City Barbecue is by all accounts a good corporate citizen.
The small regional chain with a restaurant in Sylvania Township provides opportunities for local groups to raise money, it's frequently at area fund-raisers, and the company's Web site is welcoming and provides plenty of information on City Barbecue's philosophy.
But it's time for the local restaurant to step up its game on the food front. And while they're at it, the dining area could use a bit more energy and pizzazz.
There's a lot of potential here, but much of it is unrealized, because the food is just OK, and with a commitment to higher quality it could be really good.
We visited on a recent weeknight and the overall vibe of the place could best be described as tired. The folks behind the counter were friendly enough - and we certainly weren't looking for manufactured perkiness - but not exactly enthusiastic.
Far worse and most definitely inexcusable was the fact that our side dishes (all $1.89) were inexplicably cold. The macaroni and cheese, which we judged as superior in taste to at least one of the locally owned and more higher profile Toledo barbecue restaurant's versions, was cold. The smashed potatoes: cold. The corn chowder, which was tasty and a nice complement to a barbecue meal: cold. The baked beans: cold. Only the hush puppies, which we found to be excellent, were hot.
Yes, we could have taken them back up to be reheated, but frankly it didn't seem to be worth the effort and that's not the point: The food should be hot the first time around.
We ordered a half slab of ribs ($10.99) and they were solid; nothing particularly special but not bad either. As with most barbecue places you're given options for extra sauce, and we slathered on some of the house and the hotter version, both of which were good. We weren't fans of the mustard-based sauce though.
On the other hand, the half chicken ($9.99) was exceptionally good. It was cooked to perfection, neither too dry nor so juicy you questioned whether it was done. This is something we'd order again.
A pulled pork sandwich ($5.99) was satisfactory. It's served sans sauce, then you can doctor your own, which means it's dry but not sloppy.
We decided to order takeout for our second round because City Barbecue is set up to encourage catering and ordering out. One test was going to be whether the cold side dishes were an aberration the first time around. We arrived early before they prepared the order and had only a five-minute drive to where the food was being eaten.
Once again it was a disappointment. The French fries were cold and limp. The mac and cheese, cold again. Only the green beans with bacon were hot, and they were steaming, which proves that it's possible for City Barbecue to get it right.
We were disappointed in the ribs this time because they were fatty, and a beef brisket sandwich ($5.99) was too dry and chewy, making for a generally unsatisfying meal.
City Barbecue's nondescript interior is open with high ceilings and a few picnic and benches in the dining area. On the one hand it looks like there's an effort being made to have a community-oriented vibe with high school football jerseys hanging on the wall, but most of the walls are covered with the kind of generic beer posters (the restaurant serves alcohol) you'd see in a college guy's apartment.
City Barbecue also has a restaurant in Findlay that we did not visit.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.