Rooster's BBQ: The closest you can get to the Carolinas without a roadtrip

By Amy Ledig

I always hate to admit that I’m from Virginia, and even if I do, I quickly clarify that it’s Northern Virginia. My whole goal is not to be identified as belonging to the Confederate History month-affirming, marriage limiting, anti-discrimination policy-rescinding state I hail from. The problem, though, is that I can’t help but miss Southern food when I’m out here in the land of hot dish and cheese curds. I’ll cop to having trekked to the McDonald’s on University for the Southern Style Chicken Sandwich and a sweet tea when the Chick-fil-A cravings get too strong, and to making the occasional visit to Famous Dave’s. I was still on the lookout for a non-corporate, one of a kind barbeque joint, though, a little hole in the wall place that you probably don’t want to poke around too much but keep going to because the food is so good.The search is over: I found Rooster’s. Located on a non-descript corner down Randolph Avenue across I-35, the restaurant doesn’t look like much from the outside. The inside isn’t much more to look at; there are two booths and two tables that together could seat maybe 12 people, tops. Don’t be fooled, though; there’s an inverse relationship between money spent of decor and deliciousness. The best barbeque is always from the places that look the sketchiest.

Rooster’s certainly holds true to the formula. Their dry rub and sauces – you can opt for hot or mild – make for savory, legit food, even if it is too cold most of the year for me to contemplate ribs and coleslaw belonging here. They got voted the Twin Cities’ best BBQ place by City Pages in 2007 and appear on a ton of other lists, so clearly there’s something there.

My dining companion and I decided to try a bit of everything, to get the whole picture. The pulled pork sandwich is enormous – and we only ordered the small one. A mess of super tender pork and pretty classic sauce sandwiched between two buns, wrapped in foil, this is definitely the thing I’ll be coming back for. The sauce played nicely into the sandwich, but didn’t drown everything out, which is always nice. The ribs and chicken meal, which we got to round out the trinity of barbeque must-haves, was of similarly epic proportions and could feed three, forget one person. Out came a 1/2 slab of ribs, two pieces of fried chicken, and a plate of french fries with a cup of coleslaw and a roll. The sauce – we opted for mild today, working our way up to hot – is a nice balance of sweet and tangy, with a hint of hotness creeping up at the end. The ribs certainly do the trick, falling off the bone. Rooster’s fried chicken could itself warrant a trip. The skin was crispy, but the meat was juicy, not dried out.

With Lynyrd Skynyrd on in the background and the run-down but somehow still appealing interior, I felt like I was in the Carolinas or Georgia. Then I remember there’s no sweet tea on the menu. Still, these guys can certainly help tide a barbeque fan over for the oh-so-long school year.

Rooster’s is open Tues.-Sun., 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. The restaurant is at 979 Randolph Ave. Check out their website ( for a takeout menu and more information.