As my month long birthday celebration comes to a close, I decided to treat myself to a much-deserved BBQ feast. While there is no shortage of BBQ joints around the San Diego area (I will cover many of them in the coming months) I settled on Famous Dave’s BBQ in Vista. Famous Dave’s is a chain of BBQ restaurants started in 1994 by Dave Anderson in Wisconsin, and has since grown to 180 locations around the U.S.
I’ve been to their restaurants before, and wasn’t too terribly impressed with the food but the overall experience was very pleasant. Very clean and well kept, the staff is always as friendly as can be. However, a few weeks ago after receiving a “Buy one get one” offer via email for my birthday, I decided to give them another try. I invited my boys for a Saturday afternoon movie and BBQ dinner. I have to say, the food was much better than any previous time I had been there, which is why I made a point to try it again to make sure the last time wasn’t a fluke.
So tonight, after a particularly tough day I decided to splurge and hit up Dave’s, despite flying solo for the night. I walked in and after a short wait, I was taken to my booth. My server “Famous Heather” (they all carry the Famous designation) handed me a menu and asked for my drink order. “Iced tea, please, and hold the lemon”. Nobody ever remembers to hold the lemon but I tell them anyways.
Browsing the menu was a waste of time as I had decided on the drive over that I was in the mood for baby back ribs. The only choice I hadn’t made yet was the sides. Dave’s offers several sides, from Wilbur Beans, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Coleslaw, Drunken Apples, Potato Salad, Corn on the cob, Firecracker Green Beans, Fresh Steamed Broccoli, Famous Fries, house made BBQ chips, and Mac n’ Cheese (made with corn and jalapeños???, sorry Dave, you lost me with that one!).
Famous Heather returned with my iced tea (she remembered to hold the lemon, bonus points), and asked if I was ready to order. “I’ll have the full rack of baby backs, BBQ chips, and corn on the cob please.” She read my order back to confirm and asked if there was anything else. “Nope, I’m good thanks!”.
While waiting for my order I started looking over the selection of award winning BBQ sauces. Starting with the basic Rich & Sassy each one gets progressively hotter… Hot & Sassy, Texas Pit, Georgia Mustard, Sweet & Zesty, Devil’s Spit, and finally, Wilbur’s Revenge.
A short 12 minutes later my order arrives and I look over the plate and immediately notice something was different. The fresh corn on the cob I had two weeks ago had been replaced with frozen. “What’s with the frozen corn? I was given fresh corn a couple weeks ago.” Famous Heather clearly looks embarrassed when she says “Yeah, sorry about that. We switched back last week, I think the prep time was too long or something.” *facepalm* “Well, can I at least have some butter?” 8 minutes later, my butter arrived but wouldn’t melt on the cooled corn.
The rest of the meal was great though. The baby backs were hot, juicy, and full of flavor with a nice caramelized sauce on the outside. Rather reminiscent of the now defunct Love’s Woodpit BBQ my father used to take me to when I was young. The BBQ chips were perfect, hot and crispy with just the right amount of seasoning. The cornbread muffin which is included with every meal was overdone, sadly. One of my pet peeves is when a server doesn’t keep my drink glass refilled in a timely manner, but Famous Heather was right on top of that, performing the task admirably. Despite the use of frozen corn instead of fresh, and lack of promptness bringing the butter for my corn, I would still return as the overall experience was definitely good.
Ratings from 1 to 5, 5 being the highest:
Ribs – 4, BBQ sauce – 4, chips – 4, corn – 1, muffin – 2, iced tea – 5,
Food Score – 3.3
Restaurant & Staff:
Cleanliness – 5, Decor – 4, Service – 4, Value – 3
Restaurant Score – 4.0
Overall Total Score – 3.65