It's a fascinating experiment to try at the latest stop on the BBQ tour. Take a bite of the ribs: good, nice rub, firm texture. Taste the sauce: good, pleasant mix of sweet and spice. Then put them together, and the result is amazing. It's a 2 + 2 = 7 combination, even better than the sum of the parts. How can a 64-year-old recipe be so good?
Some restaurants don't change and slowly fade, other's change and lose their customers. How does any restaurant remain relevant for 64 years?
The ribs used to cost $1.35. Back in 1946 a dollar and thirty-five cents could get you some good ribs. Now it costs $16.95 (just above the rate of inflation), some of the more expensive ribs on our tour. Market Bar-B-Que opened its doors during the Truman administration in the location of what is now Target Center's basketball court. Two locations later it found its home on Nicollet Avenue, where it's been for 26 years. The same family and the same dedication to great taste has kept the doors open through good times and bad: 11 recessions, 12 presidents, five wars, and the Walmartization of America. There's history in that rib-sauce combination.
Anthony Polski, the third Polski to own and run the place, says the key is to never coast, to never let up, to work hard and to always strive to have the freshest and best-quality food possible. He learned this from his father, Steve, who learned it from his father, Williard. Market Barbecue has only had three owners. The same lack of turnover extends to the pit masters. The current one, Michael Hammond, has been cooking ribs there for 32 years. He learned the secrets from Viola Wright, who had worked there for 34 years. Three owners and two pit masters in 64 years.
As for the food, they get ribs cut to their specs from Hormel. It is a St. Louis-style lean cut that has all the meat, but loses some of the excessive fat. They don't smoke their ribs, they barbecue them, direct heat, brick pit, constant attention. There's no gas, no electric heat, no steam assist, no charcoal, just wood and 64-year-old recipes.
As mentioned before, the ribs and sauce were an unbeatable combination. The pulled pork sandwich was nice but not special, and the sides were the expected fare. Market has a classic sauce and a hot sauce, both of which I liked and both of which had their own identity. Everything you eat at Market Bar-B-Que is prepared on site.
There are no easy answers to great food, just hard work over long periods of time.
Market Bar-B-Que is at 1414 Nicollet Avenue and at 15320 Wayzata Boulevard in Wayzata. They are open seven days a week.