Oct 13, 2016

A commoner dines at That BBQ Joint, Madison, Wis.

Once I know where I’m going to be working out of town for an extended period of time, I like to do a little advance scouting for the best food and drink options my temporary location has to offer.  That preparation brought me to the Williamson Street neighborhood often while I worked in Madison, Wis., but even with all of my research the Willy Street area still managed to surprise me.

One of those surprises I literally discovered one night while walking Williamson Street in search of another restaurant.  

Ribs, pork, brisket and chicken?  A handwritten sign beckoning me to try the smoked pulled pork above all others?  I hadn’t previously considered Madison a barbecue aficionado’s town, but I was willing to have my opinion changed with the right barbecue.

The name of That BBQ Joint sealed the deal.  I had to see if it lived up to its billing.  

From the moment you walk in, you can tell That BBQ Joint is a little space-challenged like most classic barbecue joints should be, with very limited table and counter seating and a steady carryout business.  Another good sign -- the smells of smoked meats emanating from this place are certain to strengthen your appetite.

You order at the register from the up-to-the-minute menu written on the whiteboards posted on the wall.  I say up to the minute, as like most good barbecue joints, they will run out of some popular items, which are smoked daily, as the night wears on.   

And if memory serves me correctly, that may be why I didn’t try the rib platter, which is a barometer by which I like to measure most barbecue joints.  I “settled” for the rib tips instead, but it only took one bite to know I would not be disappointed. The pink smoke ring on every rib was my first clue at how wonderfully smoked these babies were.  And the glaze on each tip perfectly complemented the smokiness of the meat.  A little dunk in any of the three homemade barbecue sauces on hand -- a nice sampling of sweet, spicy of Carolina mustard style -- just made them taste even better.   

As shown in the picture, my two sides were cole slaw and brisket chili.  Both were exceptional.  The slaw was labeled as “creamy Wisconsin slaw.”  I’m not sure what that means, but if it has anything to do with the use of purple cabbage, I’m all for it.  And honestly, who wouldn’t choose brisket chili over baked beans, especially once you saw the chunks of beef in this chili?  The brisket was fall-apart tender, and the chili had a nice kick.  I was very happy with the decision.

The most offbeat choice of my dinner was selecting an Original Sin Elderberry Cider to wash it down rather than a beer.  It worked, though.  It must have been a sweet and sour thing to complement the food.
That BBQ Joint is truly excellent barbecue in the classic sense of the word.  If you’re craving barbecue in Madison, Wis., I doubt you’ll find better than this place.  

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