Elias Leisring doesn’t believe in fall-off-the-bone ribs. You’ll never see him wrap ribs in bacon or even foil, as those trimmings ruin the meat’s natural texture and make for a mushy mess. Expect just three ingredients at Eli’s BBQ: smoke, a semi-secret dry rub from Findlay Market’s Colonel De, and a squirt of the house sauce—plus a three to five hour stint in a hickory-stocked smoker. The result is sturdy, slightly crunchy rib meat that doesn’t collapse on the first bite. Even the pulled pork, which is smoked into submission for nigh on 20 hours, retains those crusty bits that separate the men from the Sloppy Joes. The bun to contain such goodness is fairly critical. After trial runs of the fanciest buns and rolls on offer, Eli and his business partner Drew Simmons landed on a retro favorite: The Butternut Golden Honeybun. “There should be a church basement cheapness to the bun,” Leisring says, though he does gussy it up with a schmear of butter and some quality time on the flattop. The downhome feeling extends to the picnic tables out back, the wallet-friendly BYOB policy, and the record player spinning classic Americana in the front room. In a nod to non-carnivores, the side dishes—tart, crunchy slaw; creamy mac and cheese; hearty baked beans; and more—are all vegetarian. And those ribs? They will leave you in a near fugue state. Once the primal urge to separate meat from bone with your teeth subsides, quickly excuse yourself to check the state of your face.
3313 Riverside Dr.
Prices: $5–$8. Lunch and dinner seven days.
Originally published in the July 2012 issue.