Mission BBQ

A pulled pork sandwich with fresh-cut fries and "cool slaw" at Mission BBQ. Customers can add their choice of regional BBQ sauces, including Mission BBQ's own Maryland-inspired Bay-B-Que Sauce. (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun / September 15, 2011)

Mission BBQ celebrates America, from its heroes — firefighters, soldiers, police — to its food — barbecue.

With a familiar restaurant concept, a handsome interior design and a short menu, Mission BBQ is a welcome change of pace in chain restaurant-heavy Glen Burnie. While not bad, the barbecue could be better. Still, it's a concept you could see expanding to other counties, and eventually, states.

Mission BBQ feels familiar in a fast casual way. It's set up like a Chipotle or Qdoba — you order at a cash register and wait for your food at a pick-up station. The interior is laid out similarly, with an open dining room with plenty of seating at many thick wooden tables.

It's decorated with a mishmash of military/police/firefighter and Maryland Terps helmets, jerseys and photos lining the walls. That, and a couple TVs dotting the corners of the room give Mission BBQ an upscale sports bar vibe. All together, it's a striking presentation.

In a stand-alone tin tub full of glass bottled sodas, you'll find a drink called Cheerwine ($2.29). Though not wine in the traditional sense, this Southern favorite tastes like a cross between Dr. Pepper and Cherry Coke but with a smoother flavor. If you're thirsty for stronger stuff, Mission BBQ also sells cans of beer in 12- and 24-oz. "tall boy" sizes.

After sitting down with your food, served on a sheet tray lined with brown paper, you find the real stars of Mission BBQ: the sauces. Each table comes equipped with a six-pack of original sauces, which helped items like the sausage ($4.99), slightly smoky but salty, become much better.

The sheet tray leaves a lot of room, so you can swirl the sauces like a painter's palate, mixing and matching to find your favorite combination. The thick and spicy Bayou barbecue sauce was the best match for the sausage.

The chopped brisket sandwich ($7.99) had shredded beef in barbecue but needed something. A shot of the Georgiaah mustard sauce perked up the sandwich and brought out the flavor of the beef.

The small side of mac and cheese ($1.99) was creamy and gooey but had no discernible cheese flavor. Mushy, overcooked macaroni noodles made it even worse.

The bay-b-back ribs ($10.99) were cooked decently but lacked a good Old Bay kick. Luckily, the bay-b-cue sauce, a vinegary Old Bay barbecue sauce, gave them the flavor they should have had in the first place. The corn bread square that came as a side to the ribs was a bit dry but was also pleasantly sweet and had pieces of corn throughout.

The NC pulled pork sandwich ($6.99) was the best sandwich we tried at Mission. The airy, almost fluffy pulled pork was topped with a crisp yet slightly sweet "cool slaw" and served on a light and toasty roll.

The big glass bottle of Carolina vinegar, a tart mixture which tasted like apple cider vinegar with Old Bay, was a fine counterpoint to the fatty pork and the creamy slaw. Be careful when applying the vinegar, as it can pour out quickly and ruin your sandwich.

The baked beans with brisket ($1.99) happened to be the best side of the night. The beans were smoky and sweet while maintaining meatiness from the brisket and deepness from molasses. A saucy, thick side of creamed corn ($1.99) was less successful.

While Mission BBQ does not serve dessert, they do have call ahead take out and a cargo truck parked out front named "Bam Bam" (Big and Mobile Barbeque Assault Machine) which transports their mobile catering unit.

Mission also generously donates 10 percent of its profits to charitable veterans, police, and firefighter organizations. On Nov. 11, they gave out free sandwiches and cake to veterans with help from Charm City Cakes.

Mission BBQ doesn't have Baltimore's best barbecue, but it's a better option than many other chain restaurants and fast food joints nearby. The concept is well on its way, and with more attention to the food, Mission will be serving good barbecue for years to come.

Mission BBQ

Back-story: Two patriotic best friends, Bill Kraus and Steve Newton, wanted to celebrate America's heroes and food. Enter Mission BBQ.

Parking: Don't worry — Mission BBQ has its own parking lot.

Signature dish: The NC pulled pork sandwich had airy — almost fluffy — pulled pork topped with a crisp yet slightly sweet coleslaw and served on a light, toasty roll.

Where: 7748 Ritchie Hwy. in Glen Burnie (in the Harundale Shopping Center)

Contact: 410-773-9888, mission-bbq.com

Open: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday

Credit Cards: Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, Discover

Food: ✭✭1/2

Service: ✭✭1/2

Atmosphere: ✭✭✭

[Key: Excellent: ✭✭✭✭; Good: ✭✭✭; Uneven: ✭✭; Poor: ✭]