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Restaurant review: New downtown eatery serves barbecue with style

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Menu sampler:

Next time a downtown outing is in store, Red Rok BBQ & Bourbon Saloon is well worth the stop to check out the expansive menu and lively atmosphere.
Address: 123 Columbia Street W.
Phone: 755-6745
Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.–1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
•Fried pickles, $6
•Onion rings, $7
•Potato skids, $8
•Chicken Caesar salad, $10
•Texas chili, $4 bowl
•Pulled pork sandwich, $8
•BBQ chicken, $8
•Battered cod, $8
•Sirloin steak wrap, $8
•Red Rok porterhouse, $24
•Bourbon burger, $10
•Brisket platter, $12
•Half chicken, $10
•St. Louis style ribs, $22 full slab/ $14 half slab
•Selected sides: Fried Mac & Cheese, beans, green beans, Drunk 'in Apples, potato salad

Western setting, unique sides help make Red Rok a winner

Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 12:01 am

The Landing has a new resident as of early July in the form of the country-themed barbecue eatery Red Rok BBQ & Bourbon Saloon, 123 Columbia Street W.

Willing ourselves away from the temptations of the Fort Wayne Newspapers Three Rivers Festival's Food Alley, my coworkers and I stopped at Red Rok for lunch last week. The smell of the barbecue sauce wafted past us as we approached the restaurant.

We found seating — at high-top tables — with no problem, just with a bit of extra “oomph” to hop up into the chairs.

The eatery can seat more than 100 in its various rooms and patios. It's certainly not an intimate setting, but the ample seating provided many looks at nearby platters to start me salivating.

Western décor-heavy walls and dozens of mounted television screens create a lively atmosphere. Reclaimed wood trim and aged decorative barrels provided a rustic touch to the striking red walls. My coworkers and I enjoyed a sampling of “The Andy Griffith Show” alongside “Dr. Phil” as we chowed down.

May I suggest some John Wayne or Marshal Matt Dillon to strengthen the theme?

The large menu really does have something for everyone, though vegetarians admittedly have fewer options. Pulled pork, brisket, barbecued chicken, steaks and ribs are all on the menu. Lighter lunch options, such as a steak Caesar salad and a chicken tender wrap, are available.

Smaller portions of some of the “platter” offerings, such as the pulled pork, chopped brisket and barbecued chicken “sammy's,” might be a better fit and price for the lunch crowd.

I tackled my open-faced, pulled pork platter with cutlery, so fewer paper towels were required. The meal featured a generous portion of well-sauced, tender pork atop a piece of Texas toast that couldn't help but get lost in the mix, both in terms of flavor and texture. A more heavily toasted piece of bread would have held up better as the sandwich base.

I enjoyed each bite of the 12-hour smoked pork, free of fat and gristle. However, a coworker who ordered the same meal reported a bit of gristle and bone in her meal. The sauce, which leaned toward the sweet side, didn't overpower the meat or drown the platter.

My coleslaw side was more vinegary than creamy, which usually would disappoint me, though I found the lighter slaw paired well with the thick sauce. The potato salad was quite flavorful and creamy, though if you order, be prepared for a mouthful. The potato pieces were quite large. Both sides were plentiful and left me satisfied.

For a healthier side, a coworker recommended the crisp green beans, which she called the best she had ever eaten at a restaurant.

Another coworker ordered the Red Rok Pork Burger with the Fried Mac & Cheese as her side. Her meal, unlike the other meals that afternoon, came in a paper-lined basket instead of on a black plate, giving it much more of a lunchtime meal feel.

She described her sandwich bun as a bit hard, hoping it was toasted rather than stale. But that concern was soon solved by the meat juices and barbecue sauce. The dish was tasty and warm and didn't need any extra seasonings from the salt shaker or pepper mill on the table. She ate quickly, as her bun soon became soggy and began to fall apart. Kudos to her for taking on such a feat while wearing white pants.

The Fried Mac & Cheese spiced with jalapeno, which came in the form of golden-spheres, turned an ordinary bland, sloppy side into a tasty dish that remained interesting with each bite. The bit of heat reminded her of a macaroni and cheese she enjoyed in Albuquerque, N.M., a couple of years ago.

While sauce abounded, moist towelettes were nowhere in sight. Thankfully, attached to the walls were rolls of paper towels. It's a neat, fun concept I've never seen before.

Service was mostly up to par. We never had cutlery until we asked for it right after receiving our meals, but our cups never ran low and various wait staff checked on us multiple times.

Cindy Larson is out for a few weeks. Matthew Glowicki describes a one-time dining experience at an area restaurant. The News-Sentinel pays for meals. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel. You can reach Matthew Glowicki at 461-8362, or email mglowicki@news-sentinel .com.