The folks at Boston Market, another chain with its national headquarters in Denver, have added St. Louis style barbequed pork ribs as well as brisket to the current roster of home-style entrees. Since that lineup rarely changes, I stopped by the store at 500 Grant Street to check on these meaty changes, especially the ribs, which Boston Market bills as "spiced and marinated just right before being slow-cooked, then brushed with a zesty barbeque sauce."
Boston must have a very different definition of "zesty."
Great ribs -- boring, bland sauce.
Although Boston Market did get its start in Massachusetts in 1985 as Boston Chicken, it soon changed its name and moved to Golden. After accelerated growth and unwise expansion, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1998; McDonald's purchased it in 2000, reportedly to pick the bones for real estate. But when execs discovered the chain still had some life in it, McDoo sold it to Sun Capital Partners in 2007. Boston Market today seems to be doing all right -- well enough, at least, to cautiously experiment with two new entrees and a new side: garlicky lemon spinach.
I ordered a quarter rack of ribs ($10.99) with fried apples and the new spinach side, and also an order of brisket with my gluttonous potato trifecta of mashed, loaded and baby dill. (If you haven't ordered a platter with all three sides of potatoes, then you should.) Skipping the cake-like brownies was not an option, because they are much better than if I made them at home, and you get a family-sized tray for $4.49.
One of the best things about eating at Boston Market is that you don't have to wait for anything: They scoop, they plate, and your meal's in your hands. I hit the brisket first, and it was ridiculously good: hot, tender, and falling apart with perfect bits and edges of roasted beefy fat. It came with a side of gravy but didn't need it. The spinach was an uncomplicated recipe -- steamed leafy greens with lots of garlic and lemon -- and it was just fine.
The ribs started out strong: Slathered with a brick-reddish sauce that smelled of tomato, they were well-cooked and came apart with a minimum of effort. The charred bone ends and moist, pinky-red meat made them pretty to look at, and they tasted as good as they looked -- until that sauce hit my taster.
It wasn't horrible, but beyond a tinge of tomato it had no real flavor -- no onion, brown sugar, garlic or any seasonings at all. I get that Boston Market caters to a certain mild-mannered demographic, but it wouldn't hurt to offer a few sauces -- maybe a default mild and a couple of bolder, more flavorful options. Beyond being tomato-based, St. Louis-style sauce is supposed to be very sweet and very tangy, and this sauce was neither.
Until Boston Market takes a hint, I'll classify these ribs as tasty but definitely BYOS: Bring Your Own Sauce.
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