There isn't a parking lot more aromatic than the one in front of Speed Queen Bar B-Q, 1130 W. Walnut St. The scrumptious smell of beef and pork slow-sizzling over a hickory-and-apple wood fire could challenge even the staunchest vegetarian to relapse. Or at least reconsider.
But olfactory nerves aside, it's the sense of taste that's the most rewarded at Speed Queen. Whether diners drive-through, carry-out or eat-in, the food is the same top-notch quality, and modestly served in Styrofoam containers with plastic utensils.
Most famous for their ridiculously tender ribs and sloppy-good sandwiches, Speed Queen is considered one of Wisconsin's best barbeque restaurants, if not THE best. Those in-the-know drive to the near North Side dive from all corners of the city for lunch or dinner.
On a recent Friday night, we decided to sit inside the restaurant, which means ordering at the window, waiting for our number to get called, and then sitting down in a Spartan eating area. With orange, plastic booths and almost nothing on the walls, the interior is a cross between a cafeteria and a '70s McDonald's, but the surroundings really didn't matter. We started digging into our bag of home-cookin' before our butts touched the benches.
On other visits, we've devoured the fried perch battered in a delicious cornmeal coating, the pork shoulder sandwiches glazed in a zingier version of the famous Speed Queen sauce, and something called the "outside," which is indeed the outside -- and crispiest -- part of the shoulder.
This time, we ordered the box of tips and catfish dinner. "Tips" are the meatiest part of the rib, sliced from the bone and served in a chunk form. The chunks range in texture, from succulent, melt-in-your mouth and deliciously fatty, to leaner, slightly tougher pieces that are more like jerky. All of the tips are drenched in sweet-and-tangy mild sauce -- which can get sopped up with the signature pieces of Wonder bread.
The catfish dinner was incredible. The meal includes six or seven medium-sized pieces of flavorful fish, perfectly fried in a spicy batter. The fish is, literally, melt-in-your mouth, and it comes with a generous pile of average fries as well as two pieces of white bread which seemed supurflous with this sauce-less meal.
We also pigged out on "sides" of macaroni and cheese, which was thick and rich with a hint of sweetness, and the earthy-and-buttery collard greens.
The menu also features chicken and turkey meals, ribs-on-the-bone and a slew of other sides, including baked beans, spaghetti and potato salad. Dinners can be purchased family style, but the best deal on the menu is arguably the "Pick Three" which -- for $7.73 -- comes with a meat of your choice and two sides.
Lunches range from $7 to $10, and dinners (excluding the family-syle meals) are between $7 and $14. At $13. 76, the box of tips was the most expensive item on the menu, but provided enough chow for a hungry person to eat for dinner and lunch the next day.
The thought of dessert after a Speed Queen meal is more of a sick joke than a possibility, but it's been said they serve a mean pecan pie.
Molly Snyder grew up on Milwaukee's East Side and today, she lives in the Walker's Point neighborhood with her partner and two sons.
As a full time senior writer, editorial manager and self-described experience junkie, Molly has written thousands of articles about Milwaukee (and a few about New Orleans, Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston and various vacation spots in Wisconsin) that range in subject from where to get the best cup of coffee to an in-depth profile on the survivors of the iconic Norman apartment building that burned down in the '90s.
She also once got a colonic just to report on it, but that's enough on that.
Always told she had a "radio voice," Molly found herself as a regular contributor on FM102, 97WMYX and 1130WISN with her childhood radio favorite, Gene Mueller.
Molly's poetry, essays and articles appeared in many publications including USA Today, The Writer, The Sun Magazine and more. She has a collection of poetry, "Topless," and is slowly writing a memoir.
In 2009, Molly won a Milwaukee Press Club Award. She served as the Narrator / writer-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel from 2013-2014. She is also a story slam-winning storyteller who has performed with The Moth, Ex Fabula and Risk!
When she's not writing, interviewing or mom-ing, Molly teaches tarot card classes, gardens, sits in bars drinking Miller products and dreams of being in a punk band again.