On a Tuesday midafternoon, people were lined up at The BBQ’s counter, placing their orders. At first glance, we were surprised that so many diners had a yen for barbecue fare after the usual lunch hour.
One bite of our pit-beef sandwich and hickory-smoked chicken, and we knew why. Owners Maurice Bradford Sr. and his son, Marcus Bradford, have brought a delicious taste of the South and added a friendly facade to a bleak block in Baltimore’s Harwood neighborhood.
The family was familiar with the area after operating Max Supply LLC, a lighting company, on Greenmount Avenue for several years. When Maurice Bradford was planning to semi-retire, he decided to pursue his dream of opening a barbecue place, locating it next door to the business.
The easygoing spot, which opened in late May, has a cheery staff and offers tables inside and out. We settled in, enjoying the camaraderie of the other customers, who didn’t mind telling us how much they liked the food.
With its terrific slow-cooked meats and side dishes, The BBQ is a welcome addition to Baltimore’s growing number of barbecue joints.
SCENE & DECOR The eatery projects a hospitable vibe as you approach the front door, with potted greenery and sidewalk tables. Once inside, inhale the enticing barbecue aroma and listen to the cooks engage in lively banter in the open kitchen. A stack of wood hugging one side of the tidy, brick-walled dining room announces the restaurant’s intentions. The space also has several colorful chalkboards with cute line drawings of items like a pig and a slab of ribs. (Maurice Bradford Jr., another family member, who graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art and lives in Florida, designed the restaurant’s graphics, menu and signage.) The biggest challenge for us was finding one of the scarce menus before we had to place our order.
APPETIZERS Not applicable
ENTREES Like any respectable Baltimorean, we chose the city’s iconic pit-beef sandwich ($6.49). The BBQ’s was a worthy rendition. The meat was tender and juicy. Some diners may quibble about the heavy dose of tangy barbecue sauce on it, but you can ask for unadorned beef if you’d like. There is also a condiment area with horseradish, mayo and other fixings to doctor the sandwich. A side of warm macaroni and cheese ($2.55) was comforting and good. We feasted on a quarter of chicken ($7.50), featuring a plump thigh and leg. We chose the “wet” version, with barbecue sauce, and were happy with the messy result. The dish comes with two sides. The baked beans were flavorful but had an overwhelming ratio of liquid to beans. The crunchy cole slaw was freshly made and enjoyable. We’re looking forward to trying the smoked ribs ($9.99 for a half slab plus other choices) on another visit. They’re served wet or dry. If you like cornbread with your meal, it’s extra (95 cents).
DRINKS You’ll find the usual array of fountain sodas (medium, $1.89). The half and half (lemonade and iced tea, $2) isn’t listed on the menu. You have to ask for it at the counter. If you’re a sweet-tea fan, you’ll love it. Me? Not so much.
SERVICE The pleasant staff at the cash registers keeps customers moving without making them feel rushed. You retrieve your food at the counter when your number is called.
DESSERT There were two desserts listed on the menu when we were there. The kitchen was out of the pound cake, but the peach cobbler ($3.75), served warm in a cup, was available. The dough was mushy, but the peaches tasted fresh.
Backstory: Owner Maurice Bradford Sr., who grew up in Lake City, S.C., settled in Baltimore after serving in the Army. His son, Marcus Bradford, who was born in Baltimore, grew up eating some of his dad’s favorite Southern fare, like pork rinds and barbecue burnt ends. The father-and-son team opened The BBQ in May. It’s located next to their business, Max Supply LLC, where the elder Bradford works part-time when he’s not behind the counter at The BBQ. His son, Marcus, is president and CEO of the lighting supply company.
Signature dish: The wood-smoked chicken
TVs: No TVs
Where: 2602 Greenmount Ave., Harwood
Contact 443-468-2131, thebbqbaltimore.com
Open: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Credit Cards: All major
Handicap Accessible: Yes, but the restroom is not.
Bottom line: There are a lot of barbecue choices in the Baltimore area. Add The BBQ to your list of places to visit.