Loyal readers know that any decent barbecue place has a picture of a pig out front (and, for bonus points, a stack of hickory wood).
Well, as anybody who's ever driven to the beach around here knows, Red Hot & Blue near Annapolis has lots of pigs out front - a cute little one perched on the roof and a bunch of sunglass-wearing, guitar-toting, winged pigs on the arms of the large windmill that rises above the restaurant (a leftover feature from the building's former incarnation as a pancake house).
Red Hot & Blue, which sits on the south side of U.S. 50 just east of Annapolis, is part of a 33-restaurant chain started by Washington political figures and a television producer a dozen years ago. The name derives from a legendary Memphis radio program that helped bring Elvis and others to prominence.
There's a special carryout section on the side near the "pignic" area (OK, maybe that's pushing the pig thing a bit far). It's a small alcove with a bench and a framed front page from the Memphis Press-Scimitar from the day after Elvis died. (The main article has a predictable but still satisfying lead sentence: "The king is dead.")
During our visit, R&B; music played over the intercom and a nearly sublime smell of barbecue dominated the room. The menu, created by true barbecue lovers, includes all the basics - pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket and ribs. Our enormous order of fattening goodies was ready quickly on a busy evening.
The food ranged from very good to OK. We enjoyed the meaty baby back ribs, which were rubbed in seasonings, then smoked and finally coated in a slightly sweet tomato-based sauce. Unfortunately, they seemed overpriced at $13.49 for a half-rack.
We also tried several sandwiches. The best was the pulled pork ($6.89), which had lots of nicely smoked meat. A shredded-chicken sandwich ($6.99) was plenty smoky, but also plenty dry. The beef-brisket sandwich ($6.99) was chewy and forgettable.
The sandwiches came with a small container of barbecue sauce, but it was surprisingly bland. I'd advise any customers to ask for something tangier if they're ordering sandwiches.
We ventured out of the barbecue arena to try a grilled salmon salad ($8.99), which featured a good-sized piece of lightly seasoned grilled fish over a nice variety of greens, hard-boiled eggs and tomatoes.
Side dishes were all good, including deep-fried hush puppies ($1.99) and absolutely delicious mashed potatoes ($1.99). Coleslaw and potato salad, which came with the sandwiches, were above-average and not the least bit cloying.
You shouldn't be shocked that Red Hot & Blue offers several calorie-heavy desserts. We chose two. A Key lime pie ($3.99) was a serviceable creation - graham-cracker crust, slightly tangy filling and whipped-cream topping. Peanut-butter silk pie ($3.99) was a gooey concoction that included cookie-crumb crust and a sweet peanut-butter filling, topped with chocolate-peanut-butter candies and crumbled peanuts. After a few bites, I cried, "Uncle!"
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Red Hot & Blue
Waiting area: ***
Where: 200 Old Mill Bottom Road, near Annapolis
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: Soups, salads, appetizers, barbecue sandwiches, burgers and ribs, $3.29 to $21.49; credit cards accepted