If you can’t recall when you last had a delectable slice of homemade, sweet potato pie you will after stopping in at C & G’s Smoking Barbecue. It leaves you licking the last few crumbs off your fork, wondering how seriously you want to watch your waistline as you consider ordering another piece.
You can’t come by this kind of fare on a supermarket shelf, despite, as the slogan goes, “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee’s.” Owner-proprietor Greg Alford never spent a day in culinary school, but came by his skills at the stove the old fashioned way—in the family kitchen.
Beginning at, remarkably enough, the tender age of 5, before the advent of electric stoves, when you struck a wooden match and had to be careful to not blow yourself up. “When I was a kindergartner,” he recalls, “my mom had something on the front [burner]. I was cooking grits on the back, standing on a chair, leaning over and my little jacket caught on fire.”
Greg is a man of pleasant demeanor if few words in a rich baritone that previously graced the Detroit radio airwaves as “The Mighty G-Man.” He speaks in a matter of fact, easy-going manner. “I learned from different relatives,” he says. Not only the women but, he noted, that the men know what they’re doing when it comes to rustling up a meal. “All of my brothers, too. That’s just part of a family thing.”
He’s been tantalizing taste buds and widening waists at the South Minneapolis eatery the past 10 years, satisfying clientele with just about everything smoked to a turn. A menu highlight is C&G’s Home Made Chili, eight or 16-ounce servings. Seafood lovers can dine on whiting, catfish, tilapia or ocean perch.
Along with a la carte dishes, there are 15 kinds of sandwiches, including, in honor of Greg’s hometown, Motor City Corned Beef, a choice of seven combos and three different-sized family packs, the largest being 18 ribs with a whole chicken.
Monday through Wednesday the house special is a pound of rib tips. Along with C&G’s Home Made Chili, 90% of the meals are put together from scratch and nothing comes out of a can. The magic ingredient, of course, is the chef’s recipe, which isn’t just a matter of dashing the same special sauce in each dish.
There is a whole different mix of seasonings for Smoked BBQ Beef Brisket, for example, than, say, Catfish and Black-eyed peas. “You have to cook each one differently. I want it all, not just one thing, to taste good. I like to see people eat food they really like,” he said. For the full list of selections, you can go online to www.cngbbq.com.
Cornbread connoisseurs hereabouts are especially in luck, able to enjoy a not-so-routine eating experience. One of seven available sides is a serving of hot water cornbread with greens, a mix of collards, mustards, and turnips. Asked exactly what hot water cornbread is, Greg imparted, “It’s a Southern thing. You make it out of hot water and cornmeal flour. No eggs or baking powder. None of that stuff.” How does the taste compare to “regular” cornbread? “I think it’s better. If you make it right.”
How does one come by Southern cooking by way of Detroit? “My family’s from Louisiana. “They brought everything they knew with them,” says Greg, which explains a lot. After all, when one thinks of dishes from down that way, the expression that “the cook put her— in this case, his—foot in it” comes to mind.
Indeed, it’s a family affair. A few years back, he enlisted Greg, Jr., to help out since, when it comes to cooking, it is true that, like father like son. “He asked me and I wasn’t going to say no,” said Greg, Jr. “It makes the business stronger. It’s a lot of work for one person. My kids help us out, sometimes. Now and then friends will pitch in.” To the delight of folk who love good food.
The best testimony comes from customers as Greg, Sr. attested. “They say, ‘If you haven’t tried C&G’s, you haven’t had barbecue.’”
C&G’s Smoking Barbecue is located at 4743 Nicollet Avenue in South Minneapolis. The business also caters and delivers in South Minneapolis. They are willing to extend their delivery area for large orders, as long as it is called in well in advance. For more info, go to www.cngbbq.com or call 612-825-3400.