reader49929 Frontage Road W.
Rochester, MN,
(507) 288-3936
GPS coordinates – 44 ° 02.049′ W 092º 29.371′

1940 Broadway S.
Rochester, MN (507) 281-1727
GPS coordinates – 43 ° 59.598′ W 092º 27.751′

Hours:
Mon thru Thurs 11:00 am to 9:00 pm
Fri and Sat 11:00 am to 10:00 pm
Sunday 11:30 am to 9:30 pm

by Kevin Wynn

By the time you read this it will be at least June 1st and, spring might be here in just a few more weeks. To take advantage of our foreshortened riding season you might be thinking, “Where, on this crisp spring day, can I go for some good barbeque?”  Well, if you’ve got the gear to stay warm, I’ve got just the place for you!

I’ve been making it my business, for the past couple of years, to sample as much barbeque as possible. There are a few places in the Twin Cities that do passable “Que”, good enough to satisfy the average Minnesotan’s palate.  But really good barbeque wasn’t born on the midwestern plains.  Not by a long shot.  Real barbeque started in the deep south, where a hard life forced a person to make the best vittles possible out of whatever critter happened to be in the farmyard.

This brings me to my subject, John Hardy’s Bar-B-Q in Rochester, Minnesota. The story goes like this- John Hardy, native of Birmingham, Alabama, was a foundry worker in Buffalo, New York, but in his spare time he’d mess around with barbeque recipes and sauces. Somehow he was struck with the idea of relocating to, of all places, Rochester, where he fulfilled his dream of opening his own barbeque joint. The two locations still carry his name and image, though he passed away in 1986. Let’s not try to make sense of how he ended up in a middle-sized southern Minnesota town. Even the employees who knew him back-in-the-day don’t really know.

The menu is simple; Shredded (pulled) pork, beef, turkey, chicken, ham and ribs. Smoked over cherry and apple wood, enhanced as you please with one of John’s masterful sauces ranging from “Mild” to “Bad Boy Hot”. Buttery garlic bread, beans, coleslaw, Jojo’s, fried or stewed okra and black-eyed peas are some of the sides available. They do catering and takeout, and sell their sauces by the pint.

I started out with a pork and beef combo with Jojo’s and slaw. The tender pork melts in your mouth, almost too good to add sauce to. But the sauce was too good leave alone. The “hot” sauce I used didn’t overpower the flavor and kept that nice even heat level that I love. The Jojo’s were sliced thin, on the verge of crispy and very good, especially with BBQ sauce dripping all over them. The ‘slaw was merely adequate, more of a cooling element than a treat in itself, but that may have just made the meat taste all the better.

Ribs were John Hardy’s favorite. I decided to try a small plate and bring the rest home for dinner, along with the fried okra. Damned fine ribs, meaty and smoky, falling off the bone. And though I’ve never tried okra (what kind of plant is that in there?) I really recommend it. Crispy and tender at the same time, it’s certainly more interesting than the coleslaw.

John Hardy’s is a simple menu in a simple building. Expect fantastic barbeque and friendly service.

I’d stuck to Highway 52 on the way down, for a quick 88 mile trip, but I needed to have a little fun on the way home. Without a lot of time to explore, Highway 60 from Zumbrota to Wabasha is always entertaining, so after finding the location of John Hardy’s South, I pointed my nose north again.

If you have the time, go exploring south of I-90. One of my favorite stops is the bluff-top park in Rushford. From the overlook at the top, the view is stunning. As a matter of fact, a great plan would be to pick up some John Hardy’s Take-Out and head for Rushford to eat. I’ll have to try that some time.

As for Highway 60, which I last rode on a TeamStrange Midnight Run, it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. Friday afternoon traffic and road repaving kept the pace too slow at too many of the best sections. I still enjoyed myself, and my loss is your gain, because I can report that by the time you read this, the repaving will be complete. From Zumbro Falls all the way to Wabasha/Highway 61, the pavement is NEW and PERFECT.

Have fun now…you can thank me later. Bring me some take-out from John Hardy’s Bar-B-Q.

I’d do the same for you. Eat well. Ride well.

M.M.M.

 

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