Counter Culture: MoMo's knows barbecue and sides, too

Published: Friday, Jul. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 33TICKET
Last Modified: Monday, Jul. 9, 2012 - 10:29 am

The parking lot, the street out front and much of the surrounding residential neighborhood were smoky with the fragrant, primeval aroma of meat sizzling over glowing coals.

The big guy with the dreadlocks tended a king-size smoker in the lot, lifting the lid of the hand-built contraption to spritz slabs of pork ribs and crusted tri-tip roasts with a mix of liquids whose ingredients are confidential.

"This is to keep the meat moist," Glenn Miller said, turning over a rack of ribs that had been hand-rubbed with a spice mixture (also proprietary). "That's the way my dad did it. My family's from Texas and Louisiana, and the (cooking) lessons I got were from the older people in the family."

Miller cooks with standard Kingsford-brand charcoal briquets and oak chips, in a combination of high-heat direct grilling followed by smoking.

"I don't do that heavy wood flavor, and I don't want the meat to fall off the bones," he said. "I want to bite into a rib. Maybe that's what makes my spareribs unique."

As we chatted, the small lot began to fill with cars, unloading a diverse cross-section of barbecue-lovin' folks making a beeline for the close quarters of MoMo's Meat Market.

On Saturdays, the parking lot is a social scene for neighbors who come for the 'cue and the camaraderie.

Miller and his wife, Sharon, opened the place about a year and a half ago. Word quickly got around. Remember, this is a town that loves all things 'cue and will go to extremes to seek it out.

A Postal Service mail carrier dressed in shorts and hefting a big leather bag on his shoulder walked by. To Miller he called out, "This is the first time I've been able find a parking space around here."

It wasn't quite noon on a weekday.

Inside MoMo's, there is no meat counter with steaks and chops in a glass-fronted display case ("We're a small shop."). Instead, customers can preorder from five mixed packages of meat, fowl and fish, ranging from 29 pounds for $100 to 38 pounds for $170.

"(Before this) I cut meat for 25 years, the last 10 years at Costco," Miller said. "I know quality meats, and I hand-pick everything."

My three lunch pals and I moved inside, carrying a load of anticipation. They're devoted 'cue guys who know their stuff.

The menu is tidy: Coming off the smoker are spare ribs, tri-tip and chicken, and hot links from the venerable Schwarz Sausage Co. of Fairfield (since 1911). Partnering with those in various combinations are house-made baked beans, red beans and rice, potato salad and greens ($11 to $14).

We ordered all of it, delivered in compartmentalized foam containers with plastic utensils. Some of the lunch pals' comments as we made our way through the feast went like this:

"I like the smokiness of the tri-tip."

"These ribs are firm, tender and fabulous."

"I've had better, but this is good."

"I am in favor of the greens."

"I like everything better with the two sauces."

"The hot link is the best thing on the table."

"This chicken is the best part."

Hey, the main dishes were all good, starting with the well-seasoned, chew-it-off-the-bone ribs; moist, succulent chicken; tender but overdone tri-tip; and a version of hot link that delivered great texture and the right level of fire.

The hot and mild brown sugar-and-molasses-based sauces were bold, a meeting of sweet and heat in just the right proportions, making everything they touched better for it.

As for the sides, our table ranked them this way: The melange of bitter-sweetish (what was that flavor?) collard, mustard and turnip greens swept the field, followed by the tangy baked beans, somewhat mushy but flavorful red beans and rice, and an OK chilled potato salad.

"Sometimes we'll do a pork loin sandwich or jumbo prawns in Cajun sauce as specials," Miller said on the phone days later. "But we'll cook whatever you want – beef ribs, baby back ribs, pork steak, rabbit. Just call ahead."

During our lunch, we listened to reggae music and waded through throngs of customers to get close-up looks at the tropics-themed art on the walls.

What's that about?

"I had a brother who was a police officer in the Bay Area, who passed away," Miller said. "He liked the islands and the music a lot, so I carry a little bit of that with me."


Where: 5776 Broadway, Sacramento

Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays

Food: 1/2

Ambience: 1/2

How much: $-$$

Information: (916) 452-0202

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