5907 N Lombard, 240-0615

I've been noticing a barbeque trend in this town and I'm not sure I like it. It's the dry, extra-smoky rib thing. Why so smoky? Why so dry? What happened to the juicy, slipping-off-the-bone rib with as much bark* as bite? A friend assured me that Czaba's Bar-B-Que is the answer to my prayers. But you never know with my friends. They eat shoe polish and call it demi-glaçe. I knew I'd have to find out for myself.

It's a super hot North Portland evening when we set out to Czaba's for a meat fix. Right away we like what we see: the dive factor is nice and high, and the menu appears to have just the right amount of sass (no cell phones! Yay!). I get the "2 x 2": 2 pork ribs and 2 beef ribs, which I immediately regret cuz in my mind there's nothing better than pork, pork and more pork. But relief washes over me as soon as I take my first bite: juicy meat with just a hint of smoke--yes! But...what's this?! The spicy sauce I ordered (which is actually pretty restrained) is ...kinky! Orange zest, soy sauce, and pecans in a barbeque sauce? Come again? That's about as American as...well, something really un-American. But I am tellin' you what: it's tasty. Chunky, zesty, and downright l-i-t-e.

The ribs are joined by mac and cheese that sings and some kinky-ass slaw to match the barbeque sauce. I'm delirious with discovery...but it don't last. Before too long I'm composing a tear-filled eulogy for old school barbeque sauce.

Don't get me wrong, Czaba, I won't be able to stay away. But will you kick me out if I bring my bottle of KC Masterpiece along?

*"Bark" refers to the charred, crispy meat on the outside of the rib.