Helpful ReplyHot!pittsburgh bbq

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Junior Burger
2009/11/02 14:15:20
if you want to enjoy a nice traditional menu you can visit RibCage BBQ where they make one of the finest Rib Cage BBQ. They also provide $5 coupons if you visit the site.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/02 14:35:55

if you want to enjoy a nice traditional menu you can visit RibCage BBQ where they make one of the finest Rib Cage BBQ. They also provide $5 coupons if you visit the site.

So how long have you owned the place?
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/02 14:36:42
How long have you been in the bbq biz?
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/02 16:23:09
Funny, same post on yelp, about and travel channel and all made the same day. And according to his site, the $5 coupon expires on 8/20/09.
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/02 17:11:16
East Monongahela; didn't this used to be The Rib Joint, with the Batman Sauce? Or was that in Elizabeth?

Note to buffetbuster; giant cod sandwiches.
post edited by Mosca - 2009/11/02 17:13:39
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/03 12:24:23
I can use this as a flimsy pretext to mention The Flame BBQ, on Babcock Road in Shaler. (Website: )

I can't quite decide how I feel about this place.
The pork is pretty good, and I like how they've added a Pittsburgh twist with things like their Pierogies and Pulled Pork:

(On the other hand, the website's claim of "fast service" has not been borne out in my experience.)

And it's got the piggy decor one would associate with barbecue:

But here's the thing: the restaurant doesn't smell like smoke (and the meat, though tasty, isn't particularly smoky).
This renders me wholly unable to judge it as a barbecue place, but puts it into a category of its own for which I have no apt comparison.
It's barbecue-ish enough that when I try to judge it, I gravitate to judging it as a barbecue place--but then the lack of smoke makes it slip out of that standard. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/04 08:02:18
I am far from a bbq expert, but I have never found a place around Pittsburgh that would stay open for more than six months in Memphis, Kansas City or North Carolina.  But then, truthfully, I really don't seek them out.

The pierogies and pulled pork does look interesting.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/12 03:25:29
i know the coupons for are outdated, but its a technical error, you can actually go with those coupons and get a 5% discount.

we have been in business for 3-4 years now.

Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/12 09:17:07

People here have no tolerance for self promoting posts under the guise that they are not promoting one self.  If you own the place, clearly say so and invite Roadfooders to try it; you'll get a more friendly response. My two cents.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/15 21:47:18
I would basically agree with buffetbuster there, and I'd add my native Texas to the list. But sometimes the craving comes upon me, and I emerge from my lair and go forth in search of smoked meat.

Here's a rundown on some of the barbecue places I've tried in the Pittsburgh area:

Mr. Ribbs in Penn Hills was the single worst restaurant dining experience I've ever had. Time has mercifully blurred the details, but I recall that not only was the meat horribly gristly, the macaroni and cheese was as well. It was only several years after it closed that I stopped saying "Feh" every time I passed the site. (There are other places around Pittsburgh with the Mr. Ribbs name, but I don't know if my condemnation should extend to those places as well.)

Red River Barbecue on McKnight Road in the North Hills was obviously not authentic; I don't think I've ever had authentic barbecue in a place with cloth napkins, and the sun-dried cherry coleslaw made it doubly inauthentic. The meat was okay, but the menu had a focus on pork that surprised me--perhaps I was wrong in my assumption that the Red River of the name was the river that forms the Texas-Oklahoma boundary. It has now closed.

Q 4 You in Swissvale was a great barbecue place, in a round little building decorated with flames on the roof. The barbeque was wonderful, with a rich bold flavor. (The proprietor said it was Kansas City-style, with some variations of his own.) I loved the baked beans, which were thick enough to stand a spoon in. Meals also came with soft yeast rolls that were huge--the size of a child's head. The prices were very cheap, also--the two of us could have a full meal with leftovers for the next day for $10.
Unfortunately, Q 4 You closed after a few months. I don't know much about why it closed, but I have a guess. Before it closed for good, it closed for a couple of weeks because the owner had shingles. My guess is that some other catastrophe happened, and he didn't have enough reserves of money or help to stay afloat.

Maverick's Bar-B-Que on Route 30 in East Pittsburgh had no particular barbecue tradition; when I asked him what style of barbecue he served, he shrugged and said "Pittsburgh-style". In this case, that meant a barbecue sandwich served on an Italian roll. The shredded pork was pretty good, but the one time I got the shredded beef, it was like a sandwich full of hot wet beef jerky.
It is now closed.

Jake's Beef and Bar-B-Que in the Pittsburgh Galleria was misnamed--it was a steakhouse decorated in an arty southwestern style, with only a few barbecue items on the menu. I recall that they had several different sauces, and the waiter arranged them artfully on a plate to describe the different sauces. The meat was fairly good, but apparently not good enough to call me to the South Hills often.
It is now closed. 

Jameson's was in Oakland, very near the 837 exit off the Parkway East. They advertised their barbecue on their sign, but in practice this meant that they had a beef brisket sandwich on the menu. I was hopeful, because beef brisket is a part of my barbecue tradition that is hard to find around here--but the reality of the sandwich was a disappointment. 
It is now closed. 

Clem's, out on Route 22 near Blairsville, is not closed as far as I know. (After the number of places I've listed that are closed, that seems to put them above the pack.) It's another place that has no smell of smoke, but the meat is rather good. If I were driving out that way, I would certainly stop in at Clem's, but it's not quite close enough to what I want to draw me that far. 

Big Mama's House of Soul, down in the Strip, has been praised by restaurant reviewers. But the one time we went there, service was very slow, and the ribs were kind of tough, which is not how I like my ribs. I would give them another try, but I regard them as on probation.

Smokey Bones is a chain restaurant near The Mall at Robinson. It's a good chain, though, and the barbecue is very good. I'll go there any time I'm near Robinson or I go out to the airport.

Red Hot and Blue was another chain restaurant, this one in the Waterfront shopping center near us. It was a very good chain. It had my favorite ribs outside of Memphis (though I don't try ribs all that often, so this is significant but not astounding praise), and their sides were very good. I particularly liked their Brunswick stew, their mac and cheese, and their cornbread. The restaurant showed a respect and affection for Southern food, Southern hospitality, barbecue, and blues that seemed much more genuine than the usual synthetic chain smarm. We would eat there once or twice a month; we were very sad when it closed.

Famous Dave's Barbecue, near Waterworks, was much more synthetic in their attempts to charm. The barbecue was pretty good, but not wonderful. The sauce was a bit too spicy for Lori.
That location is now closed.

Mitch's Mobile Bar-B-Que Pit is a guy and his smoker trailer. The menu is far from authentic barbecue, but it's pretty good. We had him bring his smoker to our house to cater our wedding party, and we might well do so again for an anniversary party. He also makes his own ice cream, which was pretty good.

Elliott's Backstreet Barbecue on 51 in the South Hills has lasted for over a decade (and not closed yet as far as I know). I haven't eaten there in many years, but I remember the food being fairly good, but not special.

Mr. Willie's BBQ opened recently in Squirrel Hill. Its menu is mostly ribs and fried chicken; this is a barbecue tradition shared by several restaurants in Pittsburgh, but it's not my barbecue tradition. I know we've eaten there, but I have little memory of the food, and even when we're in Squirrel Hill, I'd probably eat somewhere else instead.

Gramma Anna's BBQ in Wilkinsburg was another freakishly smoke-free place, but the barbecue was pretty good. They had four sauces, of which I particularly liked their mustard sauce. The sign is still there, but one day I went in and the people there seemed to be running a temp agency, with no indications of selling food at all.

BJ's BBQ Smokehouse is in Swissvale--or at least, the sign is. When I tried to eat there on Saturday, I found all the doors locked, and the phone number on their sign is disconnected. I'm not optimistic that they will satisfy my barbecue cravings.

A few barbecue restaurants in the Pittsburgh area that I've been meaning to try:

Cho-Cho's has recently opened up in Wilkinsburg. It would do well on convenience to my home. The name reminds me of the cannibalistic Tcho-Tcho's from H. P. Lovecraft's fiction, but I don't think that I can reasonably hold that against them.

Wilson's BBQ on the North Side has been around for decades, and was featured in Rick Sebak's TV special on the North Side. I'm not sure that Rick Sebak is an expert on barbecue, though.

Two Brothers Bar-B-Q in the South Hills won "Best Barbecue" in a Post-Gazette opinion poll. I'm not sure how much I can trust Post-Gazette readers about barbecue, but it's certainly worth checking out.

Steel City Smokehouse and Saloon in Century III Mall got a good review from the P-G's food reviewer ( I don't expect a wonderfully authentic experience, but Munch's enthusiasm makes me want to check it out.

post edited by ralphmelton - 2009/11/15 21:58:48
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/16 06:17:55
Thanks so much for taking the time to add that fantastic list.

Clem's in Blairsville is still open and in a spiffy, new building.  This is the best barbecue I have had in the area.  Not sure I would drive all the way out there just for it, but if you are in the area.  I have some photos which I will get around to posting.
On my one visit to Big Mama's House of Soul, I didn't get the bbq.  But my chicken and all the sides were quite good.  The service was painfully slow, though, just like your visit.

Wilson's BBQ sure has authentic bbq atmosphere, but the ribs were just so-so.  I haven't been back.

You gave me lots of places to try, so thanks again!

Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/17 10:49:21
Great list Ralph!  I'll second buffetbuster's recommendatin of Clems.  They are in a new building now, but the old location had huge wood burning pits that sure did put the smell of smoke in the air.  At one time, I drove past there every morning at about 7am, and the smoke would be swirling, getting ready for the day's slow cooking.  It's my favorite in the area, but I can also recommend Two Brothers near Bridgeville.  It's just a trailer in a parking lot set-up, but the brisket was great!

Isn't there a BBQ place on rt51, near Brentwood?  I think it's across the street from McGinnis Sisters...I don't recall the name though.
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/17 13:17:23
A lot of places that are in neighborhoods need to have smoke cleaners installed; bbq smoke might be great when you're driving by, but it's  not such a great deal if you have to smell it 24/7. When Burger King put a restaurant down on the main drag about half a mile from my house, one of the restrictions was that it had to have no odor whatsoever, and it doesn't. The Smoky Bones across the street from where I work has no smoke odor; say what you will about them, but their ribs are smoked.

I don't know that this is the reason for no smoky smell, just throwing it out there; others wiser than I can tell me if I'm right or wrong.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/17 16:10:10
That's a good point, Mosca. It's certainly very plausible that Pennsylvania's regulations are different from Texas's. (There's an opportunity to make a crack about liquor laws there, but it would be too easy.)

I don't require smoke outside the restaurant; it's more a matter of a light smoky scent inside that I rely upon to tell me that I'm in a barbecue restaurant instead of, say, a doctor's waiting room. (Smokey Bones does have that indoor scent, in my experience.)
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/17 16:22:07
that's too bad. I would love to have smell of hickory burning
round here.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/22 11:32:11

My name is John and I am the owner of the Rib Cage BBQ in Monongahela. I apologize if the posting on this site has made anybody upset. We had somebody doing some internet marketing for us and when I googled "Pittsburgh BBQ" to see how he was doing I came across this thread.  I apologize for any inconvenience. The place referred to above that had the "Batman" sauce was called Jeromes and to my knowledge he is no longer in business, or only does catering.  I apologize that the 5% discount is outdated, I will get that updated ASAP.  If you have any questions I would be glad to answer and we would love to have anybody stop down to try out our food. Again sorry for the "self promotion" I was unaware that this was going on.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/22 12:36:19
Sorry if I offended anyone here but I wasn't aware that I was doing anything wrong since I didn't lie about anything I said: the place really has great food and the problem with the outdated coupons was just technical, even if the date is incorrect they are still valid.

It's true I know John and his place, but I truly recommend it and anyone who will try it will agree. Waiting for other reviews anyway to back that up..

I wish everyone a nice day and I apologise again if I caused any inconvenience

Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/22 12:43:52
Hey, John, 

Thank you for your contribution to this thread. Your remarks make me more interested in visiting Rb Cage BBQ, though it'd be a bit of a drive for me.

I have one question I'd like to ask you:
From your menu, it seems that your primary focus is on ribs and chicken, with pulled pork and other sundries as a sideline.
This is a style of barbecue menu that I've only seen in Pittsburgh (though my barbecue experience is admittedly spotty), but I've seen it in several Pittsburgh barbecue places: yours, Mr. Willie's BBQ in Squirrel Hill, and Steel City Rib House in in East Liberty. 
Can you shed light on where this style of barbecue menu comes from, please?

Apparently I have more than one question: your menu says that you have Hot Stuffed Banana Peppers when in season. What's the season for stuffed banana peppers?

Many thanks!
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/22 20:51:36
Yeah, Jeromes. It was so long ago, like 30 years. We just called it The Rib Joint, but it was definitely Jerome's. I remember the sauce being heavy on the celery seed, and very hot at the Batman level.

John, James, we are a prickly bunch here. It gets remarked upon a lot by new users, owners/marketers or not. If you stick around  for the camaraderie, you might find that you fit in, and that's cool. If you don't, that's cool too. I'm not in charge here, but I would give you a "thanks for coming around" if I was.

I think the biggest objection to the guerrilla marketing is that there are advertisers who pay for space, and otherwise the intent and content of the site is sharing food experiences. The reliability of the content depends on the reviews and reports being unbiased, having no intent other than the common goal of finding good food. A better way to have introduced yourselves would have been straightforward, "Hi, we're The Ribcage, come on by and see what you think, and if you like it please tell folks."

But what the hell do I know. Apologies accepted, next time I'm down Mon way (I grew up in Jefferson & have friends in Finleyville & Elizabeth) I'll make a point to stop in and say hello, order one of everything, and let folks know what it tastes like.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/23 15:47:29
Thanks guys,

Ralph, I believe its just the culture of the area. Growing up in the Mon Valley I was surrounded by Rib joints. I live 2 minutes away from Jeromes, and there were plenty of other "Rib Shacks" near by such as Rockys, One Eyed Willies, etc - and their menus all predominately consisted of this kind of food. To be honest I am not sure of the actual origin, but it is what I grew up on here in the Burgh. I've visted BBQ places all over and even in Baltimore the emphasis definitely shifts. I think one very unique thing about the Pittsburgh area is the style of sauce. The further south you go you will find more sweet vinegar based sauces, you seldom find that up here.  Our main sellers would definitely be chops & ribs. I would say we are most well known for our chops. 

In regards to Bananas Peppers, those are a summer thing. So we won't have those anymore until next summer unfortunately because people really enjoy em.

If anyone is in the mon valley area feel free to stop in and say Hello. Either me or my dad will be there and we are both named John so you will find one of us!

Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/23 16:48:38
First of all, welcome to Roadfood!

In case you wondering why some people were quick to be suspicious and unwelcoming, sometimes an owner of a restaurant will post on these forums and pretend to be a satisfied customer lavishing praise, when it is their own place.  That just seems very underhanded to us. 

But, we have no problem with the owner coming on here and saying, "Hey, I have a good product, how about checking it out".  Which is what you did and I'm glad you are here.  Nothing wrong with being proud of your business!

You have a nice website and I sure do love me some bbq.  You are on the complete other side of Pittsburgh from me, but I will try and stop down in the next couple of months and check it out.  Maybe Ralph and other Pittsburghers could join me?

Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/24 09:27:38

Thank you for the warm invite. I am happy we were able to clear the air :)  We are very proud of our business and would love for any new customers to come in and check us out.

If you are ever planning on coming down with some friends please let me know beforehand and we will make sure that we take care of you :)
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/11/24 16:41:43
buffetbusterYou are on the complete other side of Pittsburgh from me, but I will try and stop down in the next couple of months and check it out.  Maybe Ralph and other Pittsburghers could join me? 

I am in favor of this plan. Trying out a good barbecue place in the Pittsburgh area would be a victory for all mankind. Or it would be a tasty meal for me. I get those two confused sometimes.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 11:17:33
Glad to find this message board. I was trying to get more history on this area
All I know, everybody always talked about the rib joint when in high school in the 60's.
I also have tasted Jerrome's. I like the sauce but I have found Eliot's less than perfect
in the meats. And, that Blaine Hill has MSG in the sauce. I have to get to the Rib Cage.
In the early 80's my brother like the sauce of Jerrome's ?, and I tried to copy the recipe flavor.
So I have a recipe, but things always tend to change and I also experiment with my sauce.
I don't know how far it goes, but the sauces are similar in the Monongahela River Valley.
i call my sauce that. Its similar but again to my tastes. It takes some time to boil down the ingredients.
I would like some of the restaurant owners to sample it. Here goes a link to my one of my websites and the sauce.

Got to get to the Mon. !! I live near West Elizabeth.
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 11:35:27

Finleyville: TJ? I'm TJ '72, my oldest sister is TJ '68.

From my understanding, one key ingredient in Mon Valley style of sauces is celery seed. If you have a batch already made up, try some and see if it doesn't come closer.

(I got that information in a typical round-about way, from someone who said he won the recipe in a card game from Jerome. I've had the sauce, on country style ribs. It was good; strong flavor of celery seed. It was made to "atomic" strength, one step below "batman".)
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 12:19:30
V8 juice HAS celery in it. So its in my sauce. There is also spinach, tomatoes, Beets, etc.
I have seen someone have a made up recipe for V8 using raw components.
If I did that, I would not have to cook down as much, ot take so long.

TJ 67, last name szekeres

Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 12:25:37

Hot. Hot ?
I carry a small bottle of home made Habenero pepper with me wherever I go.
If you need HOT just get some Dave's Insanity sauce to spice up whatever you need.
You can buy that at Decarlos in Elizabeth. One drop at a time, WARNING.

Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 12:41:55
LOL, yes, I am familiar with hot. Dave's Insanity should not be classified as a food item, it should be classified as a chemical. My favorite of the really hot sauces is Melinda's XXXX; it still has a great vegetable flavor, habanero hot but still peppery with sweetness and some carrots.

The hottest anything I ever tasted was when I bit into a raw scotch bonnet pepper, when I was in Jamaica, about 25 years ago. It looked so beautiful, and delicious, and I had never seen one before and had no idea what it was. My, my.

Just sayin' on the celery seed. I remember the taste as pronounced celery seed, but it was years ago. I'll do the experiment myself, I wasn't trying to "Tom Sawyer" you into doing it, but I considered that you might have some already made up. I will absolutely mix up your recipe and try it, it looks pretty good; I'll probably do some as written, and with extra celery seed, and see 1) which I prefer, and 2) which is more like the taste I remember.

Last name Brenholts.

EDIT: Looking closely at the recipe, I see the Mrs Dash. Celery seed is a key ingredient of Mrs Dash. Could be right there.
post edited by Mosca - 2009/12/04 12:46:38
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 14:36:41
Oh; and, WELCOME TO ROADFOOD! This is one great forum. Except... ahhh, never mind.  Welcome!
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 14:58:09
Well now I know some more about Ms. Dash !
I didn't first start using Mrs. Dash until the last few years, but I
use it on everything as its not salty-no salt. I like to rub it into the meat also.

I commonly bite into Habeneros, and I am partially immune, but I know how
to eat them. The white spines  inside and the seeds are the hottest part
of peppers. The thing is, I get the real taste of the pepper and not just the hot.
I can tell if its fresh or sour very easily. Most peppers at the store are picked too soon.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 16:06:28
I never knew that Pittsburgh or the Mon Valley had their own style of sauce.  This has been very informative.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2009/12/18 10:45:43
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/04 17:24:21
bb, I think gregys know more about it than I do. I've only ever had Jerome's in the Mon Valley, and that isn't enough for me to define a style; and I moved out here in 1987. Extrapolating gregys' recipe in my head to what I think it will taste like, it looks pretty good, but I'll have to make it and try it to see if it ignites the memory buds.

Gregys; I took the liberty of moving up one level on your website. NICE chicken soup recipe! And we share another common interest, audio equipment. I run mostly analog: vinyl, tubes, and electrostatics. Nothing against digital or solid state, it's just what is. No question that your electronic experience is your life, and listening to it is my hobby; but it's nice to share, regardless! Remember Tasso Spanos? I bought a pair of Luxman MB 3045s from him, still one of my favorite amps of all time. But one of the hand-wound output transformers went, and for the replacement cost I had a pair of boat anchors. He tried to sell me a used Futterman, I passed. Too many tubes, it was intimidating and I wasn't rich enough. The Obie Bomb Shelter home: I grew up in Pleasant Hills, probably know where that house is. Lots of other cool and idiosyncratic stuff;  excellent.
post edited by Mosca - 2009/12/04 17:28:51
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/16 16:46:31
I had good ribs yesterday from the Double Wide Grill on the South Side. ( Very tender, with a nice smokey sauce.

I have mixed feelings about the Double Wide Grill. I'm basically in favor of doing good Southern cooking in Pittsburgh, and I still remain in favor when the menu adds vegetarian options. But sometimes the menu seems to be mocking the rural Southern culture whose cuisine it's featuring, and that bugs me.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/17 02:59:21
Hello all, my first post here. 

Don't know why I was poking around the internet looking for Jeromes... but I did.  I grew up with in 10 miles or so of Jerome's bbq..  we called it the Rib Shack and some refered to it as Jerome's Jungle Club (old days).  Later when I got my first appartment it was in Sunnyside..  a 2 minute walk across the rail road tracks to Jeromes's.  My friends and I frequented it. 

Long story short... 20 some years ago I moved to Alaska.  Before leaving, my Nana and my Dad gave me several family recipes to take with me.  Along with Nana's raviolli's and Dad's apple pie recipe I also received the recipe for Jerome's basic rib sauce.  The story was the same as I read in an above post that Jerome lost it in a poker game.  I don't know that for fact.

I still have it...  as a matter of fact I'm looking at in now.  I have made it several times here and will say that if it's not the actual sauce it's as close as I could ever attemp to copy it.  To make it hotter to the levels of Hot or Atomic or Batman Jerome just added more ceyanne and/or red pepper flakes.

Now I'm not sure if it's the right thing to post the recipe,  and I'm not even sure if I want to give it away.  I will say that without the tomato products and water in the recipe there are nine different seasonings or spices, and yes one is deffinately celery seed.

I will look forward to all comments on my post and will check this sight regularly.  Thanks.

Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/17 10:47:49
Man. Jerome's was legendary for those of us who grew up in the lower Mon Valley during a certain age, like Green Man. 
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/18 10:49:00
Welcome to Roadfood!

I still haven't eaten at Double Wide Grill, but have heard good things.  On my list of places to hit soon.  Did you see Rowdy Barbecue in Brentwood got a good review in the Trib?

Let us know if you get there.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/18 18:06:21
The food has generally been good at Double Wide Grill; you can read the menu at and evaluate whether the menu raises your hackles the way it raises mine.

I have not tried Rowdy Barbecue--I'll have to put it on my to-do list.
Kenny Joe
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/18 21:30:16
My one experience with Rowdy Barbecue was not good. The sauce was not very tasty, the fat & gristle to meat ratio in the ribs was not what is should be and the ribs were lukewarm at best. I hope my experience was not typical but it would take a lots of enthusiastic reviews before I go back.
My experience a couple of years ago with the Banksville Road Barbecue was bad also. In that case, the temp was OK, the sauce was unremarkable, but the ribs had way to much fat and very little meat.
For the time being, I have sworn off eating ribs anywhere in Pittsburgh.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2009/12/19 05:55:38
Thanks buffet for the welcome. 
A very very interesting site.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/01/31 13:37:45
I finally got down to Century III to try Steel City Smokehouse and Saloon. Unfortunately, since the Post-Gazette review, it's undergone a change in ownership and lost the "Smokehouse" from its name. It's lost the smoke from the menu as well; the only thing on the menu was a pulled pork sandwich.

I had a "Chicken Baton Rouge"--pasta with chicken, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms in a spicy cream sauce. Pretty tasty, but not something to satisfy my barbecue cravings.

We lingered over dinner for a couple of hours, but saw only one table in the dining room occupied by customers. This is very low for a Saturday night--I'm not confident that this restaurant will last.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/02/05 20:57:07
Clem's is the best I have tried in the 'Pittsburgh' area. Although, I wouldn't really consider it Pittsburgh, since it is over an hour away from the city. It is a decent destination after a bike ride.

The Rib Crib in Elizabeth would be my top pick for the area.

The Gateway Grill in Monroeville has some good ribs, but they aren't a bbq place.

Someone asked about the 'Batman Sauce', they used to have this at Joe Gray's in McKeesport, but it has been closed for at least 20 years.

I am pretty well traveled in BBQ thanks to my job. My favorites:

Jacks Stack in KC - the crown prime and burnt ends are off the charts
Goode & Co in Houston - best smoked turkey and pecan pie I ever tried, brisket held up as well
Rudy's outside of San Antonio has awesome ribs and green chile stew
New Braunfels, TX smokehouse some of the best sausage I ever tasted
Salt Lick in Driftwood, TX - everything is good here
Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, AL has to be one of the strangest place I have ever been to, their ribs are top notch
Wilbers in Goldsboro, NC made me a fan of the eastern Carolina vinegar based sauce

Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/13 07:40:27
A bit of history.
After over 35 years I am still trying to duplicate the ribs and bbq sauce I had the good fortune of tasting at Joe Gray's ribshack which was located along the Mon river along side the railroad track around Monongahela PA.  Just today, an old friend and I were chatting about the recipe and in my searches (googling) I came across this forum. Several of you name Jerome as the proprietor of the shack. Here is what I know.
I frequented the ribshack from the late 60's through early to mid 70's, as well as I can recall. My friends and I made the trip all year round from Washington PA as often as we could even though in inclement weather the off road dirt tracks down to the shack were sometimes difficult to manuever. The shack was open for business 2 days a week -tuesday and either friday or saturday. Those two days, at the crack of dawn, Joe Gray (or was it Grey?) with his helpers Buddy and Red, began cooking ribs, chicken, porkchops, and hotdogs for a bar Joe had, which I believe was in Elizabeth PA., as well as for his "locals". Talk about slow cooking! Food was not ready for customers until around 3pm or later.
The shack was indeed just that....a shack with a big open pit grill in the center of the room and stand up counters around it on three sides. If you wanted to sit you took your food outside and sat on your car bumper.  Heavy plastic was tacked up where windows used to be. The floor was dirt.  The grill was 4-5ft high and in the back the huge vats of MILD, HOT, and BATMAN sauces sat on part of the grill made up of, well, bedsprings.  Joe used whatever wood was available in his pit and in times where good wood was not readily available that included old railroad ties. Finished ribs, etc., were stored in newspaper lined wicker laundry baskets and kept in coolers in the shack next door.  Yes, there was electricity. The meat was served on paper plates drenched in sauce with a couple of pieces of white bread. Joe sold soft drinks, and although he hid beer in the cooler, he would not sell it to customers.  This is why.  
The jungle club was mentioned in some of the posts.  I guess at one time this obscure, hidden area was an after hours place of sorts. There was a small concrete building not many steps away from Joe's ramshackle rib place.  Anyway, according to Joe, someone had been shot at the jungle club and the cops shut it down. My guess is that police had been paid off to ignore the area until this major situation occurred. I can't say for certain but after all this I'm sure Joe must have  been paying off whomever in order to maintain a sub-standard restaurant.  Much later the (new? original?) owner of the jungleclub -Jerome- opened a rib place there.  Everyone continued to patronize Joe's with incredibly few going to Jeromes. After a length of time the spare shack next door where Joe stored his meat mysteriously burned down to the ground.  These places of course were tinder boxes still it was unlikely that there was not a helping hand in the start of this fire. Joe kept his ribshack open.  And still, few people frequented Jeromes.  I don't remember how long it was after the first burning incident, but the last time we went for ribs we found Joe's shack had been burned to the ground.  Word was it was Jerome who had done the deed.  Jerome's was open for business but we refused to eat his bbq and never returned to the area. Apparently Jerome usurped the ribshack traditon along with its customers and any new bbq seekers in the area.
Joes sauce was very thin and not at all sweet tasting.  I think that's why I liked it so much.  If you read the label on the bottled bbq sauce today the first ingredient is usually high fructose corn syrup.  YUK.  Anyway, for those with any interest, I was once desperate enough to rummage through Joe's garbage cans in search of sauce ingredients.  I remember cayenne, yellow mustard, worchestershire, vinegar, and tomato paste containers in abundance.  I've been working with those ingredients as a base all these years and still haven't come up with the exact taste. 
As far as the ribs go, they were the st louis style ribs sold as long end and short end.  They were slow cooked in open air so they didn't get that fall off the bone state which some folks think is a sign of great ribs.  To me it means too much moisture; they've been cooked in an enclosed oven or kept warm over steam.   One secret Joe showed me is to pull off the thin casing like skin on the back of the ribs.  He said it allows the fat to drain out. He hand trimmed fat off each slab.  Also, he was known to return ribs to his supplier stating that they were "too fresh".   Anyway, the end product was tasty bbq. 
Joe's ribs and sauce were the best in the business.  I live in Kansas city now where bbq is big business.  I haven't found anything that compares to the ribshack and I have done alot of tasting. In my quest for the best I have even won a ribbon for ribs in the American Royal BBQ contest.  I keep making sauce from scratch, trying to get the exact flavor of Joe Gray's hot sauce.  Did Jerome also get Joe's sauce recipes?  If anyone knows the exact recipe, or even the ingredients please let me know.
Filet Mignon
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/13 12:18:27
"Joes sauce was very thin and not at all sweet tasting."

Exactly. It was reddish brown, and peppery, with a taste of celery seed. The Batman was HOT. I remember an Atomic in between hot and Batman.

Most of that history, which is great, is news to me and was before my time; I graduated high school in '72, and didn't go down that way until then (I didn't have a car). I do remember getting ribs from somewhere in Elizabeth. It was long, long ago, those were the '70s and I will not claim that my mind was clear for that decade.

Try gregys' recipe, and see what you think. I haven't had a chance to brew it up myself, I haven't made bbq for a few months. He seems to know his stuff, IMO.
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/18 19:13:30

I've found barbecue in Pittsburgh that I like!

On Sunday, I went to JT's Rib Shack in Penn Hills. JT noticed me taking a picture of the exterior.

I ordered a ribs and chicken combo on the recommendation of the woman behind the counter, and then JT showed me around and encouraged me to take more pictures.
The menu: 

JT's sign:

He opened the smoker for me to take a picture. 

I asked about a pan that held barbecue but no meat. He said that it caught the drippings from the brisket.
I responded eagerly at the mention of brisket, and he he agreed with me that it was hard to get good brisket in Pittsburgh.

I went back in to wait for my food, and JT brought me in a sample of the brisket. It was tender, smoky, and luscious.

He also let me sample the filling for his recent sandwich creation, the "Oink Moo Peep": a mixture of chopped brisket, pork, and turkey, on a bed of macaroni and cheese. It was a yummy combination--I'm going to have to try the full sandwich soon.

The "Oink Moo Peep" on the left, the brisket on the right:

Another question came up: what sauce did I want? JT offered me samples of all three of his sauces. The mustard sauce was pleasantly tangy, the red sauce was vigorously spicy, and the "Chunky-Chunk" sauce was a combination of the two with jerk seasoning added. I chose the mustard sauce.

I finally got home, rolled up my sleeves and put my hair in a ponytail, and sat down to my feast.

The ribs were delicious, tender enough to slide off the bone easily, but sturdy enough to reward chewing with delicious smokey flavor.
A closeup of the ribs, to show off the smoke ring:

The grilled wings were savory and flavorful--they aren't my favorite yet, but they have convinced that there's a legitimate place for them on a barbecue menu.
The macaroni and cheese was just the way I like it, with visible hunks of cheese among the noodles, and the fried cabbage was succulent and flavorful.

I am eager to return.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/19 14:10:00
Well Ralph, if a Texan like yourself says it was good, that is enough for me.  It sounds like you had an all around great experience!
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/19 18:07:20
Even though I was born and raised there I never associated "Pittsburgh" and BBQ.  But, I have always associated Pittsburgh and great home-style cooking.  I'll add a few places here on my eating iternary next trip "home".  Thanks for the interesting thread.
BTW:  the best 'cue I ever 'et was Wilber's in Goldsboro, NC.  And I even order the sauce he uses by mail: .
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/03/26 07:58:38
Wow!  sauce with NO sugar?  I wonder if it contains splenda?  Will have to order some of that. 
By the way, if anyone is hungry for bbq in southern florida where i am right now, there is a place in Lake Worth and another in Boynton Beach called Park Avenue BBQ (sign reads PA BBQ).  They serve baby back ribs which are pretty darn good, along with bbq sandwiches - ham, pork, brisket.  I think you can get half a chicken also.  And, get this, on Mondays (as of now) all day you can get a FULL SLAB of baby backs, 2 sides and a corn muffin for $10.99.  Such a deal!  The half slab dinner is $8.99 and I can barely finish the full slab is lunch and a take home dinner for me.   Sides include mashed potatoes which are quite good, potato salad, slaw, collards, fries, and others I forget.
Re the post on JTs in the pgh area.  Looks like a great place.  The only problem (in my opinion) with BBQ in Pittsburgh is that open pits are not allowed.  At least they weren't back in the late 70's.  They have to smoke the meat in closed ovens with all kinds of filters due to pollution restrictions.  That changes the way the meat cooks and I just don't think it's as good as open pit bbq.   As I recall...and it's been a long while.. it seems a bit too smokey and moist.
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/04/12 18:08:23
Hey all, This is John here, owner of The Rib Cage down in Monongahela, PA. I know this thread has not been active for sometime but I know some people on these forum mentioned coming down and checking the place out. Its summer now and time for BBQ and we'd love to see some new faces.

I created a special coupon for road food members, 20% off of any order over $20.  Hopefully you will stop in and see us.

Feel free to ask any questions if you'd like!
post edited by ribcagebbq - 2010/04/12 18:09:42
Ralph Melton
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/04/19 17:44:36
[font="verdana, arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small; line-height: normal; "]On Saturday, Lori and I drove down to Monongahela to visit Rib Cage BBQ.

John had said "If you are ever planning on coming down with some friends please let me know beforehand and we will make sure that we take care of you." I had dithered a bit about whether it was appropriate to accept that sort of special offer for a visit that I intended to report on. (Amateur reporting to LiveJournal and Roadfood, that is.) I concluded that it was okay for me to get the "special Roadfooder treatment". My journalistic standards are that my work should be both honest and interesting, and a report of special Roadfooder treatment would be interesting to Roadfooders, and could be honest as long as long as it was clearly labeled as such. So I sent him a private message that we were planning to come down.

The place looks like a barbecue joint should look, with lots of wood and smoke coming up from inside:

(I learned later that it was cherry wood.)

The walls and floor are concrete, with a bit of piggy decor:

We were looking for a variety of food, and I was particularly interested in the pork chop on the menu, so we ordered a #1 combo: pork chop, 1/4 slab of ribs, riblet, small fries. We added a cup of baked beans. I said that we'd found out about the place from, and asked to meet John (I'd been told that the father and son who run the place are both named John). John Sr. came out to meet us, but he didn't hear my introduction clearly, so he didn't go into full "special treatment" mode until later.

We would have gladly sat at the counter, but even though we'd arrived at 3pm to try to come at a slow time, the counter was full. So we took a seat in the little dining room at the side.

A little later, a lady in a Steelers jacket asked if I was Ralph. I confirmed that I was, and she introduced herself as John's wife. Apparently the younger John wasn't in that day, but had mentioned my message that I hoped to come by, so recognition began at last. And did we ever get special treatment!

The other nice lady brought us white bread, cornbread, and samples of the sauce to confirm that we wanted the "sweet and tangy" sauce instead of the mild.

The reddish brown sauce had the chunky texture of spaghetti sauce, with a strong tomato flavor. The Roadfood discussion had led me to expect celery seed in the sauce; I did taste that significantly, but perhaps I did so only because I was primed to do so. I'm sure that I haven't identified all the seasonings that went into it. The sauce was served steaming hot, which was novel to me. The mild sauce had some spicy heat, and Lori is heat-averse, so we confirmed our sweet and tangy choice.

The combo plate had the unglamorous presentation suitable to a barbecue joint:

I think the picture conveys the texture of the sauce.

I rolled up my sleeves, swept my hair back, made sure I knew where the stack of napkins was, and dove in.

The first thing that came to hand was a rib:

The rib was hearty and meaty, definitely a rib to gnaw instead of a plucking the meat away.

After a rib apiece, we came to the pork chop. This was a massive piece of meat, larger than a hand and an inch thick:  
This was tender and juicy; I didn't use the knife and fork, but broke off tidbits to eat. I have no idea how it makes economic sense to serve such a huge piece of meat for $3.75--I'm surprised that covers the cost of the napkins required to eat it.

As we were trying to eat the pork chop, John came through, and we had a much better introduction. He was very enthusiastic about his place and his food, and we had a great time talking with him. He pointed out that he gets whole pork loins and cuts them into chops on-site, and he trims them so thick, because if he cuts them thinner, the texture would be "like a hockey puck".

He brought us a sample of his pulled pork, which we both quite liked; it was very soft, with a mellow flavor:

John then brought us a sample of his Italian sausage. It was really good, flavorful and juicy--he explained that the reason that it's so good is that when he gets far enough toward the end of a pork loin that it can no longer produce the massive thick chops he serves, he chops up the remainder for sausage.

We would have liked to have eaten more of everything, but even though we'd only had a bowl of cereal before coming, we were gorged to a degree that we had never reached in all our New Orleans eating.

John then showed us around the restaurant, including the pit. Somewhere in this conversation, I had an "Aha" realization that I probably should have had much earlier: This meat is not smoked. This meat is cooked over an open flame at very high heat:

The heat is so intense that it deforms the heavy metal grate; the grate has to be replaced every six months.

Knowing this makes everything make more sense. The pork chop makes a lot more sense as a specialty of the house; it's suited to fast cooking. Beef brisket isn't on the menu, and I wouldn't recommend it be added to the menu; the hot fast cooking wouldn't provide enough time to gelatinize the collagen.

Final conclusions:
- I would not come here for smoked meat; this is open-pit BBQ, cooked over a hot fire.
- The food was good, and the portions are so massive that the food-to-cost ratio is off the scale.
- I had a great time talking with John; if possible, I recommend talking with him about the restaurant and the food, because it really added to our enjoyment.

post edited by Ralph Melton - 2010/04/21 14:20:37
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/04/19 19:04:38
Oh, my - - - I am salivating all over the place here....  That looks wonderful...  I will have to add it to my 'gotta do' list for my trip to the Burgh....  I am crossing my fingers that I can do that this year.....
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/05/03 12:30:06

Thank you so much for the kind review. Sorry it took me a little while to respond, things have been a bit hectic as of late. My father also enjoyed talking to you and your wife and I am glad that you enjoyed your experience at the Rib Cage BBQ. We would be more then happy to have you back anytime. Thank you again for taking the time to do such a nice write up on the Rib Cage!
Junior Burger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/05/20 02:59:27
Hey. The Rib Cage is as good as it gets. Ive been eating there at least 5yrs. now. I call ahead with separate orders for as many as 20 people sometimes to take to work for lunch at a steel mill 20min away from the place. John n Barb always have my orders hot n ready when i get there at the time i regeust. This is no easy feat as they package n bag each order individualy for me to hand out once i get to the parking lot at work. The portions are crazy huge. If you ever get a chance to try the place out, DO IT. Its what a ( Rib Shack ) should be, straight and to the point. Its about the food and the company. I get an order of their fresh cut fries with cheese and bacon then top that with the pork from a pulled pork sandwich then smoother it all in some of their hot sauce. Its a huge plate of heaven. The first thing u smell in the air when you walk in is the aroma of the hardwood burning under the huge open grill that you can watch your food cook on. They have tables set up out side for when the weather is nice.   
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/05/23 11:07:35
Last weekend picked up a chicken, a full rack and a couple of sides from Pittsburgh BBQ Company on Banksville Ave.  There were few complaints from the group.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/08 09:59:59
In reading from kcbaglady, I DO remember hearing about the fire in the middle of the room and dirt floor.
The RIB JOINT is what everybody called it in high school TJ, in the mid 60's. Lets go to the RIB JOINT
they would say, but I never had gone with the crowd. When I tried to duplicate Jerrome's sauce
in around 1980, I sensed celery, cinnamon, and cloves. So I used V8 juice and added the cinnamon and cloves. V8 already had celery. It seems that Jerrome's is dark and not red like mine. Mine does taste very similar to the Rib Cage sauce. My mouth is watering, but please don't use MSG. Yes, MSG will
make your mouth water, but it has effects on many people. I will say, Blaine Hill uses MSG.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/08 10:22:35
I really think the Rib Cage should try to market their sauce. Blaine Hill sauce is still the river style but lacks overall zip. Sure you can buy it in the local groceries. It just that, the sauce seems unique and more Americans would enjoy it if you could order it by mail. Its been a long time but Eliot's Barbecue sauce is also similar to the Rib Cage. You can buy sauce at all the mentioned pits but its only Blaine Hill that has mail order.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/08 10:32:53
Perhaps McCutcheon's would make a great place to make and sell the sauce. mcCutcheon's makes a great spaghetti sauce actually on contract for a sauce sold at a nice joint in downtown Frederick Md. Their products are sold at Trax Farms, mail order, etc. I used to like their Screaming Hornets
hot sauce. They make and sell quality stuff.
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/08 11:04:28
I was looking for this thread earlier and couldn't find it.  Had assumed it was under the bbq forum.

Very nice comprehensive report Ralph.  Sounds like they treated you well.  I still plan on making it to Rib Cage before the Summer is out.

This article about JT's Rib Shack was in the Trib about a month ago.

Thanks for the reminder of Pittsburgh BBQ Company.  I haven't been there in a couple of years and I drive through there on a regular basis.
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/09 09:45:45
More on trying to duplicate the best sauce. While I have been trying to get the most out of the sauce, I have added a couple things. First some celery seed to compliment the celery already in V8. Then there is a popular pork seasoning Marjoram. The marjoram is a mild spice. Im definitely not against adding Worcester sauce or mustard. I wish I could come up with ingredient list without using name brand products, but its easier to do that. There are probably more ingredients in V8 than we need, but the sauce stands out amongst others in that it compliments the meat, and think vegetables. Its like eating your meat and veggies at the same time without that awful thick sweet gummy sticky yuckkk.

mayor al
Fire Safety Admin
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/09 10:37:23
Thanks Ralph, and others for a very informative report on Pittsburg's BBQ world.  I must admit when I saw the title of the thread All I could think of was that the term Pittsburg BBQ is an Oxymoron, kinda like Kentucky Library and Military Intelligence !  Now I know better, and thank you for sharing with us !
Re:pittsburgh bbq 2010/06/10 10:00:27
I have looked up all the ingredients in the current recipe and using V8 and Mrs Dash. The main part of Mrs Dash is the pepper, lemon, and onion, but I show all ingredients. Of course its salt less itself.

Tomato Juice from Concentrate (Water, Tomato Paste),
Lemon Juice
Natural Flavoring
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Citric Acid.
ground cloves
black pepper
celery seed
cayenne pepper
orange peel
lemon juice powder
citric acid
oil of lemon
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