The return of the waving pink pig with the “Wood Smoked B-B-Q” sign on Pacific Avenue is my first indicator that Roadside BBQ is back in business.
The tiny barbecue restaurant first opened a year ago in a temporary location, serving weekends only at 130th and Pacific Avenue, near PLU. Owner Susan Ruiz, who runs Roadside with daughter Sarah Sheedy and manager Dirk James, closed that space and went mobile to the parking lot of Cash &Carry at 112th this spring, selling barbecue from a trailer converted to a mini restaurant on wheels.
This month, the pig returned outside a strip mall near 140th and Pacific Avenue. This is Roadside’s first permanent location, which means that even if Mr. Pink Pig disappears, Roadside won’t. They serve lunch and dinner Wednesdays-Sundays.
Remember my "Project Pork Rib" journey in May, where I ate baby backs, spareribs and St. Louis ribs from Tacoma to Fife, Puyallup to Sumner? Well, add Roadside BBQ to the list of ribs worth the drive.
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A smoked spareribs dinner ($16) came with three bones, a side salad, baked beans and cornbread. The meaty ribs were slow smoked over a combination of cherry, apple and pear wood and tinged with a pink smoke ring just below the deeply blackened exterior - all signs of a well-treated rib. Recipes and methods were handed down from Russ Tryon, Susan’s father who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Several menu items are named after Russ, who was known for his love of fine wine (Roadside's barbecue sauce is made with a burgundy base).
The restaurant was sparkling clean and cutely appointed - glossy varnished garden barrels turned upside down provided cushioned seats at picnic tables. The restaurant offered table service, but when it’s busy, just order at the counter. Barbecuing is slow cooking of the highest order, which means you shouldn’t expect your food in five minutes.
Last summer, when I reviewed Roadside - that was before they had a phone, a Facebook page or a permanent address - I lavished praise for the supple ribs and quirky dining room with the straw bales that served as seating.
At the new location, I’m similarly a fan of the ribs, but the combo meat plate gave me a bit of trouble, just like last year’s visit. The “All-In” Combo ($18) was a generous platter with brisket, smoked pork, chicken and a two-bone end piece of ribs - all were dry. The rubs were flavorful, but hadn’t penetrated the meat. I needed the sauce to add flavor and moisture.
Dinners came with a choice of one or two salads, baked beans and cornbread. Stick with the cheddar cornbread over the jalapeno. Baked beans hit the spot with a sweet sauce and bacony bite. The eggy potato salad was made with red potatoes. I ordered my All-In Combo with macaroni salad and coleslaw, but got a single order of potato salad instead (check your to-go order before you leave the parking lot).
The rest of the menu included $7 meat sandwiches and meat platters ranging from $8.85-$18. They also sell family packs for $35-$47. Also on the menu is dessert made at the restaurant - rhubarb and apple pie. They’ll be adding pecan, sweet potato and pumpkin in the Fall.
Roadside BBQ 14125 Pacific Ave., Tacoma (Spanaway area), 253-537-3929, FacebookServing lunch and dinner Wednesday-Thursday. Closed Monday-Tuesday