I’ve been singing the praises of R&R BBQ since brothers Roger and Rod (R&R) Livingston opened their first brick-and-mortar operation in the spring of 2013, in downtown SLC. Prior to that, the boys had scored a bevy of awards at local and national barbecue competitions, including an invitation to strut their stuff at the Jack Daniels World Championship Invitational Barbecue.
Since then, Roger and Rod have gone on to open three additional R&R locations, including restaurants in South Jordan, Lehi, and most recently, at Station Park in Farmington. Having visited the Station Park R&R BBQ thrice now, the question arises: Has R&R grown too quickly? Frankly, I’ve found quality control to be an issue.
Don’t get me wrong: There is nothing to gripe about concerning the barbecue at R&R. I’ll repeat what I said about the brisket a few years ago: You won’t find Texas-style beef brisket better than this outside of the Lonestar State. There’s a pretty pink smoke ring that borders the bark on the brisket slices and the meat is so tender and tasty that it doesn’t even require barbecue sauce.
The barbecued chicken, too, is superb. As part of a 3-meat combo plate ($15.99), I chose the quarter chicken (leg and thigh), which was juicy and tender, and paired beautifully with R&R’s Sweet BBQ Sauce. Along with the aforementioned brisket, the third leg of my 3-meat combo was pulled pork. Again, this was near pork perfection: juicy, tender strands of pulled pork mixed with crunchy, bark pieces. I especially like the pulled pork slathered with R&R’s zippy, vinegar-based Carolina-style Sauce.
I mentioned that on one trip to the Station Park R&R BBQ, I ordered the 3-meat combination plate, priced at $15.99. The combination included a choice of three meats – pulled pork, brisket (sliced or chopped), boneless chicken, quarter chicken, sausage or ribs, plus a roll and a side dish. My wife ordered the ¼ chicken plate, which was priced at $8.25. However, we were informed by our cashier that the kitchen had run out of quarter chickens. This was at approximately 6:30 in the evening. How could they already be out of barbecued chicken? I wondered.
Anyway, I was told that my wife and I – if we wanted chicken – would have to settle for boneless chicken. And here’s the rub (so to speak). The boneless chicken is only offered as part of a combo plate, meaning that in order to have chicken, my wife had to pay $13.99 for a 1-meat plate as opposed to $8.25 for a quarter chicken. WTF????
It gets worse. When our food was finally ready (things move slowly at R&R), we were told that the kitchen did manage to rustle up some quarter chickens for us. Still, we were charged the higher price for the boneless chicken plate that we didn’t get – nearly a $6 difference. The cashier didn’t offer to reimburse us for the error. Not cool. The experience left me with a foul taste in my mouth…
In my first review of R&R BBQ, one of the things I highlighted were the side dishes, which were above average. “The sides are anything but an afterthought,” I recall thinking, especially the excellent hushpuppies and the fried okra poppers. Well, on my recent visits, the red beans and rice was a respectable side dish, but the hushpuppies tasted stale and the texture made me think they been made at lunchtime and had sat under a heat lamp until dinnertime. Meh mashed potatoes were a bland and blah affair, not to mention lukewarm, and the macaroni and cheese was equally unimpressive. Quality control regarding side dishes at R&R seems to have become an issue, so you might want to place a meat order for takeout and supply your own side dishes at home.
Only Game in Town
If I sound overly critical regarding my recent R&R experiences, it’s only because barbecue matters. R&R makes outstanding barbecue, and real barbecue takes a great deal of time and technique to perfect. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s so cheap given the amount of work and effort that goes into making something like award-winning brisket. In my estimation, great barbecue should cost every bit as much as fancy food in fine dining restaurants. It’s only that R&R’s barbecue is so good that I want the service and sides to reach the lofty heights of that incredible ‘cue. The bottom line is that if you’re looking for great barbecue in Davis County you have two excellent options: Holy Smoke BBQ & Grill in Layton and the new R&R BBQ in Farmington.
Culinary quote of the week: Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start. — Anthony Bourdain
Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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