About a month ago, the master of all things BBQ himself – James from The Eaten Path – asked me if I’d like to join him and some other food folks for lunch at Legends Bar: The Ranger Texas BBQ (hey, you look at that sign and you tell me what the name of the place is!). After trying unsuccessfully one Tuesday afternoon – the bar is open, but the smoker is cleaned on Tuesdays, so no ‘cue – we returned on a Friday to feast.
From the outside, Legends looks like any other sports bar in the area might. That’s because… it is a sports bar. But what lies inside is a full smoker, and a carving board to make anyone jealous.
When I got there – only minutes late, and not the last to arrive! – Joe, the Master of all Food Queens, was, unfortunately, on a tight schedule and didn’t have a lot of time to eat. He ordered ahead of us this beef rib, which was monstrous (this is half hacked off the bone already), and semi-tasty. Parts of it were dry, and other parts were juicy and flavorful. Hmmm.
After we’d placed our large – or what I thought was large – order, our server – I think his name was Jimmy, and he was also bartending that day – brought this out for us – one of the few things we hadn’t ordered, pulled chicken, on the house. He’d seen us with our cameras taking pictures, and he offered to show us the smoker (which was super effing cool! I can’t say I want one because I’d rather have an outdoor one, which would mean having a backyard, haha, but it was still very cool). I’m not sure if this was because someone (not me! I’d never do this, I find it embarrassing) blew James’ spot as a food writer, but regardless, Jimmy was very nice. The pulled chicken – which is something I make at home under the name of “kickin’ chicken” (because it has a bite to it) – was fine. I like mine better, but that’s both why I make it at home and why I don’t order it out. Haha.
Along with the pulled chicken, we were presented with three types of barbecue sauce: mild, spicy and vinegar. One of them was way too sweet, one of them a little too spicy, and yes, one of them just right for me. Unfortunately… I don’t remember which one. Doh!
Then our meats started piling up on the table. First up: North Carolina style pork shoulder. Undressed, with a dark vinegar dipping on the side.
I was not a fan of this. The pork was good, but the sauce was weird. I don’t think I’ve had it quite like this before, but I’ve had NC style pork in the past… so I think this might have been their take on it, or a different region of NC than I’m used to.
Pulled pork: the flavor on this was good, but some parts of it were a little dry – like chunks of “crust” – and parts of it extra juicy. I’d prefer not to share this for that very reason 😉
Mmm, smoked sausage links. I’ve never been one to order sausage at a BBQ place – I just don’t think of it – but I was really glad James had suggested it. Even being sliced like that, each piece had such a good snap to it, with the fatty juiciness bursting through. I REALLY liked these.
As for our sides… someone chose beans as one of the sides. I thought these were OK.
On a whim, I chose creamed corn, which had chunks of bacon or some sort of meat flecked throughout and yeah, this was bangin’. I was complimented on my choice several times. I guess I should follow my whims more often 😉
The St. Louis ribs. I liked these, though some pieces were a bit dry, some pieces extra fatty, so there was a consistency issue again.
And then the brisket, easily the most disappointing item that day: really dry, and though smokey, just… way too dry. I could barely choke down the piece or two I picked up.
Nearly all of the carnage on the table as we began eating. Yes, one of the fancy pants was wearing a tie.
Oh, last to arrive: cole slaw. I thought it was fine, but one of the other diners – I don’t think he likes mayo that much – suggested that it was too creamy, almost like a “cole slaw milkshake” which, the very idea made me kind of nauseated. (Please don’t let that be the next trend.)
And my plate. Don’t be fooled, though I filled my plate and then methodically ate my way through it, I ate about 5x as many pieces of sausage because I really liked it. That surprised me: as I said, I’m not usually one to order it… partially because I don’t tend to like sausage.
As we sat there, chowing down and chatting, I noticed that, like any good sports bar, there was lots of sports paraphernalia around. But it pleased me to see that it was a bipartisan sports bar; not only were there Mets AND Yankees stuff in the corner, there were banners for the Jets, Giants, and possibly our two hockey teams as well. I don’t know: I’m a baseball girl. I pay attention to baseball.
This entire meal, plus a few random beverages, came out to $60 for the 4 of us, including tax and tip.
Since I’d enjoyed the BBQ last time, and I wanted to return under more anonymous conditions, I tapped TC to join me on one of his rare days off for lunch at Ranger BBQ. He’s the only other FBMer that lives in Queens… and this place happens to be near our homes. I ordered root beer – I love root beer with my ‘cue – and he followed suit. It was served in a frosted glass – awesome!
Also, our server from last time wasn’t working, so anonymity prevailed. Funny note, though: the last time we’d been there, a woman had been eating in the pretty-much-empty restaurant, and she’d seen our cameras and started talking to us. She gave us a lot of recommendations on where to eat in the area, and told us how much she LOVES Ranger BBQ and how good it is, that she’s always there. Well, this was just under a week later, and guess who I saw eating there again – this time with a big group of women? Yup! She smiled and nodded at me on her way out, but I’m not sure she actually recognized me or just thought I looked familiar.
TC likes ribs a lot, but because I’d had the St. Louis ribs last time, we agreed to get the baby back ribs. I don’t think he liked them that much- I thought they were OK, but he commented on how fatty they were. Meh. I don’t mind fat! Hahaha. We decided that next time we go, we’ll get the St. Louis ones so he can try them and decide for himself.
We also ordered the beef rib. In general, I really like beef ribs.
It was pre-cut a bit so we just had to slide our knives underneath and cut away pieces for ourselves to eat. I found this time, it was super tender, juicy, flavorful, and I wished I’d ordered my own! TC is good about sharing, though, and I’m not inclined to be selfish around people who are good about sharing. I was very pleased with it, though.
Besides, there was a ton of food on the table. The woman I mentioned earlier had told us that the nachos were ‘something else’ here, so I wanted to try them.
Check out the mound of STUFF on top. These are fully loaded; our served asked us if we wanted ‘everything’ and I’d said yes eagerly, knowing there’d be pickled jalapenos on top. I like those. In any case, these were topped with pulled pork, and TC and I both agreed that the pulled pork was pretty good. Unfortunately, the chips suffered from being really stale, so though they sufficed as vehicles to transport pulled pork, jalapenos, sour cream, etc. into our mouths, this dish could have been so much better had the chips not been stale. Boo. TC did say that he’d like to come back to eat just the pulled pork though, so I guess it wasn’t a total fail.
I tried to order the creamed corn again, but unfortunately, they were out. Thinking on his feet, TC suggested creamed spinach, and this happily arrived. I’d had issues with some creamed spinach in the past, but this one was slightly garlicky, whipped fluffy, and perfectly seasoned. I liked it, and I believe so did TC (who liked the creamed spinach that I hated in the past).
Our other side was potato salad. This was okay, but it tasted like something I’d get at the supermarket – and not one of the better ones. Maybe they don’t make their own mayo-based sides here? Either way, I think I’ll be skipping all mayo-sides here from now on.
And for the two of us, with a bit of leftovers? $60, including our root beers, tax and tip. Hmmm.
One more time: I had an evening Mets game to attend, so I needed to eat before the game. Feeling tired of the options at Citi Field (understand that at this point, I’d gone to 5 games within a 10 day period), I decided I’d hit up Ranger BBQ once more as it is sort of en route to Citi Field for me (via public transportation, which loops around if you take the subway). I tapped Beer Boor to join me, and he decided we should start off with wings, ‘mild’ for my consumption. The little cup of sauce on the side bore a mild kick, but it was rather sour – not vinegary, just sour – so I mostly avoided it. I’d have preferred blue cheese or ranch as a dipping sauce, but I contented myself with eating all of the drumsticks. Yum. Meaty, juicy, properly fried, and coated in what really amounted to BBQ sauce, I liked these. There was a hefty portion, too.
(Our server from the first time I went was there, and recognized me. “You were here last time with the cameras and stuff, right?” and I smiled and nodded. Again, great service, and as it was a Sunday evening, busier than it had been the two times I’d gone for lunch on a weekday.)
They were out of the St. Louis ribs, so we went with baby back ribs again. This time, they fared much better, with a lot of smoke, and very juicy but not overly fatty. Yum.
Despite my warning, Beer Boor ordered the brisket. He said it was how he judged BBQ places – can they make brisket? If so, then great. If not… yeah, not so much. Once again, this was not good brisket. Super dry, and more like pot roast than ‘cue, I avoided any of it and Beer Boor had to finish the plate on his own.
Since I’d liked it so much the last time, I suggested we get a beef rib. There was a moment of confusion as the woman who took our order kept telling me I had to order it by the pound (as that’s how they charge you) and I kept saying I wanted one rib. Well, charge me by the pound, and if the rib is more, then charge me more – don’t cut some off and charge me for just one pound! I don’t know, but finally, this landed in front of us. It wasn’t portioned the way it had been in the past, so we took turns hacking at it (we hadn’t been given knives) (yes, it was soft enough to just rip pieces off of it as we ate). As a result, some pieces were fattier than others, but overall: great crust, great smoke, juicy, flavorful, and awesome. I was happy with it, anyway.
A platter of pulled pork: not overly sauced, tender, I liked this enough. BeerBoor seemed less thrilled with it, but he ate it anyway.
And finally, our sides; I took my experiences and picked out the best sides (aside from beans, because Beer Boor doesn’t like beans): creamed spinach and creamed corn. I wound up eating most of both of these after I was done eating the meats; that creamed corn is ridiculously good, with that hint of smokiness running through it from the chunks of meat in it. So good! The spinach was again slightly garlicky and perfect. Yum.
And the total bill? Yup, you guessed it: $60, before tax or tip this time, and with no leftovers. Haha.
Yvo says: After three visits on different days of the week at different times of day, I can confidently say that this is good ‘cue. The biggest drawback to Ranger BBQ is, however, consistency. While the same dish can be great one day, it can also be really bah the next. That is definitely an issue as I would like to make this my ‘local’ BBQ place and I would like to always know that when I go, what I order will be great (the meats, not just the sides). I’ll definitely return and continue to patronize them as they are good enough for that, but for someone who is thinking about making the trip from a different borough or farther away, it may not be worth it to arrive only to discover that you’ve come on an off day. I hope they pick up their game as time goes on and perhaps enjoy more people going for ‘cue, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
recommended, but not as destination dining… just yet