Based on a posting on the Cleveland Food and Wine Forum earlier this week, I decided to spend my Saturday afternoon checking out what was purported to be a true BBQ restaurant in Medina, OH. Bullies Real BBQ is a locally owned restaurant that pulls on BBQ traditions from the various regions throughout the country. It is located at 4055 Pearl Road, Medina, OH 44256 and can be reached at 330-725-4227. No website is available at the moment.
Honestly, what I had in my mind's eye when I was picturing the place was some type of old, broken down storefront (aka dive) that had just amazing food. When I arrived at my destination, I immediately became concerned. The storefront had an eerie similarity to a Columbus/Dayton chain called Tumbleweed:
Notice that other than the name itself, the only other two words on the sign are "Burgers" and "Wings". Hmmm ...
But, having driven for half an hour to get here, I wasn't about to abandon my quest. Upon walking inside, it looked extremely "chain-y". It looked like a cross between a sports bar and a Lone Star Steakhouse. There were flatscreen TV's plastered in almost every corner imaginable and nothing but sports on those TV's. The hostess sat me at a table where I had a nice view of the kitchen. Still unsure of what I was getting myself into, I started looking at the menus that were on the table. Bad mistake.
The dessert menu started with the words "Big Lou's Desserts". And looking at the desserts listed, it read like a who's who from an Olive Garden dessert menu. Or Chili's. Or Applebee's. You get the point. The regular menu was somewhat better, but the whole experience continued to feel very "chain-y". It wasn't until the waitress finally approached me and I started asking questions that I finally began to calm down a bit.
She explained that they do all the meats on premises, smoking them between 12 and 24 hours. She walked through the sauces on the table (which I will show you next) and gave me a few minutes to look over the menu. Many of the items come as either a "Sandwich" or a "Dinner". The difference, I found out after asking, is that the sandwiches come with fresh cut fries and cole slaw. The dinners come with more meat and a side of cornbread (along with said fries and cole slaw). The thing is, that the price difference between the two was fairly substantial. For instance, the pulled pork "sandwich" was $6.99 and the "dinner" was $11.99. For a little bit more meat and a side of cornbread, it didn't seem like a good deal to me.
So, I ultimately ordered the pulled pork sandwich and got a side of macaroni and cheese to go along with it. After my waitress left, I set about exploring the sauce box. First, a shot of side #1:
From left to right are the mild BBQ sauce, the sweet BBQ sauce, and the spicy BBQ sauce. Fortunately, I had a knife so I put a little dab of each one to try it out. The mild, ironically, had dried rosemary in it. Not so much that it was the predominant flavor, but there was a mild undercurrent of it (plus you could see it -- even in the photo above). The sweet wasn't all that sweet, but had absolutely no hint of traditional BBQ flavor base ... molasses or tomatoes. Actually, it almost looked "marmalade-ish" in it's color. The spicy one in the red bottle was a nice sauce, with a heat that simmered in the background. It wasn't too spicy (although I kind of wish it kind of was).
Flipping the sauce container around, you can see the remaining two sauces:
To the left is ketchup and to the right is a vinegar based sauce. There were really no surprises as to what each tasted like, so I won't go into any depth here.
Finally, my sandwich platter arrived:
A shot of my sandwich without it's crown:
The cole slaw on top of the pulled pork was a vinegar based slaw as opposed to the slaw in the little plastic cups that came with the platter. I'm not sure if that was what added to the overall juiciness of the pulled pork, but between the slaw, the spicy BBQ sauce and the pulled pork, it was a very good sandwich. Spicy, sweet, juicy, and crunchy. The fries were not bad, probably the best example of fresh cut fries I've had so far, but they inevitably suffered from the same problem as others: some were nice and crispy, others, limp and oily. The cole slaw in the little cups was a dairy based cole slaw. The original post on the Food and Wine forum said to pay particular attention to the cole slaw, but I honestly found it to be a little boring.
Finally, a little bit on my side dish of macaroni and cheese. First, a picture:
I love a good mac and cheese, and sadly, while creamy and tender, this one was just sort of flat and one note. It was as if they had used a really mild cheese with no character at all. While this might appeal to the kiddies, it definitely didn't appeal to my adult sensibilities.
Overall, I thought the meal was pretty good with the pulled pork being the breakout star of the meal. I don't know if I would travel that far by myself again just to get a meal, but if I were making suggestions or tagging along with a group already content on eating there, I would certainly not have a problem returning.