Mabel's BBQ - Cleveland, OH
Mabel's BBQ has been on my bucket list since the day I knew Chef Michael Symon was opening a Cleveland-style BBQ joint. Almost two years in the making and I went not once, but twice in the same week the first chance I was in back in Cleveland after it opened. Mabel's BBQ sauce is a mustard based sauce and is quite different from your every day run of the mill BBQ sauces. It was delicious, especially when drizzled over the superbly tender and well-flavored meat.
Although Mabel's BBQ does not take reservations, they make it easy to get a table. When you walk in they let you know about how long it will take and send text notifications to your cell phone. It's handy and lets you enjoy all that E. 4th St has to offer while you wait. You can sit indoors or outdoors and I opted for outdoors on my first visit.
My all-time favorite BBQ is chopped brisket so the Mr. Beef sandwich had my name written all over it. The brisket is chopped finely and served in a hoagie style roll. The brisket was so tender and flavorful. It had a light smokey flavor from the apple and cheery wood used to smoke the meat. I loved that it was served with mayo and then topped with onions and pickles. The mayo added an unexpected creaminess to each bite. The pickles and red onions also added a crunch and some acidity to cut through the heartiness of the sandwich.
Of course, this sandwich would not be complete without that BBQ sauce. It's different because it's not the thick tomato based sauce you might be used to. When you try it on it's own you can taste the tangy bite from Cleveland's own Bertman Original Ball Park Mustard. I had bites of my sandwich with and without the sauce. By far the bites with the sauce were perfectly married together to take each ingredient to the next level.
Of course I went back two days later. And of course I ordered the Giant Beef rib since I went a few co-workers. It's made to share considering it was the size of my face. But it was totally worth ordering and sharing. It's sprinkled with pastrami spices, which I didn't even know was a thing. It was fall of the bone tender and smokey with tons of flavor. Everyone enjoyed a bite, or two, since there was no way I was finishing this on my own.
In case you didn't notice, I ordered the same side both times, the cracklin'. Let's be honest. How often do you get the opportunity to order cracklin' at a restaurant instead of just grabbing a bag at your local grocery store? This is most definitely not that and as soon as I saw it the menu I couldn't help myself. If you're somehow unfamiliar with crackin', just know it's fried pork skin and pretty damn delicious. But it gets even more delicious when it's made and served fresh. It was delightfully crunchy and had a great salt and vinegar flavor. As if it couldn't get any better, it's served with a side of Lawson's chip dip, a Cleveland staple. I'm a fan of onion dip, but Lawson's was just on another level. When you combine it with the salt and vinegar cracklin', it's heaven in chip form. I could order just this and eat it all...day....long.
Needless to say, you gotta make your way over to Mabel's BBQ in Downtown Cleveland. Period. It's worth the wait with the delicious meats and sides. The outdoor patio is beautiful and great for people watching.