Milwaukee’s BBQ scene is pretty bad. In recent years we have lost two locations of “Q,” which had award winning barbecue but not enough customers. We also lost the spectacular J.T. Bones located near Capitol & Humbolt, and those of us in Waukesha County lost another superb place in Great Northern BBQ Company. Silver Spur, and their great smoked brisket, did re-open after a fire destroyed their Brookfield location giving some hope, but no local dining trend has pissed me off like the inability of this area to support great American BBQ places like those establishments. I honestly think its because people are cheap. They feel that if they are spending 9-13 bucks on something that it should be served to them by a waiter, not handed to them over a counter which is quite unfortunate because the food at these places was better than sit-down places costing twice as much.
While its undeniable that the barbeque scene is hurting in the area, there are some long standing establishments that offer a beacon of hope. One of them is Speed Queen, the other is Ashley’s. I finally was able to stop at Ashley’s Barbeque a couple weeks ago after hearing about it for a couple of years. Whenever I would comment about any other barbeque place, readers would tell me I had to check it out.
The first thing you notice is the smell of hickory smoke in the air, a sign of true barbeque. After studying the large menu for a while, I went for a half and half meal of outside and ribs. The outside, for those unaware, is the outside of the shoulder that has turned almost black from the long, slow smoke. The outside meat tends to be chewier, even crunchy in places, but is very flavorful and often sells out quickly at places like Speed Queen. The owner asked me if I wanted some regular shoulder meat mixed in with the outside meat and I am glad I said yes. It was very tender and had a great smoke taste with the tell-tale red ring from the smoking around the edges. The outside was superb as well and I have no problem in declaring it better than Speed Queen. It had a more pronounced smoke flavor and the sauce was excellent. They actually offer regular BBQ and hot BBQ sauce. I had regular on my food and a side of the hot. The regular sauce has just a slight bit of sweetness with a nice peppery flavor. The hot sauce was very spicy but still had a great flavor. The ribs were huge St. Louis style and were also perfectly smoked to the point of being tender, but not “fall-off-the-bone.”
The barbeque offerings are quite impressive. They have shoulder, ribs (both beef and pork), hot links, rib tips, and even snout. I look forward to working my way through all of them. The owner said that if you ever get sick of barbecue or just want something different, to try the catfish. While I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this excellent barbeque, I do think I’ll give the catfish a try next time I visit. They also have a weekend take-out soul food buffet as well.
Ashleys is located at 1501 W Center St Milwaukee, WI 53206. Phone: 414-372-7666 http://www.freewebs.com/ashleysbarbque/