I’ve delayed writing this restaurant review for a long time. I can’t explain why, but I guess it’s because it feels so overly commercial that I don’t place it in the same category as most BBQ joints. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honest-to-goodness BBQ restaurant, but it just feels like they are trying way too hard to be “authentic”.
Bandana’s is a St. Louis based BBQ restaurant that has franchised to roughly 25 locations in 3 states and growing. I’ve tried at least 6 of their locations and I can say that they’re very consistent. But with that consistency, comes a lack of authenticity. This is evident in the way the place feels when you walk in the door. From the wash tub light fixtures to the handkerchief curtains, it’s obvious that they’re executing on a theme. It’s like walking into an Applebee’s or a TGI Fridays. You know that it’s supposed to be kitschy and cool, but it just doesn’t feel authentic when there’s one on every corner.
But enough about how the place looks and feels, how’s the BBQ you might ask? Well, it’s just okay. In at least one of their locations, I’ve seen the pit and they are sure enough cooking on site. However, I wouldn’t say that the results are great. I find the ribs to be too tough, ditto the brisket, and the pulled pork is hit or miss. On the other hand, I do enjoy their side dishes. I like their baked beans, green beans, corn, and especially the garlic bread that accompanies every lunch or dinner plate.
Another area where they’ve done a nice job is in their selection of sauces. I can’t say that it’s necessarily an original idea, but they have a six-pack of sauces on every table. Each sauce is designed to capture a different regional form of BBQ. From a thick, sweet Kansas City style sauce to a mustard-based Carolina sauce, they offer a taste for just about everyone. The only anomaly here is their Chicago Style sauce. I never knew that there was such a thing as “Chicago Style” BBQ, did you?
Here’s how I’d rate Bandana’s BBQ:
- BBQ – C
- Side Dishes – B
- Atmosphere – C+
- Value – A
- Overall – B-
Banadana’s has done a nice job of making BBQ affordable and accessible to a lot of people. I just wish the food was a little better.