Before I delve into the details of my lunch trip to Hot Spot BBQ — the seven-year-old establishment on North St. Mary’s, just past the Josephine intersection — I’ll see if I can’t expedite this process for the barbecue fundamentalists: The lamb ribs are falling off the bone. The brisket in the Hots Po’Boy is pull-apart tender and not at all dry — thank God, because it’s stuffed full and ladled with sauce, and if I had to wrangle it with my teeth, it’d be a mess. (As it is, I’m afraid my vegetarian coworker will walk in while I’m eating and be scarred for life.)
If that’s enough info for you, you may skip to the address and hours. For the harder sells I’ll add that the meat is honestly flavored — no pumped-up smoke smell beyond the pit out back — and the ribs, fetched from that pit when I ordered, are rich with their own natural fat. They’re some work, with small bones that need to be avoided and extracted, but if you like lamb, well worth the effort and price ($9 for a pound). I’m going to call the brisket sandwich, at $5, the best lunch deal in town, but if you like a more well-rounded meal, you can get a smaller sammy with a side and a drink for the same price. The sauce I tried (there’s a smokier version, too) didn’t have any particular depth; it was a serviceable peppery, vinegary concoction. But with that brisket, I’d just add jalapeños and onions and go.
Hot Spot is cute as peppermint candy, too: a small, red-and-white, A/C-free building with a pressed-tin ceilings a screened-in ordering window, and the sweetest sign paintings for miles (including a winged pig that is remarkably even more come-hither than Bill Miller’s frollicking hoglet). The flagstone path from the restaurant to the pit is lanscaped with banana trees and a palm, and the outdoor-only seating (eight or so picnic tables) is shaded.
Rochelle Arsate, who operates the Hot Spot with her father, is friendly, if not particularly speedy, but then it was already 95 degrees when I stopped in, and with no one in line behind me, there was no need to court heatstroke in her compact kitchen. Rochelle mentioned that by the end of the year they’ll be serving Hot Spot BBQ at her dad’s newest venture, the Outdoor Bar (which Bar Tab recently reviewed; see “Plein-air party,” June 24) just down the street on the new River Walk extension. To which I say hallelujah, because these lamb ribs could really use a beer.