On a Saturday I was working downtown and thought I'd treat myself to a lunch at Adam's Rib. I will confess upfront that I am a hard judge of barbecue, so consider yourself warned.
When I stepped in there were a couple people in front of me and the place seemed pretty busy for a weekend lunch. I hadn't noticed much of smoke smell on my way to the door which was disconcerting, but once inside I could smell that familiar scent of smoked goodness in the air.
First of all, they have big news! Adam's Rib opened a Tap Room in February! Their flier says they have 12 beers on tap and over 32 bottled beers.
Since I was doing a quick lunch I decided to try their brisket sandwich and hush puppies. The hush puppies are my favorite. I ordered my meal to go as I had to get back to work. As I waited I stood by the cash register and watched the employees work. This was my mistake.
Usually when you order you take a seat at a table and because of the high walls the kitchen is pretty much invisible. From where I was standing, I could see quite a bit. And I have to say I was disappointed. I watched half racks of ribs get taken from the microwave, stripped of their saran wrap, cut and placed in customers baskets. I watched two more half racks go in the microwave for over 4 minutes each! For me that is not barbecue, that is leftovers.
I was given my lunch by a friendly guy and I headed on my way. Hush puppies are no good after sitting in a take out bag and so I started munching on them on my way to the car. They were crispy and slightly spicy and tasted of fried corn. Yum.
Once back at my office I got to take a shot at the sandwich. Oddly the brisket was pulled, not sliced, which wouldn't have been so bad except the pieces of pulled meat were over 5 inches long. The meat was dry and hard to bite through so I couldn't really eat it like a sandwich. I don't know if it was the microwave or the lack of smoke smell outside the restaurant but I just can't believe that was freshly smoked meat. Their barbecue sauce is good and, although it goes against my nature, I slathered everything in sauce and ate it anyway.
BBQ is limited in Salem and over the last couple of years Mister and I have had an array of experiences at Adam's. Once after a day of moving we went in tired and filthy and swear we had the best meal ever. Another time we had staff mopping with strong cleaners under our table while we ate, a clear indication they wanted us to leave.
Adam's Rib seems to be an institution in this town, people who love it really love it. Signs all over the restaurant show they've been voted "best in Salem" a number of times. Their sauce is served on the Western burger at Willamette Burger Company and they're often seen at local events serving pulled pork sandwiches.
But for me, without a smoker out front smoking meat everyday and ribs from the microwave, it'll be a long time before I'll be back.
1210 State Street
Salem, OR 97301