1:51 PM Derek , 2 Comments
The exterior of Tipton's looks like a typical neighborhood bar and grill. With a mix of table and booth seating, the subdued interior more closely resembles family restaurants like Denny's or Shoney's. The restaurant was sectioned off with only half of the tables open for lunch service. Upon entering, I was seated promptly and presented with a menu.
Tipton's menu features an eclectic mix of pizzas, sandwiches, steaks and salads. Several of those items sounded appetizing, but I didn't drive 70 miles for a sandwich. I opted for the large combo platter that featured ribs, chicken and pork in addition to two sides, slaw and hush puppies. I chose baked beans and fries for my sides.
Calling the combo platter "Large" doesn't quite do it justice. It's actually too big for a single plate. The ribs were brought to the table on a separate plate. I could here murmurs from the table next to me when the meal arrived. Things like "Can you believer that?" and "Is he going to eat all that?" were whispered just loud enough for me to hear.
The pork was well cooked and very tender. It was tossed in a tangy Lexington style vinegar dip. The hardwood smoke was detectable, but not as prominent as I'd hoped. Perhaps I should have specially requested the brown bark because there wasn't any in the portion that I received.
The chicken was the highlight of the meal. The white meat quarter was tender and remarkably juicy. The skin was rubbed with an earthy chili powder spice. The flavors really melded nicely. Unlike the pork, the chicken was very smokey. The chicken alone made my trip worth while.
As I mentioned, the combo platter also included a half rack of ribs. When the rib plate arrived, I was amazed at the portion size. Tipton's uses an untrimmed spare rib. My "half rack" probably weighed around three pounds. I'm a rib guy so I was really excited to dig into the massive rack. However, I was immediately met with strong resistance. Though the spare ribs were thick and meaty, they were also very fatty and tough. The utensils I was given weren't up to the task of carving up that slab. I dug. I sliced. I pulled. My efforts were causing enough of a mess that it was beginning to become embarrassing. There was just no way my weak little fork and steak knife were going to carve up those ribs. If Tipton's is going to smoke whole spare ribs, I really think they should cut them before serving them to customers.
Though the texture of the ribs was troublesome, I have to admit that they had very good flavor. They were smokey throughout and finished with a rich tomato based sauce. Tipton's also offers three different vinegar based tables sauces. Each was ok, but the ribs were already sauced and I didn't feel the other meats needed sauce.
The sides were all pretty good. The thick cut steak fries were crispy and well seasoned. The mayo based coleslaw was sufficiently creamy. The hush puppies were crispy on the outside, but still had a moist interior. My favorite side, baked beans, appeared to be standard canned beans, but were significantly enhanced by ground beef and bacon.
Though the ribs were disappointing, my overall impression of Tipton's was pretty positive. Their menu is diverse enough to satisfy just about every craving. I may not drive 70 miles specifically to visit Tipton's again, but I wouldn't be against a return visit if I found myself in North Wilkesboro. Take a look at Tipton's website. You can also find them on Facebook. See how Tipton's rates on our BBQ Ratings page.