On one of the steamiest afternoons in recent memory, I sat at a shaded picnic table eating ribs from a foil container at The Millers' Real BBQ. Had these been ordinary ribs, I'd have been fussing about the heat, the humidity, the lack of proper plates.
But they were stellar St. Louis ribs -- tender and meaty, deeply yet subtly smoky. I ordered them with sauce on the side, so the menu description "Kansas City sweet & sticky" didn't exactly stick; so much the better. One bite instantly revealed co-owner Eric Miller as deserving of the title "smokemaster." Miller's sides that day -- a summery corn and tomato salad and lovely cold, grilled asparagus -- were worthy, too. As flavorsome as my lunch mate's sandwich of spit-roasted pulled duck with caramelized onions and roasted tomatoes was, it was also rather wet.
A real kick: drinking house-made citrus fruit-ade out of old fashioned Mason jars.
With so much going for this place, it's hard not to wish for an indoor dining area and proper dinnerware. And I can't fully fathom why Miller and his brother, Marc, both experienced caterers and restaurateurs, opted to do mainly takeout.
But that's the reality, so on the second visit, I ordered everything to go. The fine ribs -- this time lightly coated with tangy BBQ sauce -- didn't hit the heights of the first batch but traveled pretty well. So, too, did pulled pork, packed in its own smoky juices. Sliced brisket looked dry but was actually quite moist and had a light, sly smokiness. Spit-roasted chicken did credit to the genre, as did slow-cooked baked beans laced with smoked pork shoulder.
But the meaty "Sylacauga-style" Southern fried chicken wings came through with woefully soggy crusts. And why bother with mac and cheese if it's bland, pasty stuff? Coleslaw went beyond creamy all the way to watery.
Redemption took the form of a lush house-made banana pudding with Nilla wafers inside and meringue on top. Country-style eating, for sure.
To maximize the bucolic charm of The Millers, stake out a picnic table on a temperate afternoon or evening. And don't be surprised if one or two members of the Hamptons celeb crowd turns up at a neighboring table, up to their elbows in ribs and baked beans.