Ashley’s Barbecue just might be the best in the Milwaukee area

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. 

Ribs &shoulder/outside

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


16 thoughts on “Ashley’s Barbecue just might be the best in the Milwaukee area

  1. Not sure if you visit any barbecue joints south of Milwaukee, but Kenosha has one called Hillary’s on Sheridan Rd near 75th I think? Good stuff. There used to be a place called Slater’s which was in Waukegan, IL down on the lakefront. It was run by an old man and his family. The butcher block so worn from all the years of chopping, a giant pit, and tables adorned with whole rolls of paper towels. YUM. I miss him tons. The waterfront project bought him out years ago, though there still hasn’t been anything built in it’s place.

    oh BTW, I’m in Twin Lakes, while we don’t have any great BBQ joints here, we do have Mandino’s which has awesome Italian Beef, polish sausage, cheese fries etc :)

  2. Sounds great, but I wish it wasn’t in such a shady area. Just like Speed Queen, I feel just a bit uncomfortable driving though this neglected area of the city. I really miss Q BBQ and Great Northern BBQ.

      • Vonda, I agree with you. Just go there and enjoy the great food. Most residents are probably happy to see people from outside the neighborhood supporting great local businesses. Maybe if more people found reasons to shop in the central city, more businesses (and jobs) would follow.

  3. I was a little concerned about the neighborhood so I called ahead for carry out at about 5 pm so I would be able to get in and get out quick. (Yes, maybe a little paranoid).
    Boy, am I glad to have stopped. This is the best barbeque in the city, no contest.
    The owner greeted me warmly when I walked in to pick up my order (albeit behind the bullet proof glass cash slot that you see in certain parts of the city.) I told him about the July 29th blog entry and he said that he had not read it but other patrons had told him about it when they stopped in during the last few weeks. He offered me a take out menu and the weird thing is that after I paid he said that he will call me and ask me how I liked the meal (I ordered the Half and Half shoulder and ribs meal).
    As I drive home eating the shoulder from the box on my lap, I get the call from the owner! (I had called in for carryout on my cell phone). I told him that everything was all incredible and congratulated him for making such a good product. Real smoke flavor under a super sauce.
    We should support this restaurant because yes, Milwaukee’s BBQ scene is pretty bad. But Ashley’s is the real stuff. I always have liked Speed Queen but Ashley’s is better. The shoulder will make you think out loud “Oh man this is SO GOOD”.

    Give it a try. Hopefully if the owner (I wished I had gotten his name)gets more customers from this blog and word of mouth, he can move to a more accessible location with a DRIVE THRU!
    People will drive for many miles to eat this barbeque.

  4. Ashley’s is great, and the owners are Darnell and Thomas Ashley. Try their hot link sandwich with the spicy sauce, I’ve never had a better sandwich in Milwaukee. As far as Silver Spur, the new place is a nice restaurant but nobody can cook. I tried 3 times and had the worst BBQ in my life ( I’m 60).

  5. Tim, those of us who live in the ‘spooks’ support love and appreciate our Ashley’s. While not an affluent area we do have some great businesses with quality products and services like Ashley’s. I live two blocks away on 15th street and walk there regularly at night to get my rib tip fix! I’m a 5 ft 3 female and I have never had a problem.

  6. I would prefer if people wouldn’t bring their racist terms onto EatWisconsin. I have no problem going to Ashley’s and would encourage anyone who wants some awesome BBQ to get their ass over there. If more people had Simone’s attitude about supporting local businesses (as opposed to Tim’s) maybe these neighborhoods wouldn’t be in such decline.

  7. Friends, BBQ Nirvana is to be found in the back of a Mobil gas station on the corner of W. National Ave (Cty ES) and Hwy 164, not far from I-43. The establishment is in what used to be a deli/bakery and it’s the best Q I’ve eaten in MKE. A Tennessee friend told me once that it ain’t real barbecue if you can’t find a pile of wood nearby. There’s a smoke-belching oak-fired smoker in a shack out front. Leon’s out there at 3 AM cranking up the brisket, chicken and ribs for later in the day and this stuff is good enough to ROLL in! You owe it to yourself to experience LD’s BBQ! Yowsah!

    • Yes! LD is now in the deli in the back of the Mobil station. There’s a bit of indoor seating and the product is as good now as it is in the hot months! I, too, wondered if he’d folded the business for the season when he folded his tent but he’s pumpin’ out great Q inside.

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