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Jethro's BBQ - Johnston (Des Moines) IA

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    Jethro's BBQ - Johnston (Des Moines) IA

    Stopped in here last week after having driven by it my last trip to Des Moines. I was very excited to try it out, as being a good 'que-o-phile I try to sample the local places any time I find them. Did my due diligence, and every review I could find on the place (Yelp, etc) was absolutely raving about how great the grub was! Much like the review on here of the Altoona location.

    Gotta say, I couldn't have had more of a different experience than those glowing reviews.

    PRO'S: Immediate seating. Restaurant was clean, staff was extremely friendly. Service was excellent, and soda was served cold.

    CON'S: Dang near everything else, especially the food.

    THOUGHTS: This place (or at least the chain, now that I know its a chain) has got to be doing something right - the place was pretty packed even on a Tuesday night, and all those reviews can't possibly be wrong.

    I ordered a combo platter with baby back ribs and pulled pork, as I figured that would be a pretty good gauge of the place. I'd usually go with something besides pork (beef brisket) to get a feel for the wares, but the ribs and pulled pork just sounded good that evening and there was only so much stomach space to work with.

    My first indication that something was amiss was the timeliness of the order. Having been to a BBQ joint or three (hundred LOL), I know that if you're in a quality joint, you place your order and then get comfy... good 'cue doesn't happen fast. Settled in on the iPhone to read up on the day's news and events, and wasn't halfway through the first article when I was startled by a voice at my elbow asking "Ribs and pulled pork combo?"

    Couldn't have been five minutes between when I ordered and when the waitress scared the bejeezus out of me. When I commented on a very quick order, the young lady replied with a smug "Oh yeah! We slow smoke all our meats!"

    With what? A jet engine?

    Dove right in like a good boy, and here's what I found...

    Pulled pork - dry as desert sand. I know from experience that unless you overcook a pork butt by oh, say, 10 hours or so, it comes out mush, not dry. I'm guessing the meat sitting under a heat lamp for far too long was the culprit here.

    Baby backs - almost no flavor at all nekkid. I've never experienced that before. Nice and tender, but the meat was like eating paper wads. From all I've read, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and guess this is what happens when "we slow smoke all our meats" means throwing them in the smoker AFTER par boiling them - I've never done that myself, but I understand par boiling ribs can suck all the flavor out of em.

    Sides - baked beans were good, potato salad was passable, neither was anything to do backflips over. The Texas Toast was thick and tasty though! :-)

    Sauces - a variety to choose from, with an 8-pack of different styles on the table. I tried them all while trying to rehydrate the pulled pork and spruce up the baby backs... all were decent. The one that caught my fancy was their "Spicy". When I first tasted it, I got as far as thinking "Why, this isn't spicy at all..." before the cayenne kicked in, but slowly, like a glow plug was lighting up in my mouth. It was a honey based sauce, and the combination of sweetness and the glow plug spiciness slowly coming on behind that has got me searching for a recipe to emulate it.

    OVERALL SCORE: Four ribs (on an 8-rib rack scale). I'd put this place on a par with the national chain BBQ joints I've tried out over the years (Dickey's, Rib Crib and the like) - nothing to write home about, and nothing you'd seek out trying again except that Spicy sauce I mentioned. I know I'm a bit of a harsh critic since I live in one of the cradles of BBQ in the US (Kansas City), but I just didn't find much here. Maybe I caught them on an off night (it happens), or maybe pork just isn't what they do well (that happens too). I'll likely give them another shot at some point to find all that out as I'm a glutton for punishment as well as 'cue, but I will be walking through the door with seriously lowered expectations.

    LESSON LEARNED: Beware getting BBQ from any place named after a Beverly Hillbilly.

    Had kinda of a same experience by me on rt 15 in NJ. Drove by this place maybe 25-30 times before pulling in to try what they had. I got the sampler plater, pulled beef,pork, and chicken. What kinda scared me was that I really couldn't tell which was which. They all looked the same color wise. All dryish,all needed a sauce to make them moist again. I was just polite after eating and left thinking (not going back there again).
    Lesson learned- if I really want good bbq just do it myself.
    I'm sure most of us here in the pit will agree with this

    We as we have all felt - can and do make as good or better bbq than almost any establishment out there.

    Lets keep the smoke coming.


      If you ever get up Minneapolis way give the Chuckwagon Charlie's in Chanhassen a try; it is pretty good. Take customers there all the time (by request!).


        Originally posted by SMO View Post
        If you ever get up Minneapolis way give the Chuckwagon Charlie's in Chanhassen a try; it is pretty good. Take customers there all the time (by request!).
        HA! Awesome!!! :-) My company is getting ready to send a tech to Chanhassen next week I believe... I'll definitely pass this along so I know they will have a decent meal or three while they're up there. Ah, networking... :-D



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