Flavor // A smokin sensation on Nicollet

If you’re wondering what caused the traffic stand-still on South Nicollet the other evening, let’s just say I should have kept my window shut. When passing cars got a whiff of possibly the best aroma in the galaxy — I’m talking about barbecue, of course — they halted to demand, “Where’d you get that?”

At C&G’s, of course.

Greg Alford launched C&G’s Smoking Barbecue exactly a year ago; the anniversary balloons in the otherwise-Spartan, clean-as-a-whistle hole in the wall provided the only touch of whimsy in this serious business.

Greg was born in Louisiana, which may explain his superior taste in food. He grew up in Detroit, one of 12 kids whose mamma set him to cooking when he was 5, he tells me between phone calls.

Greg believes in mighty, two-fisted ribs, rather than those city-slicker baby backs. He seasons them ever so gently (if he told me exactly how, he’d have to kill me, naturally) then submits them to three hours in his electric smoker. Result: That car-stopping aroma, which keeps its promise as it permeates the thick, pink, tender meat that rides those bones. Want sauce? Well, he’ll give you some — a purchased, sweet, tomato-y, kinda kicky product — but it’s about as necessary as lipstick on a pig, to quote a politician.

The smoker also produces fine beef brisket — lean, thinly sliced and flavorful — and pulled pork that makes a dandy sandwich. So does the corned beef, a fellow customer tells me: “On an onion roll, like it should be,” testifies the young man in desert boots and army camo, who’d come in for the barbecued chicken. (“I’m going go home and make love to it.”) He also swears by the fried fish sandwich and the Coney Island dog, smothered in Alford’s homemade chili. And the sweet potato pie.

“You haven’t tasted it?” he says in disbelief as I’m paying up. “You’ve gotta have a piece! It’s just like they make it in Tennessee, where I come from,” he declares. So I order a wedge and we split it on the spot. And he’s right, of course. It’s similar to  pumpkin but a bit less custardy, less sweet and more, well, sweet-potato-y. “Last time,” he continues. “I ordered two.” Not pieces. Two pies. “And they were gone in two days,” he declares.

C&G’s dinners come with the wimpy white bread that’s de rigeur for barbecue joints, a slew of soft, squishy fries that have little to recommend them, and another side.

Service at the counter isn’t swift nor uber-friendly, but we’re here for the meat, aren’t we? And that’s what Greg’s masterminding in the back.

4743 Nicollet Ave. S.