When I told my wonderful daughter Elisabeth that I was ready and willing to drive the 40 miles southeast her way to celebrate her turning 27 with a dinner, she hesitated not a second in picking the place.
Ray Brothers Barbecue sits quietly on the side of Route 20 in Madison County, just past the fork I take when I want to visit Elisabeth in Hamilton and just before you enter Bouckville, the antique capital that brims with action one week a summer, when thousands of dealers descend to sell stuff to more thousands of buyers. Otherwise, placid place.
But Ray Brothers is usually hopping, my daughter tells me after we meet and greet outside and she gets her birthday hug, card and gift.
It looks like a warm enough barbecue joint in a long line of warm barbecue joints in my life. The Dinosaur, a place that I helped christen a quarter-century ago when I worked at the big daily right across the street. Limp Lizard, which sponsors my Thursday night bowling squad and sits so near the library. I do know that I really loved the bottle of barbecue sauce Elisabeth and her significant George Three gave me for Christmas.
Yeah, Ray Brothers has a lot on the line this meal. Birthday wishes from proud pops to darling daughter and a couple of barbecue lovers to boot.
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The decor inside is Deep Barbecue Joint. Lots of wood. A fireplace for the cold season. Sports on the TV on top of it. Dart boards. I liked it, even the odd but interesting touch of our silverware getting delivered inside a mug. When I commented to Elisabeth about the presence of only one paper towel sheet with the cutlery, she pointed out the entire roll on the table.
My daughter ordered pull pork because, well, great here, she said.
I wanted it Carolina style, slaw on top, with the platter’s two sides of mac ‘n cheese and … The second side didn’t happen because the waitress told me Carolina didn’t come as a platter choice, only on the sandwich list. I could order slaw as one of the sides, and they’d serve me a bun for a small fee, and I could build the sandwich myself.
Sure, I said. When the check came, the bun-charge was 75 cents.
The food was delicious. I liked the touch that you told the waitress what degree of sauce you wanted, and the pulled pork came pre-loaded. I added more, on the sandwich and the plenty spilling over on my plate. In fact, there was so much pork, Ellie B got some in a to-go container when I got home.
My mac n cheese was great, full of cheese and flavor. Elisabeth offered a forkful of zesty bean. A fry I snagged from her plate was OK, a tad soggy.
The food was as good as my daughter billed it. It was a happy birthday dinner.
We will go back, with my dear wife Karen and George Three along, I’d venture to say.
I think we’d like to test out the backyard scene, with a stage for music and tables and such.
What’s your favorite barbecue food? What looks good on the menu at Ray Brothers to you? What do you think of the place?