Memaw's BarBQ- Palm Bay- 2.5 Stars
Growing up Beachside during the 80s, certain things were guaranteed, practically written in stone they were. Among these Universe anchoring truths were that there was always a jungle juice/tea party on any given Saturday night at a dead end cul-de-sac facing the river, Local's Only was going to tear up Spectrum this coming weekend and if you wanted good southern BBQ you headed to Redneckville, aka. the West Melbourne/Palm Bay area.
The Big Boy knows "the times they are a changing" and thinks change, in general, is good for the soul; however, certain things should never change. Such as where to find good BBQ in the Melbourne area. Unbeknownst to me and my discerning palate, this change had occurred. Upon entering MeMaw's BBQ in Palm Bay I was gladly welcomed and soon seated within the old west themed joint complete with picnic table seating, the obligatory wanted poster and several wagon wheels on the wall. My server, Brenda, was professional and on point while fighting a losing battle with the quality of the food. It's not that it tasted rancid or anything, it's just that it, well, I'll get to that. With no bar and only bottled beer and wine to choose from, I had to forgo my usual adult beverage and settle for a glass of MeMaw's Unsweetened Tea. Per usual I ordered selections from different areas of their menu in order to get an overall sense of their gastronomical offerings. As such, I ordered a French Dip with au jus and no sides along with their three item highly self-touted BBQ combo plate of Beef, Pork sausage, a half chicken and two sides: one of fries, the other a cup of MeMaw's original recipe Brunswick Stew along with two slices of Texas toast thrown haphazardly on top.
First up was the French Dip sandwich with a side of au jus. Their meat may indeed be hand trimmed every morning, but it is not fresh, that is obvious. The meat, along with the bread had a previously frozen texture and flavoring that was not all that unpleasant, but it wasn't all that good either. As the au jus looked, smelled and tasted not unlike microwaved canned beef consomme, I am assuming that is exactly what it was. The bun was stale and slightly stiff as you chewed as only previously frozen or old bread can be and tasted flat on the palate.
After such a mediocre beginning, I was hoping the meal got better as I looked to tackle my BBQ combo. As I mentioned at the start, after growing up in the region, I was not put off by the color of the beef, nor the chicken down near the bone. I was, however, put off by the doneness of the pork sausage. I understand that it is to be browned and crispy on the outside, but this looked like it had just escaped from the rotary warmer at the local gas station. It wasn't as overcooked as it appeared at first glance, but it was a bit too done for this cowboy. The beef, as with the beef in the au jus, just didn't taste fresh, Again, it wasn't bad, it just wasn't memorable as BBQ should be. The chicken was slightly burnt in some areas of skin, but the inside was fine if a bit on the dry side. Not completely dry, but not as juicy as one comes to expect in BBQ chicken. If the sauce and the Brunswick stew are, as claimed, based on "MeMaw's" own recipe it's no wonder that one: she is not named and two, there are only two locations in this "chain." The stew was plebian, to say the least, downright bland to say the most. A correctly seasoned Brunswick stew is a staple of Southern cooking and should pop on your taste buds in a dance of complex flavors fronted by (usually) chicken. Their sauce was nothing to write home about and tasted like it came out of an industrial size can or bottle, not made fresh on site.
Big Boy says, "If you're in a pinch, hungry or want a cheap Stella Artois, head on over to MeMaw's in Palm Bay, but for real Southern BBQ, go elsewhere."