There's no quicker way to start an argument than debating the merits of barbecue. Chairs have been knocked over and rounds have been fired over rubs, sauces, briskets and ribs.
While born and raised on the other side of the pond there's more gravy in these veins than barbecue sauce I know a few things about good food, and that's what R&R Barbecue is serving by the smoker full.
R&R are the initials for brothers Rod and Roger Livingston, two longtime barbecue competitors. During their years on the circuit, the Livingstons constantly were asked to open a regular outlet for their award-winning food. The new restaurant is the result of all those years of sweat, smoke and success.
A quick glance around the trendily designed space and i'ts clear the pair didn't hastily leap into the bricks-and-mortar world. The strip-mall locationformerly home to Hayai Zushi is coolly made over with a striking black and red color scheme. One wall is dominated by the restaurant's manifesto in big bold white lettering, an ode of sorts to the joys of quality ingredients cooked with considered patience. You'll also spot the odd trophy and mention of their ongoing prize-winning exploits, should there be any lingering doubt about the Livingstons' credentials.
The restaurant features an open kitchen, fronted by a counter orders are placed at one end and paid for at the other. You'll carry your own food to the table and fill your own soda, unless you order a beer (domestic $3.25, micros $3.50) or have extra food pending. Should one of the owners be on site, and they usually are, they'll more than likely stop by your table to check in. Past accolades and reputation only go so far, and I was impressed by how keen the brothers are to tweak their offerings based off customer feedback.
As expected, R&R's stock in trade is meat. Ribs, brisket (sliced or chopped), pulled pork and chicken make up the core of the menu. From there it's up to you how you chow down. Purchase meats by the pound, go lighter with a sandwich (a little over a third of a pound of your choice of meat, $7.99-$8.99) or choose from one of the set combo plates, which are my preferred way to sample the cuisine (one meat $11.99, two meats $13.99 and three meats $14.99).
I found no faults with R&R. Brisket and ribs came teasingly tender with that perfect pink tinge. Chicken and pulled pork were supremely juicy and soft. I could throw superlatives and adjectives around all day, but the fact is this is seriously mouth-watering barbecue that demands more eating and less pontification.
The side dishes are another highlight. Rather than mere afterthoughts to the main meaty proceedings, several sides at R&R are stars. While there are orthodox staples such as mac and cheese and coleslaw, it's worth digging a little deeper. My favorite was the deep-fried okra. Consign every memory of slippery green gunk to memory, as R&R's okra offers a rewarding crunchy bite. Hush puppies are on point, too. These savory balls of deep-fried cornmeal batter are served golden brown in fours. Skip the baked beans in favor of the red beans and rice, which just in case you didn't get enough meat come studded with chunks of spicy sausage. Some sides are complimentary on various dishes, others require a surcharge. Of the 11 offered, none are wallet-busting; they range from $2.75 to $3.75.
I do have a couple of quibbles with R&R. The trio of house sauces runs too sweet for my palate, and the hot variety is anything but although others may disagree. Also, food is served in plastic trays with disposable utensils. While I can largely get on board with that approach, I'd definitely prefer a couple of real glasses when splitting a 22-ounce Rimando Wit beer ($5) rather than use styrofoam cups.
Regardless of any minor nuisances, every other barbecue joint should take note. R&R, with its quality and consistency, easily pardon the pun smokes its counterparts with excellent barbecue.
Food • HHH
Mood • HH
Service • Hhj
Noise • bb
Brothers Rod and Roger Livingston give their competition-winning barbecue a permanent home in downtown Salt Lake City. The pulled pork, brisket and ribs are first rate; so are the okra and hushpuppy sides
Location • 307 W. 600 South, Salt Lake City; 801-364-0443
Online • randrbbq.net
Hours • Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed Sunday
Children's menu • No
Prices • $$
Liquor • Beer
Reservations • No
Takeout • Yes
Wheelchair access • Yes
Outdoor dining • No
On-site parking • Yes
Credit cards • All major