Nancy and I recently were to Dover to continue on our goal of 10K guided walks (Volksmarches) in each of the 50 state capitals. We’re at 24 now. Since I’m always on the lookout for new barbecue places, I checked Yelp, and Mission Barbecue came up as the best local place. Off we went, and found a mixed bag.
Note: Mission is part of a chain, one that I had never tried, and I’m not sure how much I can extrapolate from our experience at the Dover outpost.
“Mission” here refers to military missions. The walls of the large open space are lined with photos of military personnel and first responders.
At noon every day, they stop work and everyone stands for the Pledge of Allegiance. The staff has a very positive, gung ho attitude. Everyone was very professional, helpful, and friendly. Serving barbecue is their mission, and they seem genuinely committed to it. So far, A+.
The food arrived pretty quickly. No problem there. I had the pulled pork with a side order of a Bay-B-Back Rib, which I took to be a baby back rib, and green beans.
Let’s talk about the pork. It had a slow-cooked pork flavor, including a touch of smoke. It was tender, but not mushy. It was moist. And it had left a pool of fat on the paper even before I dug in. You can see it if you look closely. I’m afraid, the moistness may have been all fat.
Now, I’m not one to turn up my nose at a little pork fat. On the contrary, my nose often leads me inexorably toward a little pork fat, if any is in the area. But there are limits, and Mission exceeded them here.
Now the rib. It was on the small side, but it was very meaty. And again, it was tender, moist, but almost falling off the bone, rather than al dente. And there was Old Bay seasoning on the rib, or at last on part of it. I guess that may be what they mean by “Bay-B-Back”, but they should give a guy more warning than that. I like Old Bay seasoning as much as the next guy, unless the next guy enjoys drinking Old Bay-flavored beer. Old Bay is right up there with Zatarain’s for steamed crabs or a low country boil. But the Good Lord did not intend for us to put Old Bay seasoning on baby back ribs. It was very off-putting.
Nancy, who ends up eating a lot more barbecue that many people would tolerate, took a day off and had salmon with cole slaw (“cold” slaw on the menu) and potato salad.
The salmon was dried out. Fail. On the positive side, the potato salad was very good, with a nice mustard taste. The cole slaw also was good, not overdressed. Similarly, my green beans were cooked with bacon and some onion and minced garlic, and both the beans and the pot likker were above average. The cornbread was acceptable as a vehicle for pot likker.
Mission offers seven different sauces, which is way too many. The best of an excessively sweet lot was the KC Classic, which was well spiced, aside from the sugar. The house-made Carolina style sauce was watery — an insult to North Carolina — and they had an Old Bay-flavored Bay-B-Que sauce, the stuff that they apparently had inflicted on my perfectly innocent rib.
Oh — they make their lemonade in house, and it’s quite good if you add a lemon wedge or two.
Mission Barbecue would be a good place if they could solve the fat problem, and keep the Old Bay seasoning away from, well, everything until they start selling crabs. And fix the sauces. Mission had faults, but was good enough that I’ll try some of their other locations. Let me know if you get to a good one.