There are certain things I never would eat from a gas station. Sushi is at the top of that list along with deviled eggs. And I remember stopping at a gas station once and seeing “homemade lunch meat” haphazardly wrapped in plastic. It looked terrifying.
But, on occasion, gas stations yield unexpected surprises. Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine was my recent discovery. The tiny barbecue restaurant is in the back corner of the 76 gas station on Steele Street. A handful of tables offer seating for dining in.
The restaurant is fledgling and rubs rough around the edges. Counter help seemed easily flustered. A wait on a moderately busy afternoon stretched to 45 minutes for a small take-out order.
But you may forgive them for being s-l-o-w once you taste the pork ribs. Ribs taste sublime when cooked properly, and Dowd’s understands how to smoke pork: slow and low. The ribs were juicy with a tender bite. The supple pork slid right off the bone with little nudging. Tinged with pink, the meat was subtly smoky underneath a vinegary molasses sauce. It was a bargain at $6.99, which included baked beans and potato salad.
I wish I could give a glowing report about the pulled pork sandwich ($6.99 with two sides). The sauce tasted burnt, the meat dry and chewy. The sandwich also cannot be ordered sans sauce, which is disappointing for those who like a naked sandwich.
Brisket ($7.95) looked promising, as did rib tips ($6.99/$8.95). Fish and chicken also are on the menu.
For sides, house-made macaroni and cheese was more pasta than cheese, but I appreciated the taste of real cheddar (processed cheese should be outlawed in mac and cheese). Baked beans carried mustard pucker, but the texture reminded me of canned. Cole slaw was an unusual preparation – a very sweet thin mayo dressing barely kissed crispy chopped cabbage. I liked that it was crunchy and tasted freshly made.
Dowd’s BBQ & Southern Cuisine
Where: 10505 S. Steele St., Tacoma (inside the 76 station)