(ran TP edition)
Four minutes after ordering from Kojak's House of Ribs, we were handed our heavy brown sack of barbecue. We were so impressed with the speed of our service that we resisted the temptation to linger on Kojak's pleasant front porch.
There were only a few customers taking advantage of the porch's ceiling fan draft and view of the lot's palmetto and oak canopy, so we wondered why we were directed to wait at a table inside the old converted house. The schmaltzy Southern showboat charm of the porch's marquee light bulb trim is preferable to the wood paneling inside.
The dinner table in Hyde Park was only 10 minutes away. Everything was still warm as the first salvos of barbecue aroma filled the apartment. We opened the plastic foam boxes to the sight of a slice of white sandwich bread, separated by wax paper from the fragrant meat.
Three bites into my hot link sandwich ($3.95 with parsley potatoes), and one of the six napkins provided bit the dust. The bun was cheap and unappetizing. I had to turn the sandwich upside down because the bottom turned to mush from the sauce and the weight of the sausage. But the smoked south Georgia links were gratifying, just hot enough to say howdy.
The sides _ baked beans, parsley potatoes, macaroni and potato salads _ did just what you would expect them to do. No surprises, except that the salads managed to stay cool though packaged alongside the warm entrees.
Just looking at the parsley potatoes brought tinges of guilt. They were drowning in garlic butter sauce, but hollerin' good.
Then my girlfriend taunted me with a forkful of chicken leg meat, which slid off the bone and virtually melted in my mouth. The white meat was plenty moist. Barbecue connoisseurs will want to know that Kojak's sauce is on the sweet and mild side with a polite dose of smoke.
The half-chicken dinner with two sides dishes was $5.95; the barbecue combination with two sides $8.50. We could finish only half of each in one sitting and saved our desserts for later.
The square of fresh apple cake and key lime pie slice (correctly a pale yellow hue) satisfied much the way the side dishes did: homemade-tasting, yet unspectacular.
When we threw in the towels, we were left marveling at the two surviving napkins, the speed with which our stomachs filled and the fact that we had no wet wipes to grope for.
Barbecue without wet wipes? That's like a rib sandwich without the ketchup!
HILLSBOROUGH TO GO
Kojak's House of Ribs
2808 Gandy Blvd., Tampa
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday
Consumers: Two adults
What we got: Half barbecue chicken dinner with baked beans and parsley potatoes, barbecue combination (chopped beef and pork) dinner with potato salad and macaroni salad, hot link sandwich with parsley potatoes, fresh apple cake, key lime pie
What it cost: $24.12
Time it took: Four minutes
Pay with: Cash