For the time pressed, I’ll address that outrageously provocative headline immediately: as far as I am concerned, and have tasted, this is currently the best BBQ in Utah. If you’d like to make a quick exit out the back, and skip the reminder of the article I won’t blame you. Good BBQ in Utah is a mercurial beast that demands rapid action; plus the trip to Kamas can be up to an hour from the smoggy bowels of the valley. Wait, where?
Yep, you read that right, Kamas. It has taken me a grand total of twenty one years of life in Utah to make it to this part of the Beehive state. The promise of scarily good food will do that kind of thing to an otherwise hermit like individual.
After the pioneer like trek up Parley’s and around Jordanelle we arrived at Richie’s, smack dab in the center of town. Inside you’ll first spot the counter and kitchen, but go ahead and seat yourself, this is a sit down restaurant. I’ll should note Richie’s DOES have beer and wine, though you’ll need to ask for a menu. I cursed my luck as I saw a beer delivered to another table, only after we’d settled the bill.
The menu is the one you know and love and wish was executed better by many Q shops in town. The centerpiece is a range of smoked meats, supported by familiar side dishes. The style is Memphis, which floats my particular boat. I’ll never understand those who prefer to experience a multi-day labor of love submerged under a deafening blanket of corn syrup.
Given our expedition, we ordered the whole shebang. The pulled pork had a light, slightly lingering smoke, this won’t repeat on you all day. It also had an enjoyable bite and chew too. Far too often I encounter pulled pork that is listless and limp – sitting in the depressed stupor of a warming pan all day will do that to you I suppose.
The ribs were better still. These aren’t fall of the bone style as some Texan-cue-sperts will advise in favor of. If anything I call that overcooked. No, these required just a bashful amount of teasing to pry the barely rendered fat away from the bone, and with it, smoked tinged meat and thick, deeply flavored bark. While I gazed around the room, slowly covering myself in vicera and grease, I spied Richie working the room.
He prowls the modest dining area, part server, part quality control, part beaming host; and frankly if I could smoke up a storm like this, I’d be covered in an ear to ear grin too. You’d see it from space. There’s no doubting the Tennessee charm adds even more flavor to the experience too.
The star of the procession of meats – now threatening to overwhelm our table – was the meltingly-tender brisket. Sliced, not chopped and with a tinge of pink smoke running through it. This was decadently done stuff. Pull it at the edges like a little concertina and watch it stretch and recoil. Richie’s brisket is the anathema to every drab, dry, lifeless piece of rock hard beef you’ve had in Utah. This is the stuff that reminds you why you keep chasing the dragon at other contenders to the crown.
The menu goes beyond the staples. There are burgers, dogs, meatloaf, even fried chicken. We bit at the last one, because, well, fried chicken. Richie’s is of the thinly coated, rather than ridiculously ridged variety. It came to the table perfectly juicy, as much as the tater tots came golden and crunchy. Speaking of sides, most are solid here.
A razor blade of vinegar cuts through the bitterness of the collard greens, a melange of legume party on down together in the smoked beans, while I’m told the slaw is where it’s at (though absentmindedly forgot to order it on this visit). Maybe pass on the slightly oddball gnocchi potato salad, the rolled doughy spuds felt a tad heavy on top of all the smoked meats for me.
An unexpected hit was Richie’s signature sauce, a thin affair, and willing accomplice for every meaty task we threw at it. Think apple cider vinegar spiked with lemon then warmed with black peppercorn and chili. If there’s such a thing as a BBQ take on sweet and source sauce, this is it.
For now Richie’s opens only Thursday through Sunday, so you’ll want to plan your own journey ahead of time. For all of you that keep insisting you can’t get real BBQ in Utah – take a trip to Kamas stat.
215 S Main St, Kamas, UT 84036
Hi, I’m Stuart, nice to meet you! I’m the founder, writer and wrangler at Gastronomic SLC. I’m a multiple-award winning journalist and have written in myopic detail about the Salt Lake City dining scene for the better part of seventeen years.
I’ve worked extensively with multiple local publications from Visit Salt Lake to Salt Lake Magazine, not least helped to consult on national TV. Pause those credits, yep, that’s me! I’m also a former restaurant critic of more than five years, working for the Salt Lake Tribune. I’m largely fueled by a critical obsession with rice, alliteration and the use of big words I don’t understand. What they’re saying about me: “Not inaccurate”, “I thought he was older”, “I don’t share his feelings”.
Want to know more? This is why I am the way I am.
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