Holy crap, were we excited to get to Boneyard! The new Uptown resto exploded my Twitter feed for a good week, and I sped on board. The new south! Get excited for dry-rubbed ribs and Mama Mo’s fried chicken, y’all! Is this the BBQ place Minneapolis has been missing?! The dining community’s digital drool would have shut down the city had it been still freezing outside.
I missed the soft open, and gushing reviews had already begun to creep out when I dragged two friends, Masseur and Pretty Ricky, over from Lakeland. Ribs, you guys! RIBS! I’ve been craving a good rack of ribs for a good four years now …
… and I’m still searching.
I should have known. No restaurant could have lived up to the hype shoveled onto this place; but, based on a trio of disconcerting dinners and a mammoth management flub, I’m not sure Boneyard could have lived up to any hype on their opening weekend.
The Basics: You know that weird building on Hennepin that used to house Old Chicago? That’s where Boneyard is now. Between the wall art facing the street and the glowing sign just beyond the building, you’d have to be driving with your eyes closed to miss it. Their website is right here, menu is here, drink list is here. I don’t typically point these out separately, but I’m making an exception for a restaurant with Pappy Van Winkle available.
Boneyard’s official opening was Friday. They’re owned by the same firm as ritzy restos Union and Crave. I’ll get to that later.
Step inside Boneyard and everything you heard about down-home yokelly comfort gets crushed under a Frye heel. The air bops with ambient lounge beats, and one wall is decked with artfully-arranged cast iron pans. Throw in a couple of hanging booth dividers — white-painted table legs fashioned to look like a picket fence, or something — and you’ve got an interior dressed more like Borough than anything you saw in Dukes of Hazzard. The chicken-wire fencing laid out under the bar surface gets points, though.
Our waitress, she of a blue flannel button-up and plastic hipster frames, was the brightest spot of our night. From her introduction — “You’re going to be stuck with me for a while” — to her near-flawless attentiveness, I would take her as my waitress anywhere. We ordered up beers and a plate of chicken-fried ribs to start the night off.
I only had one, and it was a pretty good one. The chicken breading didn’t make it awkward, and it wasn’t seasoned to death. More ribs were in my future, as I ordered the St. Louis Style rib rack. My friend Pretty Ricky followed suit, with Masseur calling for beef brisket.
Me: Mashed sweet potatoes, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes (because I’m ME!)
Pretty Ricky: Mac-n-cheese, sweet potato fries
Masseur: Burnt end baked beans, Yukon Gold mashed
Was it really only eight minutes before the food showed up? I think that’s what Masseur said, and he’s the type to keep track. We put our spoons into the sides, and bad news broke at every location.
“These beans taste like they’re just out of a can,” said Masseur.
“The mac is nothing to write home about,” said Ricky. Masseur tried it and his face crumpled like a paper cup. I would try some later on, one excruciating bite. Either something wasn’t mixed properly or they’re trying to invent mud-fusion cuisine. It landed on my tongue and immediately wiped out my appetite. Thank goodness this happened at the end.
I inhaled my sweet potato mashed so I could forget about it. I don’t think this was the kitchen’s fault — mashed might just be a failed state in general for sweet potatoes. The Yukon Gold was okay, basic mashed potatoes but I can live with that.
I lifted one of my ribs and sank in. How do I put this …
The dry rub was more of a salt jacket. The flavor of the meat and any other seasoning that might have been put in the rub were suppressed by the overwhelming presence of salt. What, were these things cooked in tears? Five days later, I think I can still taste that salt. It came with a buttermilk biscuit you could’ve busted a windshield with.
Pretty Ricky felt pretty much the same way about his ribs. Masseur gave a thumbs-up to his brisket, but spent much of the meal talking about a place that was better. Our meals were $23.95 apiece, only a pebble higher than Famous Dave’s ilk.
At the end of the day, here I was. I’d been yearning for a good rib rack for months. My visceral sector had a vacant room ready. I was given eight ribs. I ate four. That should tell you all you need to know about the ribs at Boneyard.
So why didn’t I send the food back or alert management? I only do that if something precipitates a total refusal to eat (i.e. a hair, or a degree of under-preparation that makes me question its safety). We mentioned it to our server, but what was she going to do? It’s not like she was back there cooking it. We asked for large boxes and got set to cut our losses and run.
They were out of large to-go boxes.
One more time:
They were out of large to-go boxes.
By “large,” I mean large enough to properly house a rib. The boxes we got instead needed yoga lessons to get our food inside. The explanation: “They weren’t prepared for how busy it was going to be.” I hadn’t heard something so knuckle-headed since a Fogo de Chao manager tried to pass off bad service as a result of increased traffic on Restaurant Week.
This isn’t a freak sunny day at your corner Dairy Queen, guys. If you’re opening a new spot in uptown Minneapolis, how are you caught unawares by opening-weekend traffic? Didn’t someone track how quickly the soft open filled? Is their Twitter account being run out of Abu Dhabi? Management’s got much to sort out before I’ll step back in here (well, I might for a glass of Pappy).
It’s a shame, too. I was rooting so hard.