New Cincinnati Barbeque Joints (Review)

Warming up to Pinky Sue's Smokehouse and Riverside Barbeque & Drive Thru

With The Classy Pig in Ludlow, Pinky Sue’s in Newport and Riverside Barbeque and Drive Thru on River Road in Sedamsville, suddenly Greater Cincinnati is sprouting some of the little barbeque gems that you find in so many other parts of the country. (The Classy Pig was reviewed separately a few weeks ago.)

If Guy Fieri ever decides to return to Cincinnati for his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, he has to make his first stop at Riverside. This carry-out drive-thru, which opened in July, is truly a treat. While drive-thru barbeque restaurants are popular in the South, this is a one-of-a-kind for our area. The carry out is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and not only will you find your standard selection of soda, beer and snacks, you can also experience some of the best barbeque north of Memphis. (Barbeque is available from about 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.)

Riverside uses the St. Louis-style of cooking its meats, which means that they're slow-cooked over an open hickory wood grill. The result is very tender meat so moist and juicy it practically melts in your mouth.

Everyone always thinks of ribs first when talking barbeque, so let's discuss the ribs at Riverside right off the bat. Available as a full rack ($13.95) or a half rack ($7), the ribs are dry-rubbed and then slow-cooked to produce a moist yet firm texture with a great smoky taste that holds up nicely with the homemade sauce. The barbeque sauce at Riverside is slightly sweet but tangy, with a heavy dose of black pepper. It’s a unique taste that doesn’t dominate the flavor of the meat, but truly complements it.

The smoked pulled brisket sandwich ($7, or $10 as a platter) was simply one of the best that I have ever had. The expertly seasoned beef is extremely tender as it is cooked for 14 hours, giving it a wonderfully smoky, rich flavor. You can have your sandwich sauced or have the sauce on the side. I love that coleslaw was served on the sandwich.

Other choices include a pulled pork sandwich ($6) or a pulled chicken sandwich ($5). The only side dishes are baked beans and coleslaw. The homemade baked beans were thick and sweeter than I usually like, but I couldn’t stop eating them. The vinegar-based coleslaw is also homemade and, while it has a nice freshness, it was under-seasoned.

Another standout was the Giant Loaded Baked Potato ($4). The potatoes really are huge and stuffed with butter, sour cream, bacon bites, cheese and chives. I had mine topped with pulled pork ($5) and the pork made this potato something special. It’s very flavorful and moist and, while I hate to use a cliché, it really shows the love that is put into the food at Riverside. The potatoes can also be topped with pulled beef or pulled chicken (both $5). Barbeque chicken is also available with a smoked half chicken for $4.95 and a whole chicken $8.95. The menu is rounded out with 10 wings for $5.50 or 15 wings for $8.25. The wings are served with either the smoked barbeque sauce or as hot wings. I don’t do wings, but my friends seemed to love them.

Riverside’s traditional menu offers a nice variety of meats and homemade sides, generous portions and prices that can’t be beat. No matter where you live, you need to drive out to River Road and try it. Since there’s no dining area available, it is best to call ahead so your order is ready when you pull in.

Another new barbeque spot, Pinky Sue’s Smokehouse, recently opened in Newport in the location most recently occupied by NuVo. They offer baby back ribs, which generally are a smaller cut rib with less meat on them than spare ribs. We ordered a half slab of ribs ($11.49 or $13.99 for platter) and I was surprised to find them extremely meaty. The ribs really were fall-off-the-bone tender and not mushy. There is a dry rub on the ribs and they are served without sauce. While tender and moist, the ribs were light on flavor. There was no smokiness to the meat and the taste came from the rub. The barbeque sauce served on the side was dull, thick and overpowering.

Pulled pork or beef brisket sandwiches are available in two sizes. The half-pound pork is $3.49 and the brisket is $3.99. I tried the brisket sandwich and it is a very good version of a traditional barbeque fixture. Barbeque chicken and wings are also available on the menu.

I was excited by the variety of side dishes offered at Pinky Sue’s. Two sides come with every platter or they are available a la carte at $1.99 each. Unfortunately, they were all average. The sweet corn casserole was certainly the best, but the baked beans and mac and cheese both tasted like they came out of a high school cafeteria. The potato salad was a major disappointment. One nice touch is that they have a children’s menu and it does seem like a nice neighborhood place to bring the family.

Pinky Sue’s ribs are good and with some improvements to the side dishes, this could become a solid player in the ever-expanding Cincinnati barbeque scene.

Riverside Barbeque and Drive Thru
Go: 2790 River Road, Sedamsville
Call: 513-471-1111


Hours: 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily
Entree Prices: $5-$17
Red Meat Alternatives: Chicken and baked potatoes
Accessibility: Drive-thru

Pinky Sue’s Smokehouse
Go: 527 York St., Newport
Call: 859-491-9700
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday
Entrée Prices: $4- $20
Red Meat Alternatives: Chicken and side dishes
Accessibility: Fully accessible