Around my neighborhood, Memorial Day seems to be the official opening of barbecue season.
As the afternoon wore down on Monday, tantalizing aromas drifted in from several directions, as neighbors fired up their grills. The smell was literally mouthwatering.
I also enjoyed Memorial Day barbecue, but not in my yard. Instead, we headed over to Famous Dave's, home of "legendary pit Bar-B-Que."
Dave's is a fun place that doesn't take itself seriously; after all, its mascot is a grinning pink pig.
The Fort Union location is decorated in a hunting-lodge theme, with lots of wood, a stone fireplace, taxidermy gracing many a wall and bits of old fishing and hunting equipment hung up here and there.
Though we waited to get a table, it wasn't bad for a holiday weekend, and the service was cheerful and competent. We started with two very different appetizers, the rib tips and the smoked-salmon spread. The rib tips, served with scallop-cut, skin-on potato wedges, were big and meaty, with a good flavor. My kids enjoyed them, though they were a little leery of the bone ends in each piece.
The salmon spread was a little different than I'd expected. It looked promising on arrival on the table, with chunks of salmon adorning the top of a pinky-white spread and wedges of "fire-grilled flatbread" all around. But though the spread itself was tasty, with a cream-cheese base, the salmon flavor was minimal unless I stuck one of the garnish pieces on top. And the flatbread was a little too assertively spiced to be a good foil for the spread.
Besides the peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich that my middle daughter ordered, we all got different meats, which let me get a good feel for how Famous Dave's does with meat, the heart and soul of any 'que joint.
My father-in-law enjoyed his chopped-pork sandwich, a big soft bun piled generously with hickory-smoked pork. The menu describes the sandwich as "slathered" in Dave's Rich & Sassy sauce, but it's actually used judiciously, just enough to pep up the flavors.
My mother-in-law, who has a hard time with spicy food, approached the menu with hesitation but was rewarded with the country-roasted chicken, a high-quality plate of plump char-grilled chicken pieces infused with a light lemon-pepper flavor.
My husband and I settled on the "classics-and-combos" section of the menu, he with the "rib-n-meat" combo and I with the two-meat combo. Between us, we tried spareribs, barbecue chicken, beef brisket and hot link sausage.
The barbecue chicken was more of that good-quality meat, this time a bit crispy on the outside and nicely sauced. The ribs were a bit dry outside but had good flavor and lots of meat on each bone. The brisket was also dry without the accompanying sauce, but was a good, lean cut of meat. (I, a Utah gal to the bone, maintain that the best and possibly only way to cook a juicy brisket is in a Dutch oven.)
My husband couldn't eat the sausage I passed over to him due to his breaking out into a facial sweat after one bite. It is, indeed, fiery, but bursting with meaty, juicy flavor. I liked it.
The sides we tried were uniformly good, from the sweet corn-on-the-cob and cornbread muffin to the pungent and crunchy coleslaw, spicy and meaty beans, cool mustard-sauced potato salad and the fat baked potatoes, salted outside and fluffy inside.
For dessert, we had the good but not special Kahlua brownie with vanilla ice cream and the very-special-indeed pecan pie. If you like that sort of thing, this is an excellent version, full of deliciously crunchy pecans almost turned to pralines by the sweet filling and a soft, sweet interior over a flaky crust. With the accompanying vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, it's a nice finish to a good barbecue, on Memorial Day or any other.Appetizers $4.99-$29.99, soup and salad $2.99-$7.99, sides 69 cents-$2.79, sandwiches and burgers $6.39-$7.99, lunch/early bird specials $5.29-$7.99, feasts $29.99-$49.99, ribs $8.59-$18.99, fish $9.99-$12.99, barbecue classics and combos $8.99-$13.99, kids' meals $2.59-$4.59, desserts $2.99-$4.99
Rating: ** 1/2
Where: 1166 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale (other locations in Layton, West Jordan and St. George)
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.
Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Sunday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Payment: Cash, major credit cards
Phone: 566-4442Web: www.famousdavesutah.com
Stacey Kratz is a free-lance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret Morning News. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org