patrons who patiently waited, packed into the tiny restaurant after learning that their takeout would be ready in forty-five minutes? We get it. And we’re sorry we didn’t get it sooner.
And now, it’s off to the penalty-waffle-taco. Look for our verdict on Twitter.
976 Randolph Ave
St. Paul, MN 55102
OWNER: Richard Gapinski
HOURS: Tues-Sun 11am-9pm
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Limited / No
ENTREE RANGE: $4.88-15.56