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Roscoe's Express

Roscoe's BBQ in Phoenix has hit the road, opening a drive-up location for take-away meals in west Medford.

A former coffee stand at the corner of North Columbus Avenue and West Main Street started serving the spicy, smoky flavors the Phoenix restaurant is known and loved for just a few weeks ago. Already it has attracted a steady stream of customers.

In fact, the first time I visited with plans to pick up a quick weeknight dinner, the drive-up was out of both ribs and chicken, as well as potato salad. While employees said a shuttle bringing another batch of barbecue and fresh side dishes to the satellite location had just left the main restaurant, I decided to order what they had.

I knew I wouldn't be disappointed with a plate of pulled pork — a favorite of my husband — and a plate of brisket. Those complete meals, served with the choice of two side dishes, cost just $8.50 each. The side selections usually include potato salad (if your timing is good), macaroni salad, coleslaw or baked beans.

The pulled pork was every bit as good as my husband and I remembered from a previous lunch at the Phoenix restaurant. Roscoe's Sauce for the Soul is a perfect balance of sweet and tangy and it delicately coats the succulent shreds of meat.

The thick slabs of brisket were also amazing — tender enough to cut with a fork and rich with beefy flavor. The sauce again provided an ideal accent to the meat.

Diners can make a quarter of a chicken the centerpiece of that meal for the same price. A plate with three of Roscoe's famous St. Louis-style pork ribs costs $10.50, while more ravenous carnivores can get five ribs for $12.50.

The full meal deal costs 25 cents less at the express than back at the home restaurant because the drive-through location doesn't have ovens to serve the cornbread at its fresh-baked perfection, a helpful employee explained.

However, the mounds of meat that are the real reason people eat at Roscoe's are perfectly suited for the trip from the pit in Phoenix to your dinner table, via the new drive-up window in Medford.

After all, barbecue is known for being "low and slow," cooked over low heat for hours until the meat is falling-off-the bone tender and infused with smoke. Flavor like that isn't slapped on a grill and cooked to order at any restaurant.

It is, however, a family tradition for pit master Roscoe Moore, whose grandfather and father also operated barbecue restaurants. He clearly knows a thing or two about seasoning meat, stoking the fire, then slathering sauce on the finished product for customers throughout the day. He makes serving a second location from the same pit look easy to his eager customers by providing top quality at both outlets.

The drive-up also offers a full slab of ribs for $25 or half a slab for $12. Chicken quarters are $4. The array of available appetizers includes French fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings and hand-made kettle-style chips.

The chips accompany a selection of sandwiches. A pulled pork or beef brisket sandwich costs $7.75 and a fried catfish sandwich costs $6.75.

While Roscoe's Express is in a prominent location at a busy intersection, concrete medians prevent left turns in or out of the business. It's worth circling back around, though, if the traffic controls have you tied up the first time by.

When you are leaving with your order, don't even think of eating on the road. There's a reason Roscoe's has a roll of paper towels on every table at the restaurant — the good stuff is messy.

And when you bite into that brisket, you just might have to close your eyes and say "Mmm, mmm, mmm" out loud, and you can't do that while driving. It's more dangerous than talking on a cell phone.

I recommend taking that meal home, popping in a CD from any of the local musicians who play regularly at Roscoe's Phoenix location (Karen Lovely, Annie Mac or the Rogue Suspects, perhaps) and enjoying. You might not be able to recreate the main restaurant's roadhouse atmosphere at home, but it's not bad for a Tuesday night.

Be sure to take cash, because Roscoe's Express doesn't take checks. Visa and Mastercard are welcome.

The main restaurant, Roscoe's BBQ, is at 117 S. Main St., Phoenix. Roscoe's BBQ features table service, a full bar and live music on the weekends. The Phoenix restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

The Phoenix restaurant also does not accept checks. Visa and Mastercard are welcome, but not American Express or Discover.

— Anita Burke