I must ashamedly admit that in my six years or so of happily writing for this paper, I never once took Ashley out for a boss meal. Once she and Rob crashed a lunch Carlos Danger and I put together over crawfish, but that’s just because they wanted to meet him. I’ve neglected the dietary needs of the woman who signs my paycheck, and I feel awful for it.
When committing an error of this magnitude, it is important to rectify the situation with something delicious. Luckily Ashley has a husband who keeps us abreast of the West Mobile food scene from Interstate 65 to Semmes, and I trust his judgment. It was time for me to take the boss and her lesser half to Cottage Hill’s Meat Boss.
What better name for a restaurant for an employee/superior lunch date. Meat Boss is just a bit past University headed west, on your left in the same group of buildings as trustworthy mechanic Mark McGugin. Just look for the giant smoker in the parking lot and you will know you’re home.
Ashley and I have known each other since before I started my employment at Lagniappe and would have been totally comfortable dining as a duo, but it just wouldn’t be right without inviting Frank to join us. Franklin Delano Trice is quite the character and a foodie to boot. He enjoys cheap wine though he only drinks on weekends these days. He grills a mean oyster when New Year’s Eve rolls around. He out-dances Mean Gene the Dancing Machine. But Frank’s best quality is that he speaks three languages. One of those is barbecue.
We met in the parking lot of Meat Boss one Thursday morning. Noon was approaching and hunger pangs were setting in. Frank pulled up right as Ash and I got out of the car, parking as far away from the smoker as we could (just in case). With Frank’s help we easily navigated the slightly confusing protocol for ordering. Though under renovation, Meat Boss currently has an odd setup.
One door leads to the dining room, but for now you may not order there. A second door leads to a small space where a line more than three deep would be pushing it. Here you find a five-step process to ordering your lunch.
Step 1 is ordering your “Main Thing.” This can vary daily but usually includes smoked pork butt, brisket, chicken or grilled cheese. On this day we were not offered chicken.
Step 2 is called “Around It.” This is the bread, or lack thereof. Options are sweet bun, regular bun, wrap or naked. You’re also given the option of toasted or not toasted.
Step 3 of the menu is “Boss Sauce.” Sweet, sweet and spicy, vinegar, spicy vinegar and white are sauces that can be ordered on the sandwich or on the side.
Step 4 is “Toppings.” This is the most important step. Slaw, pickles, mayonnaise, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, horseradish sauce and jalapeno jelly are definitely nothing to sneeze at, unless you have a cold, which Ashley did.
Step 5 is called “BeSIDES it.” These are, as you guessed, the sides including Asian cole slaw, potato salad, mac and cheese, Boss beans, banana pudding and sausage.
It turned out a combo with a drink was $8.75 per person. We paid the bill and stepped outside, making our way to the entrance of the dining room next door. Brightly lit and under construction, change is coming to Meat Boss. We were happy to pardon the progress as soon as we were handed our sacks of food.
Poor Ashley was stopped up but could not be miserable in the company she was keeping. She cheerfully unwrapped her smoked pork butt sandwich on a sweet bun with sweet and spicy sauce. She kept it simple with slaw, pickles and jalapeno jelly, hoping the spiciness would clear her head. A formidable sandwich for sure, this would be hard to beat. Her potato salad was made from red skin potatoes and might have had a touch of ranch added to the mix.
Franklin Delano let his sweet buns envelope smoked brisket with nothing but spicy vinegar on the sandwich. He’s a purist of sorts. I told you he speaks the language. He’s had this before, I’m sure. The mac and cheese he ordered was a perfect mix of pasta shells and cheesy explosion. We had a short conversation about how our kids would complain that it isn’t orange enough or that the cheese isn’t powdered. The Trice family made excellent choices.
Of course I had to be different. Like Frank I opted for the brisket over the pork simply because I don’t get a chance to have brisket very often. That is where our similarities ended. My entrée was served in a wrap with sweet and spicy sauce and loaded with toppings. Pickles, mayo, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and jalapeno jelly were too much for me to resist. I left off the slaw and horseradish sauce just because I wasn’t feeling it.
I will say I created (with the help of the fine folks at Meat Boss) what may be my new favorite sandwich oddity. I don’t get wraps often, but this one was perfect. It was a redneck burrito of sorts and I enjoyed every bite, reverting to my selfish ways of not sharing any with my sickly boss or her happy-footed husband.
The Boss Beans were so good I’ll be sure to order them next time. As a bonus we all split the pint of banana pudding Ash ordered. It was as good as any I’ve had, including family reunions.
Meat Boss is a “don’t miss” in my opinion. Currently the hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, but the renovations will expand to extra days, a new kitchen and, possibly, breakfast by Oct. 1, according to one employee. I’ll be waiting.
5401 Cottage Hill Road
Mobile, Alabama 36609