How does one fully enjoy the restaurant experience? When all five senses – smell, sight, sound, feel and most importantly, taste – are indulged. Walking into the Sticky Lips BBQ Pit, you’re buffeted by the sweet smell of delicious barbecue. You realize it’s the 1940s, with down-home blues playing and a lively crowd having a good time. If it were the summertime, you’d feel hot — there’s no air conditioning, just a fan for each table. The walls are covered with ’40s magazines, timely Democrat & Chronicle clippings, cigarette ads, football memorabilia and Royal Crown Soda signs.
The menu is extensive, focusing on Uncle Frank’s State Fair chicken, Memphis pit smoked BBQ ribs, grilled chicken sandwiches, BBQ beef burgers, pulled pork sandwiches and Texas beef brisket, with many sides to choose from. I ordered the ribs with the Memphis dry rub. There were three other styles to choose from involving their homemade sauces – Cherry Brown Bomb sauce, Carolina Clipper Mustard sauce and their Original Sticky Lips All-American BBQ sauce. I tried them all later.
The ribs were partially hanging outside of the plate, which meant they either have small plates or big portions. They had a great dry rub – sweet and tasty, complementing the smoky flavor of the meat. The meat was so soft and tender, it crumbled in my mouth after falling off the bone. I ordered black beans and rice and Sammy’s Chili on the side. The beans and rice had a fun variety of ingredients. However, the texture of the beans was a bit hard and dry. My chili was chunky with pieces of brisket, pepper, celery, onion, beans and tomatoes. It leaves a nice “zing” afterward, and even a little sweetness. It took this establishment from good to great.
My dining companion’s chicken was grilled to a tender but wholesome level. It had a nice array of spices. Unfortunately, they were stingy with the mashed potatoes. They had great gravy, full of rich, buttery, salty sweetness. The mashed potatoes’ texture was rough with visible black pepper. The chicken tasted even better with their sauces, proudly standing on the side of the table, each labeled with pin-up girls.
The Carolina Clipper hits you and it makes you want to pack your bags and move to the Carolinas. The initial bite of this sweet and sour mustard concoction wakes you up, but the sweet, tender finish soothes you into a state of joy.
The Cherry Bomb sauce, which I had enjoyed in a previous visit, has the same effect. It has a dark red color and adds plenty of savory sweetness. The All-American BBQ sauce has the same level of smoky, sweet and acidic flavor as found in most good barbecue sauces.
What made me come back was not just the food, but the experience. Even the waitresses looked like ’40s girls. The service is friendly, quick and accommodating. Like a good blues tune, Sticky Lips satisfies. It meets the challenge of indulging all the senses, but takes the American barbecue tradition to new heights. Visit the Web site at http://www.stickylipsbbq.com.
If you are one of the many people who don’t have a car, there are also alternative forms of transportation. Take Bus No. 18 to University Avenue and Culver Avenue. Then walk north on Culver Avenue to Atlantic Road. This bus only comes to UR on weekdays before 5 p.m.
Margolis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.