After our recent review of Smoke in the Pit, readers wanted to know how the new joint compares to Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue, its more senior competitor 1.6 miles down East 38th Street. After three trips to the longstanding takeout BBQ joint, we can confidently state that Ted’s lags behind Smoke. While the elder has better sides and sauce, the younger wins on barbecued meats.
Given Ted Cook’s long history (it opened in 1968), positive reviews, and many awards, we were surprised that two of the four meat dishes we tried were just plain bad. Advertised as “tender” and “juicy,” the barbecued half chicken ($9.90) was anything but. The breast meat was possibly the driest we’ve ever been served. We’re talking bone dry, chalk dry, chapped lips dry. Making matters worse, the breast’s skin had the feel of a rain-soaked trashbag. Sadly, the dark meat was only slightly juicier. No amount of Ted’s bright red BBQ sauce could’ve saved the poor chicken.
The half-slab of ribs ($12.80) was marginally better. Again, dryness was the main culprit. As we gnawed on the dehydrated pork, we were reminded of glazed spareribs languishing under the heat lamps of cheap lunch buffets. The crust was a tad soggy from the zesty sauce (we neglected to ask for the ribs “dry”) and the meat lacked the sweet smokiness we associate with quality barbecue.
A pile of barbecued beef sliced paper-thin and smothered in sauce ($12.50) was tender and flavorful, but ranked only a bit higher than lunchmeat. Luckily, a heaping portion of pulled pork ($13) was far better than the three other meat dishes we sampled. Juicy, smoky chunks of meat provided a clue to Ted’s popularity, though we wished we’d ordered the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce on the side, because it overpowered the pork’s natural flavors, imparted by hours of smoking.
Ted Cook’s sides are hit or miss. Fried slices of “JoJo” potatoes ($1.40, $3.25) were tasty and impressively not greasy, but the vast majority went limp and stuck to each other on our short drive home. The collard greens ($2.75) were skillfully cooked but suffered from an unpleasant medicinal aftertaste, and the deli-style coleslaw ($1.10 small, $3.10 large) and potato salad ($1.85 small, $3.35 large) were just fine.
Of all the things we tried, our favorite was Ted Cook’s sweet potato pie ($2.42). The crust was flaky, the filling moist and custardy, and the flavor sweet but not overly so. Like the pulled pork, the pie didn’t need anything to dress it up. It was delicious on its own.
Having found much to commend at Smoke in the Pit, we had sincerely hoped the more venerable Ted’s 19th Hole would really have us licking our fingers. After three ultimately disappointing visits, though, it seems that Ted’s is resting on its laurels rather than leading the pack. With quality options in the area, there’s no reason to settle for dried-out meats and average sides.
Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue
Take out BBQ in Standish
2814 38th St E
Minneapolis, MN 55406
OWNER / CHEF: Moses Quartey
HOURS: Tuesday-Friday, 11am – 10pm; Saturday-Sunday, 1pm – 10pm
ENTREE RANGE: $9.90-21.00