Chris Muir's Day By Day

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Restaurant Review: Johnny's Bar B Q, Rockwell, NC

I'd passed by Johnny's Bar-B-Q in Rockwell several times in travels around NC, and finally made a point of going in for some barbecue.

Here's the sign:



Note that barbecue shares pride of place on the sign with seafood and steaks. That's important, and not in a good way.

The outside of the restaurant is attractive:



The requisite pigs are in evidence:



The inside is attractive, too, with plenty of tables and booths, as well as a lunch counter (no pic of the interior, sorry)

Johnny's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu is correspondingly extensive, barbecue being just one small aspect of it, with no pride of place. There is no smell of smoke in the restaurant, nor smoke issuing from any chimneys. Not looking good.

I order a plate of chopped barbecue, with red slaw (both white and red is offered, to Johnny's credit), hush puppies, and french fries.



The meat is cold when it arrives. It has no smoke smell whatsoever. So: oven-roasted pork, basically. And cold? Who serves barbecue cold? Johnny's Bar-B-Q of Rockwell, NC, apparently. I didn't ask the waitress, but my guess is that the barbecue is cooked off-site and trucked in; Johnny's might not even make their own, but sub-contract it. It's probably then kept refrigerated and pulled out as necessary, without even going into chafing dishes, warmers or microwaves. Just...cold.

The red slaw is really red. Suspiciously red. "Red" barbecue slaw is typically light brown in color and made with vinegar and a splash of ketchup; any color it gets is from the ketchup. This stuff at Johnny's is so very red that I suspect that red food coloring was used to color it. Taste-wise it is no different than any other red slaw I've eaten. It's just...very red.

The hush puppies are warm, not hot, are properly oblong rather than spherical, and are neutral in taste; no onion or excessive sweetness. The french fries, although advertised on the menu as "home fries," are in fact the standard barbecue joint crinkle cuts.

There are three sauces offered: Eastern-NC-style vinegar sauce, which didn't have much pepper or other ingredients in it, so mostly just vinegar; a red sauce I didn't try; and Texas Pete. The best of the three to perk up this cold, flavorless chopped pork would be the Texas Pete, if you happen to wander into Johnny's and are unwise enough to desire the barbecue, rather than simply driving past it entirely and eating at Wink's King of Barbecue or M&K's, both in Granite Quarry, just a short drive up US 52.

It appears that Johnny's Bar-B-Q is really more of a steak-and-seafood place (deco in the restaurant includes fishing nets on the walls) and offers barbecue simply because they got a lot of requests for it. Rockwell isn't a large town by any stretch of the imagination, and Johnny's likely serves as a regular watering hole/eating establishment for the locals, where they can get eggs and bacon for breakfast, a burger or other sandwich for lunch, and a steak or plate of seafood for dinner. Barbecue is just another menu item here, not the reason that the restaurant exists. Bear that in mind in your travels. If a place doesn't focus on barbecue, then likely the barbecue will only be mediocre, if not worse.

Service was reasonably attentive, tending toward desultory. I'll give Johnny's Bar-B-Q a 2 on my five-scale of restaurant ratings: 2 out of 5: edible, but no effort to impress; staff/management going through motions.

1 comment:

Gasdog said...

You missed the good BBQ by about a mile. Go to Darrell's BBQ, 117 E Main St (closed Sunday & Monday). I order mine brown, they also have excellent red slaw & decent hushpuppies.