When driving downtown Iowa City the other day I noticed something: there were two new barbecue places I had not yet visited. So, naturally, I planned my week around trying Mosley’s and Pop’s Old and New Bar-B-Que to find out if either of them could beat out the Iowa City classic Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack for the title of Best Yet barbecue of Iowa City.
Mosley’s is a Carolina-style barbecue place that open this past July in downtown Iowa City right next to the Vine on Gilbert St . As it comes from the same owners of Pullman Bar & Diner, I had high hopes coming in, and upon first glance I was impressed.
The open seating with paper towel-clad wood booths keeps things casual, but the neon pink and blue lines elevate the space into an upscale, design-driven joint that is worth coming back to as eye candy.
From walking in to the last step inside the restaurant the service was friendly and polite. Our waitress checked in on us from time to time and made me feel comfortable, knowing that she was happy to be serving.
Of the sampling platter I shared with pulled chicken, short ribs and pulled pork, my favorite of the meats was the chicken. It was moist and didn’t need sauce, but the Gold Standard’s mustardy tang complimented it nicely. The short ribs were a bit tough as they were mostly composed of the dense, charred tips. There were, however, some more moist bits that I’m sure would be more abundant in the normal ribs and for that reason would recommend that.
Of the baked beans, cornbread, and collard greens as sides I would recommend the corn bread for sure. The soft, almost cake-like bread melted in your mouth sweetly. For my first experience with collard greens, I was pleasantly surprised. They were salty and tasted how you would expect a leaf would–in the absolute best way possible. They were slightly bitter with smooth leaves and an earthy aftertaste.
Overall, I would say I liked my experience at Mosley’s. Although the food wasn’t as traditional as most barbecue places (there was no brisket on the menu), the atmosphere was interesting and I’m looking forward to trying more menu items, just like I do at Pullman.
Pop’s Old and New Bar-B-Que
Pop’s Old and New Bar-B-Que has been open since this April in place of The Pit at the corner of Dubuque and Market in downtown Iowa City. I hadn’t heard much about the restaurant, so I was excited to get to try it myself. Upon walking in, I could see immediately that this building perfectly fit the barbecue aesthetic. The exposed brick with big hearty, wood booths and paper towel holders as the centerpiece were comforting and welcoming. The colorful blackboard boasted traditional barbecue with pulled pork sandwiches to some newer meals like a Korean barbecue bahn mi. The brisket sandwich I got was piled high and thick-cut which was nice to see. Although the edges were soft and the brisket fell apart easily, I found the majority of it relatively dry. For that reason, I will look forward to trying the bahn mi or something a little different. My sweet potato fries, on the other hand, were incredibly good. They were flavorful with a nice bite at the edges and were the perfect vessel for trying all their unique sauces. With blackberry habanero, Carolina mustard, a classic, pina chipotle and Korean sweet stout Pop’s Old and New has probably the most unique array of sauces of any barbecue joint I’ve been to. If the Korean barbecue is tossed in the Korean sweet stout sauce, I will be making my way back to Pop’s to try it out.
Jimmy Jack’s is an old barbecue favorite here in Iowa City, and for good reason. With many “Best Barbecue of Iowa City” awards under their belt, the classics are what got them there.
Jimmy Jack’s is located across Muscatine from Sycamore mall. The restaurant is joint, walk-up order and pay with open-seating, classic to most barbecue joints. The comfortable wood seating is welcoming, and the array of sauces on the way to the tables makes a nice pit-stop to get caught up in. With upwards of five sauces and other condiments, there is a style for everyone.
I chose a traditional brisket sandwich with coleslaw and fries with the cornbread for sides. The brisket was thin, and so moist it did not need any sauce. It was probably one of the best brisket sandwiches in a long while. The bun was incredibly soft, but I would recommend taking it open-face as to not overwhelm the meat.
The slaw was traditional and reminded me of KFC, so not the most incredible slaw in the books. The wide-cut fries were soft with crispy edges and were delicious with the tangy, honey mustard taste of the Carolina mustard. The flavor of the cornbread was a nice, sweet honey taste, but the cake was a tad crumbly.
At the end of the day I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Jimmy Jack’s. My sandwich, and those I sampled (I would try to the fatty brisket for a decadent twist and the sausage for nice, a smoky charred flavor) were all incredibly moist and flavorful, which at the end of the day are what makes or breaks a good barbecue meal.
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Overall, I would say Jimmy Jack’s the most. The meat was all very consistent in having good flavor, a nice, soft texture and being incredibly moist.
Pop’s Old and New had the best fries for sure. They were soft, but crunchy with great flavor. Just because my brisket was a little dry doesn’t mean I will totally rule them out in the future, I am looking forward to trying the banh mi.
I think Mosley’s had the best atmosphere and sides hands down. I liked how untraditional both the neon lights were and the spins on the classics, like their cornbread. I will most definitely will go back for the environment and get my hands on their ribs.