Sunday, February 8, 2009

We have a winner! A visit to Rotuno's

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Barbecue, like pizza, ice cream, sushi and so on, incites a passion in people that is hard to explain. Why is it that we get so damned chippy when it comes to any of the above subjects? I think it ultimately comes down to the fact that we are all brought up with, and develop, different ideas about what "good" represents.

I had made a comment some time ago about Hot Sauce Williams on Yelp that didn't go over too well. This lady who was somehow related to the owners of HSC told me I didn't know what I was talking about. That HSC was the best she had ever tasted.

Hey, whatever, if that's what you think, great. Don't come to me saying that I'm a moron when you're related to the owners. I don't think it's a very objective opinion. It's kind of like the guy from Flemming's who a few months ago was reviewing his own restaurant.

Why do I bring up the above examples? Its pretty simple actually, this review is about the other side of the spectrum. This is about the restaurant that wasn't on Urbanspoon (until I added it). It's about the restaurant that doesn't have a website. It's about finding the Big Foot of Northeast Ohio barbecue, some had tasted it, but no one had seen an actual menu ,(at least not on the Internet).

When I went out to the nether regions of Lorain County to see some friends of mine, I had to take the opportunity to try Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque, in Elyria.

My favorite barbecue in Ohio is City BBQ. I love it. I love the meat. I love the sides. It's just a great place, the only problem is it doesn't have a Cleveland presence. Rotuno's, I had heard, was just as good, (if not better).

What!?! Shut yo' mouth!

"Blasphemy", I said.

My good friend Jonathan, who is the biggest carnivore I know, and I walked into Tim Rotuno's little rib joint in Elyria.

The interior reminded me of Chipotle. There was a combination of corrugated metal, wood, and painted gray drywall. It was actually a very smart way to do it. There wasn't a lot of porous surface area for stickiness to adhere to.

We both ordered the half slab of rib dinners. Normally I don't get something like that for lunch, but I thought it only appropriate to judge a barbecue place by it's ribs. The first thing I did was tear off one the rib bones. A smile immediately came to my face as I saw the pink meat, a telltale sign of slow cooked meat, staring back at me. We had were enjoying the real deal here.


I thought the sauce was good, but a little plain. I like a sauce that is a little more vinegary (if that's a word). I think it adds a little more zing.

The one thing I was really disappointed by was the sides. The fries were the wide frozen ones like you find at Arthur Treacher's. The beans and cole slaw seemed very plain. None of them tasted bad, I just thought they lacked the same care that the meat had received.

I got a pulled pork sandwich to go, (for lunch the next day). Awesome, by the way.

Rotuno's has been in business for a little under a year, I think, (don't quote me on that). I think he's perfected the meat cooking. It's done extremely well. Very authentic. He needs to start working on the sides and making them more personal to the restaurant. That is the only real criticism I have. Oh wait, I have one more : no website. I think if your in an out of the way place like Elyria you have to have a website. People want to see if it's worth the drive.

The store is kept spotless. The staff is very personable. They cook everything from pork, to beef, to chicken, to turkey. The prices are very reasonable. A half a slab dinner is $12, a full is $20, served with two sides and Texas Toast. They also cater and have family sized meal deals.

This is the best in Cleveland, and if the sides improve, probably Ohio. You have got to go here if you are a barbecue fan. I think it's better than Al's Bubba Q, and much more reasonable in price.

Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque
(440) 366-5027
515 North Abbe Road
Elyria, OH 44035

Rotuno's Texas Style Barbeque on Urbanspoon


  1. Couldn't agree more. Bubba's is pretty overrated imho. I need to make a trip there soon.

  2. Wow...this place is great! Very friendly service and great food. On my second visit today I just officially put Rotuno's #1 on my BBQ list. The baby back ribs were perfect. I have been searching long and far for the perfect rib...move over City BBQ, Rotuno's has officially arrived!

  3. Right on guys. Spread the word.

    I hope the trip you're talking about is to Elyria.

    Did you guys feel the same way about the sides or am I being too critical? I think he has the right idea, perfect the meat and go from there.

  4. haha, yes. I need to make another trip to Rotuno's, not Bubba's! I live < 5 minutes from Bubba's but we rarely ever go.

    I don't even remember the sides at Rotunos. I am more concerned about the pork! I will pay closer attention next time we make it over that way.

  5. Did you know Rotuno's moved, or is in the process of moving? I tried to stop by a month or so ago and it look like they closed up shop. I talked to a friend that is family friends with the Rotuno's and he told me they were moving to another spot in Elyria but he thought they were having some issues opening. In the mean time, the best BBQ on the westside continues to come out of my smoker :)

  6. Rotuno's moved to Oberlin Road, just an fyi. I have an inside scoop from my mom, Tim's little sis. ;)

  7. I loved Rotuno's when it was on Abbe Rd, i visited it regularly, recommended it to many others and was very sad to hear it was closing. So when i recently saw the GROUPON i was very excited. I went to the new location but i was very disappointed.

    I expected a similar or a better experience than before. But this was no the case. The interior is nothing like the old store it is very generic, it felt like a high school cafeteria, the cashier/server was smoking a cigarette behind the counter, i was informed by the cashier that we could only get certain select meals (not any of the sandwiches), they were also out of rolls so we were told that we would get texas toast (which was a joke, white soggy bread with butter and seasoning), we then got our food and most of it was cold, the macaroni and cheese tasted watered down.

    Long story short the staff we encountered was nice. Also i recently had Rotuno's at a graduation party and it was fantastic. So maybe they need to focus on catering and rethink the restaurant business.

  8. I go here when craving some great BBQ ribs---which I don't make at home. It's not a fancy place, but the BBQ is great! Prices are fair. Glad to have Rotuno's in Lorain county.