For the sixth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2012."
If you haven't taken the opportunity to wander over to Ashley's Bar-B-Que at 1501 W. Center St., I might be tempted to offer you my condolences. After all, this tiny take-out spot has some of the best pit barbecue in Milwaukee at some of the fairest prices around.
But, I might be just as tempted to recommend you stop over at their newest location in Walker's Point, just to see what all the fuss is about.
Ashley's Que, located at 124 W. National Ave. in the former home of Lo-Cash Live, may be the newest barbecue joint in the area. But, it's backed by over 40 years of authentic pit barbecue experience.
A partnership between Darnell Ashley, owner of Ashley's Bar-B-Que, Jay "JC" Carter, former owner of Lo Cash, and Josh Pietrykowski, formerly of the Ambassador Hotel, Ashley's Que, which opened Sept. 27, promises to be a great addition to Walker's Point.
Unlike its sister restaurant, Ashley's Que offers sit-down dining and a full-service bar. Pietrykowski, who manages the front end of the restaurant, says they will specialize in simple, quality drinks that make a great match for barbecue. The bar will feature a tight selection of local and craft beers for $3-$5, as well as classic top-shelf cocktails for $7.
Although the bar won't cater to the craft cocktail seeker, they will offer a few specialty cocktails including the classic Hurricane and bourbon milk punch ($6), a Southern classic made from bourbon, milk and sugar, topped off with nutmeg and cinnamon.
"It's a nice, crisp atmosphere. We now have a sit-down spot with drinks on the premises," Ashley says. "It does change the dynamic of what we're doing a little bit when you're not getting the food to go. And it's more difficult in some ways ... Where I was the face before, now it's the servers who are the face of Ashley's."
Despite that adjustment, Ashley promises that the new location will adhere to all the same standards when it comes to great-tasting food.
"We cook from scratch," he says. "I just want things made like I want to eat it. I don't want the fast way."
From slow-cooked Southern greens flavored with smoked turkey (my personal favorite), to homemade macaroni and cheese and baked beans and corned beef that's been cooked for seven to eight hours until it's falling-apart tender, Ashley's Que offers some of the best in Southern comfort food fare.
And then there's the barbecue. Whether you order ribs, pork shoulder or tips, there's little like the meat you'll find at Ashley's.
"You won't get barbecue like this anywhere else," Ashley assures me. "This is real barbecue. You can tell you're eating the real thing."
Ashley doesn't commit to just one "right" way of preparing barbecue. In fact, he applies both a wet and dry rub to his meats, which are then slow smoked in an old-fashioned pit barbecue with wood and charcoal until they're rich and smoky, and perfectly tender.
Not in the mood for barbecue? Ashley's Que still has your number.
Try out their fried chicken ($8.99), shrimp and grits ($10.99) or beef short ribs ($14.49). Or sample one of the many sandwich options, including Southern-fried perch or catfish ($6.49), corned beef ($7.99) or gyros ($6.99). Pair any of these choices with classic sides like greens, breaded okra, fried corn on the cob or cheesy grits for just a few dollars more.
But, if you're in the mood for something different, you might just want to lay it down for the Prince Sandwich ($7.99, or $8.99 with fries), a hoagie roll loaded up with steak, lamb, cucumber sauce, mixed peppers, mayonnaise, fried onions and shredded cheese.
And don't leave without trying an order of Ashley's Fries, your choice of French fries or chips covered in shredded pork shoulder, cheese sauce, mixed peppers and barbecue sauce. For dessert, try the restaurant's homemade cheesecake or deep-fried brownie bites with ice cream.
Ashley reports that the restaurant will roll out a number of specials in the coming weeks, including Sunday brunch with a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, bottomless mimosas and an Ashley's Bar-B-Que classic, the soul food buffet.
The kitchen at Ashley's Que is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight with bar service until 2 a.m., and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m. with bar service until 2 a.m. Both the restaurant and bar are closed Mondays.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.