After finding a parking spot on the side of the building (there are never any openings up front), you walk up to the entrance of the seemingly small establishment, which proudly proclaims “Real. Good. Food.” Upon entering, you’re greeted with smiles and hellos from the staff, who welcome you to take a seat wherever you’d like, beside light yellow walls covered with sharpie messages from past customers or perhaps in one of the booths under the string of red solo cup lights and wooden quotes ranging in topic from thanking God to listening to your wife. You’re at Reuben’s Smokehouse, of course, in all its Southern charm, unfindable without a smartphone GPS or the company of a seasoned veteran.
The restaurant is a nearly half hour trek from campus but is well worth passing nearby wannabes such as Famous Dave’s, Mission BBQ and BurgerQue. This is where you come when you want the real stuff — authentic, messy, delicious barbecue.
Trip Advisor ranked Reuben’s as No. 4 barbecue joint in the nation, but when you take that first bite, you completely forget about the top three.
As expected, you can order everything from pulled pork to ribs, which I’ll note are spare ribs for those expecting baby back. Anything chosen from the “From the Smokehouse” portion of the menu is dry-rubbed, leaving you the freedom to choose between the classic Sweet & Smoky Sauce, the vinegar-based House Sauce and oddball My Momma’s Mustard Sauce, all of which are conveniently located in squeeze bottles on your table.
I’ve tried nearly everything on this menu I’m unashamed to admit, but I keep coming back to Mom’s Bacon Meatloaf with sassy sauce. The sweet ketchupy, barbecuey sauce is everything I’ve looked for in other meatloaf toppings that have, until this take, fallen short.
Most dishes come with one to two sides and their fresh yeast rolls, served with homemade strawberry jam I could bathe in. My personal favorite sides are the Cheesy MAC, a classic, and the molasses baked beans, naturally.
You can eat here for under $15 a person, easily, but that would mean missing out on the chocolate caramel bread pudding in all its heavenly glory. Trust me when I say I’m a dessert snob, seeing as dessert is my favorite meal of the day, yet I have had a dream or two about this pudding. It’s definitely big enough to share, and after everything you just ate, you probably should. But, no one can blame you for eating the whole thing and regretting it the second your fork hits the empty plate. We’ve all been there.
For those wanting something even more chocolate-laden, order the Gooey Fudgy Chocolaty Cake. And, for those who are anti-chocolate, first of all, I’m sorry for you, and second, they do have their Luscious Lemon Bars. I was pleasantly surprised to find the squares aren’t overpoweringly sweet and lack the lemon zest that makes some bars overly tart.
After all the hype, it comes as no surprise that I’m giving Reuben’s a 10 out of 10. Just keep in mind, this is probably not first date food, or it’s perfect first date food if you want to see the real them day one. I’ll leave that up to you.