Baker's Ribs: Twin Cities' barbecue tour
Fat is our friend and foe, at least at the barbecue. The right amount of fat makes the difference between ribs that are too dry and ribs that are too greasy. If you're not careful, cooking meat for 12 hours will render it tough and lifeless with very little flavor. The opposite is equally as bad: too fatty and greasy
Al Killian has been cooking ribs and brisket in the same wood-fired smoker for 15 years at his Baker's Ribs in Eden Prairie. Originally from Texas (more on that later), Killian has worked hard on his method for tender ribs that lean on the less fatty side. Killian only gives out plastic forks, and you barely need them, since the meat falls off the bone, sometimes before you can bite it. Napkins are a necessity.
Unlike many other BBQ places, only wood is used in the smoker at Baker's. There's no electric, no gas, just wood. You can taste the difference. If you don't like a deep, smoky flavor seeping into the marrow of a dish, Al's work is not for you. But if you do, there is not a more intense smoke flavor that I know of out there.
All sides and sauce are made from scratch at Baker's--no corporate delivery trucks here. (It was my misconception that Baker's was a single shop, but it's actually part of a chain based in Dallas. Nine of the ten stores are in Texas.) He gets his meat from Curly's down in Iowa, which specializes in quality rib meat. All of Killian's meats are served unsauced, but bottles of warm sauce are on every table. The warming is a really nice touch.
While the beef brisket and pulled pork were very good, the ribs were my favorite. It's nice having ribs that aren't all fat and yet have great taste and texture. Of the sides, the beans were worth trying to replicate at home. There were really smoky, really sweet, and really spicy, which added up to really good. The dirty rice and cheddar mashed potatoes were fine but not extraordinary. There are no deep-fried items at Baker's, which makes the nutritionists happy but makes those of us who can go for some rings every once in a while sad.
Baker's Ribs is at 8019 Glen Lake Road in Eden Prairie and is open for lunch and dinner every day but Sunday.