Restaurant Review: Mo Gridder's
You'll remember that back in January I was lamenting the fact that the New York Times had scooped me with a review of Mo Gridder's BBQ in the Bronx. Not only had the scooped me with a review, but they reviewed a barbecue restaurant in New York City that I didn't even know existed! Well, I finally got the chance to pay ol' Mo a visit and it's time to settle my score with the old gray lady.
Based on the New York Time's review, I was ready to take my life in my hands and head out to one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. Instead I found myself driving up Hunt's Point Avenue through a decent residential neighborhood and into the used car/chop shop section of the Bronx. And there right in front of me was Hunt's Point Auto Sales and Service; the home to Mo Gridder's BBQ. While I can't say the neighborhood was the most attractive place I've ever been, I certainly didn't feel unsafe by the groups of mechanics, UPS drivers and school children that were on the streets.
Parking around the corner from Mo's, I headed up to the bright red trailer right behind the sign. Now I was excited. A Southern Pride trailer with a Southern Pride cooker on the back on the streets of the Bronx! I thought I could make out the smell of cherry smoke as I crossed the street. I was going to enjoy this meal.
Looking at Mo's extensive menu, featuring everything from the expected bbq standards (ribs, pulled pork, brisket, chicken) to hamburgers to sausages and peppers to a pork cheese steak, I mulled over my choices and took in the scene. I looked over the scene and listened to other's make their lunch choices.
I took this picture of their menu board and was scolded by the counter girl - "Don't take pictures of that - it's not finished." She's right, the menu board isn't done, but the picture will show you some of their offerings. Prices run from about $4.00 to about $12. All plates come with BBQ rice, white bread and your choice of 2 sides.
I still wasn't ready to order so I wandered around the site checking out Mo's Southern Pride cooker, the open outdoor dining area and Mo's Microwave. Wait a minute. Microwave? On top of the smoker? Sacrilege! What's that doing here? My critical eye was now looking for the wood pile. All good BBQ places have a large wood pile somewhere near their smoker. I couldn't find one at Mo Gridders. I couldn't smell cherry smoke anymore.
I decieded to order the 3 meat platter so that I could get a real feel and taste of Mo's food. For $11.95 I got a large styrofoam container filled with BBQ rice (white rice with some Spanish flavors) Chopped pork, sliced brisket and ribs.
I found the inclusion of BBQ rice an interesting twist on an otherwise traditional barbeque presentation. It certainly reflects the Hispanic influence of the neighborhood, but I wonder what made Fred Donnelly, who is the man behind Mo Gridder’s, add rice in the first place. I assumed it was to be a filler on the platter which would reflect a small quantity of meat. Boy was I wrong.
Opening the 3 meat package, I found the container to be overstuffed with meat, rice, potato salad and beans. The ribs glittered and shined in the sun. The smoke ring rang out on the brisket. And the chopped pork, well it just laid there. I've never found anyone who can make a pile of chopped pork attractive. The beans were flecked with red peppers and the potato salad looked homemade. My stomach growled as I prepared to eat.
First up was the ribs. The ribs were meaty and tender with just the right pull. The meat didn't fall off the bone as you ate it. The ribs released only the meat that was tugged by your teeth. Perfect.
Now the brisket, which was moist and tender. Obviously machine sliced; very thin deli style. In judges school they teach us that brisket should be cut the width of a pencil, any thinner and it could be an attempt to pass off over cooked meat.
Onto the pulled pork. It was moist and perfectly cooked. It wasn't mush, but it wasn't tough. It was tender and had a great mouth feel.
And finally onto the side dishes. The BBQ rice was good and reminded me of the standard Spanish rice found in delis across NYC. The potato salad which I thought was homemade, really was just the standard deli potato salad with some well done modifications and add ins. But the beans, now here Mo has something outstanding. Finally my taste buds woke up.
Mo Gridder's BBQ meats were all perfectly cooked. Each bite was moist and tender, but they all lacked flavor. Everything was very bland and a bit of a disappointment. I can't say I didn't like it, but it all needs a heavier hand with the seasonings and with the smoke. I couldn't really taste the kiss of smoke on any of the meats.
Will I be back? Count on it. I'd recommend Mo Gridder's to anyone near Hunt's Point, but it's not a destination BBQ joint.
565 Hunts Point Ave Bronx NY 10474, Phone: 718-991-3046, Fax: 718-991-3061