I had planned to post this review of this large takeout barbecue meal earlier this week. But the prefatory comments I’d wanted to make about American food media and race became a much longer thing, and rather than have this review disappear into that I posted those as a separate piece on Thursday. One of the things I noted in that post was how little awareness I have of Black-owned/run restaurants in the Twin Cities metro beyond Somali and Ethiopian places. Indeed, the other two that I have reviewed—Big Daddy’s* and Handsome Hog—are also barbecue restaurants, albeit at different ends of the price and ambience spectrum. Ted Cook’s 19th Hole is even more informal than Big Daddy’s—it’s takeout-only here and things are as functional as you might imagine for a takeout-only establishment: a counter where you order and pay, the kitchen behind and a few seats in the bare bones room in front for people waiting (in non-pandemic times) for their orders. There is little here that signals the history of the restaurant—it’s been around since 1969. You pick up your food, you pay, and you go on your way.
You may be wondering about the name of the restaurant: the original owner was a man named Ted Cook and he was an avid and accomplished golfer. He sold the restaurant in 1986 to another family and they sold it to the current owner, Moses Quartey—a Ghanaian immigrant who’d worked at the restaurant since the 1980s—in 2001.
As to whether Ted Cook or the previous owners were also Black I do not know and have not been able to track down online The obituary of Louis “Ted” Cook, who died in 1992, notes that he was Black and his wife notes that when they moved to Minneapolis “there was no golfing for black pros here…we had to fight like mad just to get into the public links.” This means that at least this corner of Minneapolis has had a Black-owned restaurant for more than 50 years. The history of its founder also presents a through line to the current state of race relations in Minneapolis. The restaurant is located on 38th Street in the Standish neigbhourhood—which is itself part of the larger Powderhorn community. If you’ve followed the news carefully you’ll know that this means that it is not very far away from where George Floyd was murdered. Driving up 38th Street signs of the protests that have followed his murder are everywhere in the form of boarded up shop windows and graffiti. I’m not sure if other businesses around them experienced damage but Ted Cook’s seems to have come through the unrest fine.
The demographic histories of Twin Cities neighbourhoods are largely unknown to me (if you know of a resource on this I would much appreciate a pointer). I see that as of the 2010 census the population of Minneapolis was just above 18% African American and that the numbers were much lower for Standish at just about 7%. Nonetheless, even a brief visit to Ted Cook will give you a sense you will not get in too many places in the Twin Cities: of being in a Black space, This is not on account of the employees—most of whom are Hispanic—but on account of the clientele—most of whom are Black. Or at least that’s been the case on my few visits. (Though I’ve never written any of the prior visits up, after they were recommended in the comments on my Big Daddy’s review, I’ve stopped in a couple of times over the years for a quick pulled pork sandwich to eat in the car while on errands in Minneapolis.)
Right now, of course, very few people are hanging around inside restaurants—most of us waiting to pick up food were on the sidewalk outside. I’d called in my order and so didn’t have to wait too long. Most other people were placing their orders on arrival—and there was a steady stream of people coming in at the lunch hour when I made my pickup. I was picking up food for a socially distanced dinner with friends—two tables at opposite ends of a large deck and if you don’t live in the house and you haven’t relieved yourself before coming over you’ll be welcome to go in the woods alongside our yard—and so this was the first time that I ordered a lot from their menu. In fact, I ordered almost everything from it.
There are pictures of the menu at the restaurant in the slideshow below but the most expansive menu is on their website. What did we get: the pork ribs, the beef ribs, the smoked chicken, the pork rib tips, the pulled pork and the pulled beef. Sides of JoJo potatoes, cole slaw and collards; plus corn muffins. To finish, slices of pecan and sweet potato pies (their peach cobbler is recommended but they didn’t have any that day). How was it all? Well, it was variable. The beef ribs were flavourful but most were not very meaty—not close to Big Daddy’s beef ribs in their heyday. The pork ribs were much better as were the rib tips. The pulled/sliced beef (brisket I think) was also just okay as was the chicken but the pulled pork was excellent as always.
Of the sides the collards and the slaw had a little more sweetness than I would have liked. The Jo Jo potatoes—medium-sliced disks rather than wedges—were very nice, having picked up a lot of smoke from the meats they were tossed over in the takeout boxes. The corn muffins were decent as were the pies—though I couldn’t swear that the latter were made in-house and not brought in on a truck. Mind, the above estimations are after bringing all this home and re-heating it in an oven fiver hours later. The chicken and the pulled beef might have been much better if eaten right away in a nearby park. Well, whether you get your food to eat right away or hours later I’d recommend that you get the barbecue sauce on the side, as we did. While there are some who rave about it, I found it rather anonymous and don’t think it would be to any of the meats’ advantage to be slathered with it.
To take a look at the food and the space launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.
While other than the pulled pork (and the potatoes) there was nothing here that I’d want to do another 2 hour round-trip for this was a good, solid meal on the whole. Living closer, or picking up and heading directly to a picnic lunch, it would be on our rotation for sure. And while some complain about the prices online I didn’t find them to be out of line. We had a lot of food leftover and I’d hazard that an accurate per head cost—including the large tip—would be $18-20/head.
Next up from the Twin Cities will probably be a report of another takeout barbecue meal. This was from a far fancier place than Ted Cook’s located on the other side of the Highway 35. That’ll be next Thursday, probably. It’s not unlikely that sometime in the next month we’ll give another Black-owned barbecue spot, Smoke in the Pit, a go as well. If you have other recommendations, please write in below.
*Note: While Big Daddy’s was still Black-owned when I reviewed them, I believe that as of a couple of years ago that is no longer the case, as the last of the original trio of Black owners sold the place to an employee.
(Edited after the fact to add the information about Ted Cook himself.)