Pandemic Takeout 56: Firebox Barbecue (St. Paul, MN)


I’ve been promising (threatening?) a pandemic takeout report from the St. Paul outpost of Firebox for a while now. This past weekend the stars finally aligned and I was able to go up to pick up a large order. I’m not sure what their hours were in the Before Times but at least during the pandemic they are only open in the evenings (see the posted hours in the slideshow below). Like most barbecue restaurants they have a compact menu—even more compact, in fact, than at either Ted Cook’s 19th Hole or Smoke in the Pit. We got almost everything on it. It was our first time eating their food and it seemed like it would be a mistake to not be comprehensive (also: we were being joined on our deck by two sets of vaccinated friends and so there were a lot of mouths to fee). Well, we had no regrets. Details follow.

The St. Paul location is on Marshall right off Snelling in whatever neighbourhood of St. Paul that is (I’m really bad with Twin Cities neighbourhoods). There’s a small parking lot in front but it’s currently closed as they are not open for dining in. I had no trouble finding street parking right in front though. When they are/will be open and it’s safe to do so, we’ll eat in for sure. It’s a large, bright space with tables nicely spaced. A good dining option before or after a Minnesota United game at Allianz Field for sure.

They have an interesting but effective ordering system. No orders over the phone. You place your order via their website (it’s a commission-free system). A little after the restaurant opens you receive an email confirmation of your order. You then pay at pickup (cash or card).

Okay, what did we get? As I said, almost everything. We were 6 adults and 4 children but when it comes to barbecue you may as well count those children as adults. The main events at Firebox are pork ribs, pulled pork, pork rib tips, brisket and chicken wings. Plus a bunch of sides. The meats can be got a la carte (by the pound or in combination with sides) or in sandwich form. The way to go if you are feeding a large group, however, is to order the appropriate number of Firebox Feasts. $65.99 gets you a full rack of ribs, 8 chicken wings, your choice of 1 lb of pulled pork or brisket, a large order of fries, 4 pieces of Texas toast and 4 sides of your choice. This means that if you get two Firebox Feasts—one with pulled pork and one with brisket—you can effectively try almost everything on their menu. And believe me, two Firebox Feasts by themselves would have been more than enough for 6 adults and 4 greedy children. Indeed, with the rib tips added on we had quite a lot left over.

Of the meats I think we all had the brisket at the top followed by the ribs, the pulled pork and the wings, in that order. The wings were very tasty in their own right but I felt they could have used a little more smoke. The sides were all good—I didn’t try the mac-n-cheese—but I particularly liked the potato salad. And while the Texas toast is good the pro-tip is to eat your meat with a side of sticky rice and some of Mama’s Sauce ($2 for a little container of hot pepper paste made, as per the young woman handling payment, by her grandmother). In case you’re wondering, Firebox is Hmong-owned and these—along with eggrolls—are the signs of that on the menu. The barbecue itself, I was told, is mostly in the St. Louis style and they use applewood to smoke.

Well, I am no barbecue maven and have no strong affiliations to or feelings about any particular style. I do know I liked everything here quite a bit and would happily eat it all again. On my own I’d probably get a brisket sandwich with cole slaw (plus some Mama’s Sauce to dip the sandwich in).

Launch the slideshow to take a look at the space, the menu and the food. Scroll down to see how much it all cost and to see what might be coming next.

All of this plus tax and a big tip came to about $192. 12-14 people could have eaten all this and so the real cost per head is no more than $16/head all-in. Pretty excellent value. Oh yes, not everything pictured above was from Firebox. They are not currently offering desserts and so our friend Natalie baked an excellent blueberry cake that hit the spot.

Okay, what’s next? Not entirely sure; maybe Indian again. Or maybe I’ll finally keep my promise to go back to Peninsula as well. You’ll find out in a week. Before that though I will probably have a look at another immigrant market in the south metro. On Sunday, probably.

6 thoughts on “Pandemic Takeout 56: Firebox Barbecue (St. Paul, MN)

  1. Thanks for the review. Firebox is in the Merriam Park neighborhood of St. Paul (for whatever that’s worth at this point). A friend of mine and I went there a little more than a year ago, pre-lockdown, for lunch, so they had lunch hours; I guess they curtailed hours to save some on overhead though tbh the only staff we’ve ever seen in there is the family that owns/runs it. I hope lunch hours return as the pandemic starts to wind down (and games pick up at Allianz Field).

    And Mama’s Sauce is good stuff!

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  2. Your pics looked so good and I’ve wanted to try for months now. So ordered online and picked up at the N. Mpls. shop. Wow, excellent stuff! Got ribs and brisket as suggested. The meat was very good, I thought the ribs could have had a little more chew, but only a minor ding. This food was way better than the over-hyped Q Fanatic bbq shop in Anoka. Way better.

    I liked the bbq sauce, it was sweet, but since I like hot, added my own chili sediment to it – perfect! Potato salad – Yum. Sticky rice – Yum. And portions were a good size; I got the 2 meat sampler for $20 and will get 3 meals out of it.

    Can’t wait to go back; was very easy on/off the I-94 for me to go and get back home. Oh, when I ran out of sauce, I used Cathy’s latest batch of sweet soy sauce out of Dunlop’s Food of Sich. book. Suggest you try making it too!!

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      • We got to the St. Paul location around 6 last night and they were already out of some good stuff. But pulled pork sandwiches and ribs were available and were pretty good. The ribs could have used another few minutes on the fire. But as Joseph inferred, it’s still barbecue that beats a lot of others in the Twin Cities.

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