Mabel's BBQ
 Cleveland, Ohio         Date of Visit: 06/10/16 

Chef Symon might be more celebrity than chef now a day, but I still have yet to be disappointed by the folks he hires to fulfill his culinary vision from beef cheek pierogi and crispy pigtails to burgers and fries. Most recently, BBQ. I like BBQ, I like Symon’s places, and at this one he is taken carte blanche in creating a new style of Q, Cleveland Q. Plus, any man with the stones to name a restaurant after his dog before he names one for his wife is someone you can expect to make bold choices.



E. 4th Street is bustling with the standard issue Cleveland hopes and dreams for a major sporting championship, apparently soon to be dashed on the shores of Erie again, but not all things in Believeland are dreary. The space is a mix of southern ease and swank with some communal options, dark smoky colors, and cords of fruitwood lining the walls. The service is relaxed, friendly, and lightening quick. It takes hours to make everything into what it is, but when it’s ready…you’ll wait longer for a table than you will your order.


Sit Privately Or Make Friends

Nationwide acclaim hasn’t made the chef any less connected to his hometown or his family native roots. The spices of Eastern Europe crust the meats and appear in the sides. The signature Bertman’s Ball Park brown mustard is the base of the unique and only sauce on the tables. There have been some vocal opponents to the sauce limitations.

Personally, I really enjoyed the lightly spicy and serious vinegary and peppery bite added by the sauce. I’ll say straight up and down, it’s not my favorite Q of all time.

The classics…Kansas City, East & West North Carolina, Memphis, even Alabama weirdo white sauce have special places in my heart, but Pitmaster Ed Mitchell (formerly of The Pit in Raleigh) still owns it when it comes to smoked meat. That being said, Mabel’ is unique and fantastic. Even if it’s not what you expect, it’s very easy to enjoy.

Not Standing On Pretense...

...But Twists On Longstanding Tradition


Some Folks Want Sticky Sweet Sauce Which You Can Find All Over...

...But You Can Only Get This Here


We ordered spare and lamb ribs (they apparently have to warn customers that lamb is more gamey and fatty than pig) and a Polish Girl…a twist on the Cleveland sammitch Polish boy good at Hot Sauce Williams and great at Seti’s.

The meats are gorgeously smoked with a deep crimson ring. Both sets of ribs are aggressively spiced, most notably standing out on the pork, and wouldn’t need sauce at all if it didn’t work so well with the meats.

The Polish Girl is a kielbasa (J&J meats from The West Side Market in classic or hot cheese) topped with chopped pork and slaw. The classic sausage is mild and juicy, the pork succulent, and the slaw I found underwhelming. The mild classic gets a bit lost in the accoutrement, I wonder if the hot link would fight it's way through more successfully. Either way I certainly much prefer the fries and hot sauce of the Polish Boy compared to the more subtle lady.

Here We Go


More Than A Hint Of Seasoning On The Spares

And More Than A Hint Of Smoke


I've Never Had Lamb Ribs

Dusky, Glistening Awesome Lamb Ribs


The Polish Girl Is Good...

...But No Boy.

Trays Come With Bread &

Blended Pickles & Pickled Cabbage

Broccoli Salad Was Fine But Can Be Beat

Sides were a fair broccoli salad with peanuts and dried cherries, which seemed really dry, overly restrained and not as good as my moms.

The J.W. Potatoes, a nod to Chef ‘Kenobi’ Waxman, were crispy, fluffy, delicious.

What I couldn’t wrap my head around before they actually hit the table was the “Cracklin’”. Chicharon, fried pork rinds, doused in salt and vinegar powder and served with a cup of Lawson’s Chip Dip. If you haven’t had Lawson’s, so sad, find some. The rinds were ferociously crispy, don’t taste like much, except of course they are covered in tangy powder.

Interesting, not bad, mostly interesting…crunch and Lawson’s were made for each other but chips would meet muster here, even though they are not as unique.

Waxman Rules Americana

Where Did This Idea Start?

There are three puddings on the dessert menu. A lightly sweet dark chocolate topped with whipped cream and toffee popcorn, banana with little ‘Nilla Wafers, and a delightfully tart key lime which was my favorite once you scrapped the coconut off the top. Again, quick, ready to go, and well crafted. There is a lot of great BBQ in the country…I can’t wait to try Texas at someplace like Franklin’s…I think you can add a newcomer…everyone has a favorite…I think Mabel’s will build quite a congregation.

The Dessert Menu

Rich & Bittersweet

If You Like Nanner, This Is ALL Nanner

Serious Tang In Key Lime...Damn Coconut





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