Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse
71800 Highway 111
Rancho Mirage, CA 92270
Driving down to the desert brings back some really happy memories for me. When I was in elementary school, my aunt had a condo in Rancho Mirage that we would visit at least once every month, except when I was in fourth grade, and wouldn't let my parents take me out of school, because I had a perfect attendance streak going. Yes, I still have the certificate to prove it.
Anyways, when we would come down here in the early 80's, there was not much in the way of restaurants in Rancho Mirage. There was, and still is Wally's Desert Turtle, but my parents weren't going to spring for that with two kids under the age of ten. So we had to head down Highway 111 into Palm Springs to eat at Las Casuelas, Louise's Pantry, Hamburger Hamlet, or any fast food restaurant they let us kids pick.
Fast forward to today and this area is all built up. The most prominent shopping and entertainment area in Rancho Mirage is The River shopping complex. It offers many retail stores, along with a movie theater, and 13 places to get your grub on, including Fleming's, Yard House, Cheesecake Factory, and the place we were trying on this afternoon, Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse.
Babe's opened in 2002 and has been serving tourists and residents of the Coachella Valley ever since. They have won numerous awards for their beers and won a lot of accolades and mentions from numerous magazines for their barbecue. Founded by restaurant icon, Don Callender, yes, the same man who started Marie Callender's, this was one of his last restaurant endeavors before his passing in 2009. If you look closely at the menu, you will notice a few slight nods to his beginnings at Marie Callender's, whether it's the Callender's Corn Bread or the inclusion of a good variety of pies on their dessert menu. Katie's sister Emily and her husband Jason grabbed a seat in the bar before we got here, so we quickly made our choices, and this is how the food came out for us.
Not the most photogenic starter we could have chosen, but this Parmesan Garlic Bread was a good start for the four of us. Good garlic flavor flowed throughout this slice of bread, and I liked that they provided ranch dressing without having to ask for it. Even though this was lacking the bright yellow color of the Lawry's Garlic Spread we had as kids, this still tasted exactly like it.
Since we had just finished a big family breakfast a few hours before, Emily and Jason decided to split these Pulled Pork BBQ Sliders ($14). These were pretty good sized and filled with plenty of pulled pork, which was dressed with a sweet barbecue sauce. I'm definitely more partial to the meat coming out bare, so you can add the desired amount of sauce yourself, plus I sometimes feel restaurants try to hide their lackluster meat by drenching it with sauce. The pulled pork here was a little inconsistent. I had a few bites of this, which were flavorful and moist, but others were dry and rather bland. These big sliders came with two sides, and they picked the coleslaw and fries. The fries were pretty basic, run of the mill fries, but the coleslaw at Babe's contained a little twist. Don Callender reportedly had quite a sweet tooth, and it was his idea to add golden raisins to this coleslaw. I'm not really a big raisin guy, but this did kind of make this otherwise average slaw come to life.
Not usually something Katie and I do all too often, but we decided to share a meal between ourselves. Is the world coming to an end? Anyways, we had the one and the only combo offered on the Babe's lunch menu, the Baby Back Ribs with Boneless Beef Short Ribs and a Hot Link Sausage ($21). The best of the bunch was the Hot Link. It really popped with a mildly spicy flavor, although it did have an odd texture to it. The short rib was predictably tender and might be a little too fatty for some of you out there, but I didn't mind it. The ribs sadly were just average. Lots of meat on these, but the meat was a little tough in some places, while other parts of the rib were tender. The barbecue sauce was definitely on the sweeter side, and I was happy to see that they did not over sauce these ribs, even though I still would have rather of had them served sans sauce. We also got the pretty solid coleslaw here but went with the baked beans for our other side. These were just okay as well, with an overly sweet sauce that kind of just sat there.
Babe's was decent barbecue, but nothing more than that. A quick Yelp search shows that this area does not really have a lot of choices when it comes to barbecue restaurants. There are four options in the Palm Springs area, including this, and no other spots in Rancho Mirage, so Babe's is really your only option around here. Again, the meat and sides we had here were fine, but nothing blew us away, and we'd probably try other restaurants when we were back in town. Service on this visit was a little spotty, as it sometimes is when you sit in the bar, and the bartender has to wait on you as well. With a full bar for the early happy hour on this Sunday, he had a hard time keeping up. Maybe taking one of the servers from the nearly empty restaurant would have helped this guy out. I'm glad to see all the dining options that have sprung up since the early 80's, but I'm hoping for more barbecue spots in the future for this area.
Out of five desert bighorn sheep, (because that's the official animal for the city if Rancho Mirage), five being best to zero being worst, Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse gets 2.5 desert bighorn sheep
For more information about Babe's Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, head to their website here: http://babesbbqandbrewhouse.com/home.php