Minnesota's Best Old-School Barbecue

At Ted Cook’s 19th Hole, the food is the star

Rudolph's spare ribs on a cutting board.
Rudolph’s spare ribs

photo by terry brennan; styled by lara miklasevics

Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue

If real, old-school Minnesota barbecue is about tradition, simplicity, and history, Moses Quartey might be its most unlikely guardian. “I grew up in Ghana, where the closest thing we had to barbecue was throwing fish on burning charcoal,” he says.

But for about two decades, this Ghanan immigrant, who came to the U.S. to study biochemistry at the U of M, has kept tradition alive as owner of Ted Cook’s 19th Hole Barbecue. “I used to come and cook at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays,” says the 60-year-old Quartey. “I didn’t know I was preparing for this.”

As a teenager, Quartey learned how to be a pitmaster by working at Ted Cook’s in the mid-1980s. By then, Cook was in his second decade of smoking ribs, pork, and brisket. A champion golfer, Cook named his restaurant after the 19th hole. The place is more hole-in-the-wall than golf clubhouse, but somehow it feels right—the food is the star here, not the space.

“I observed, and what I didn’t like, I changed,” Quartey explains. Ted Cook’s uses an open pit with hickory and cherry wood—more like a traditional grill. “Not like the fancy smokers,” he says, laughing. Ribs take about 2 1/2 hours, and are top-notch: dry-rubbed, with a perfect smoke ring. Pork and beef ribs are available every day.

The JoJo potatoes are the things of local legend: Thicker than a chip but thinner than a wedge, Ted Cook’s are deep-fried to get a hint of crispness. Your smoked meat gets put in a to-go box and the JoJos are liberally tossed on top. If you order the barbecue sauced: “There’s an explosion, like a symphony,” Quartey says. The combination of smoke, meat, juice, starch, sweetness, crunch all comes together. “Everyone is playing its part, it’s special.”

As for that sauce: It’s as bright red as ketchup. Quartey wouldn’t share the recipe: “Our sauce is unique. Teddy invented it and fine-tuned it,” he says. You can get mild, medium, or hot. (Watch out, the heat sneaks up on you!) It’s almost sticky: First-timers might want to order it on the side.

A visit to Ted Cook’s will reassure you that hard work and tradition are alive in Minnesota barbecue. “I believe in the work that I do, I want to make sure I maintain the tradition,” he says. -J.D.

2814 E. 38th St, Minneapolis | 612-721-2023 | tedcooks19thholebbq.com

Big Daddy’s Old Fashioned Barbeque

Big Daddy’s began as three friends’ friendly barbecue cook-offs in the park, and eventually became a University Avenue classic. From the tender-smoked chicken to the Flintstonian beef ribs, the no-frills menu puts all the love and hard work into every cut of smoky meat. -J.S.

625 University Ave. W., St. Paul | 651-222-2516 | bigdaddysbbq-stpaul.com

Market Bar-B-Que

Run by the same family for more than 70 years, Market Bar-B-Que continues their commitment to pit-style barbecue. After many happy years on Nicollet Avenue, they are moving to northeast Minneapolis in late 2018. In the meantime, a food truck carries on a family tradition. -J.S.

1414 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis | 612-872-1111 | marketbbq.com

Rudolphs Bar-B-Que

Local restaurant baron Jimmy Theros first opened Rudolphs in 1975 and named the restaurant after silent-movie star Rudolph Valentino. The barbecue here is served with a tangy, sweet sauce in an elegant room befitting the screen star. -J.S.  

1933 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis | 612-871-8969 | rudolphsribs.com