In America, there's barbecue, and then there's barbecue. For most of us, barbecue means direct, high-heat grilling over a gas flame or charcoal, the method used in most back yards. To the growing cult of authentic-barbecue aficionados, only slow, indirect cooking of meats using hardwood smoke at low temperatures (200 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit) is the real deal. And for a few of us, the debate is moot: we live in small urban homes with no outdoor space in which to use a grill or smoker, or we recognize the limits of our meager home-barbecue skills. For this last group, M+M Ribs, a/k/a Big Moe's BBQ Ribs, is a warm-weather godsend.
Big Moe is an unapologetic oak-charcoal griller who brings impressive finesse to the less-exalted corner of the barbecue world. Despite lacking the true-barbecue smoke ring, his pork spareribs ($8/tray; $11/half-slab; $20/slab) are beautifully smoky and don't "fall off the bone" — a boast by other restaurants that always baffled me, as it betrays the horrific shortcut of parboiling — but retain the more-desirable firm chewiness. Moe's barbecued chicken ($5.50/half; $9.25/whole) is especially fine, with a crispness of skin and juiciness most home cooks rarely achieve. Customers order at the adjacent serving truck, where solicitous servers apply a fine tomato-based finishing sauce with its own subtle smoke and chili fire, before being sent on their way.
The soul-food sides ($3/small; $5.50/large) are excellent. Most notable: mac and cheese loaded with mild cheddar, collard greens unctuous with fatback, spicy red rice and beans subtly seasoned with bay laurel, and potato and onions reminiscent of a warm, German-style potato salad. Regularly available specials include fiery jerk chicken ($4), oxtail ($7.50), pig's feet ($4), and gorgeously fatty beef brisket chopped and served on a roll ($5). Gigantic chicken wings ($5/four; $8/eight) come out of a deep fryer. Dinner plates ($8–$12) are a good deal: a generous portion of meat (e.g., 10 ribs) and two sides. The cornbread included with most meals is Yankee stuff: dry and too sweet. But that sweetness perfectly suits desserts like sweet-potato pie ($4/small; $9/large), peach cobbler ($3), and banana pudding ($3).
Moe's location could hardly be less pastoral: the take-out joint occupies a corner of a chain-link-enclosed lot owned by a construction company. Amidst the constant traffic of sand-hauling dump trucks, it's easy to miss. But for folks seeking casual Southern comfort at gentle prices, especially at later hours on weekend nights, M+M is well worth the hunt.
M+M Ribs, located near 200 Hampden Street, in Roxbury, is open Wednesday, 11 am–6 pm; Thursday, 11 am–8 pm; Friday, 11 am–10 pm, Saturday, 11 am–2 am. Call 617.306.0788.