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Fit for a feast: JR’s BBQ Ranch House serves big portions at low prices

Don’t expect anything fancy at JR’s BBQ Ranch House on Juan Tabo in Northeast Albuquerque. This fast-food barbecue joint is an offshoot of the original, which opened on Gibson SE near Kirtland Air Force Base to serve hungry airmen on their lunch breaks.

JR’s earned its reputation with big portions of simple food served quickly at low prices.

JR’s BBQ Ranch House in the Northeast Heights is modeled after the owners’ first restaurant, at Gibson and Kentucky SE. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

That winning formula is at work at the Juan Tabo location, where diners can feast on an overflowing plate of Texas-style sweet barbecue for around $10. It’s served fast, by a friendly staff, and comes with your favorite comfort-food side.

JR’s is modeled more on a Southern-style rib joint than a fancy, hipster hot spot. Example: All the tables have fitted plastic covers. (If you have small children, you’ll appreciate where they’re coming from.)

When you serve a mountain of homemade food at a good price, though, you can do without fancy. JR’s best bet is the combination barbecue plates, with either two or three meats plus a couple of sides.

The barbecue brisket plate, for around $9, comes with a couple of warm dinner rolls, two side dishes and a bowl of warm barbecue sauce made fresh in-house. The plate itself is overflowing with lean beef, slow-cooked for hours and sliced thinly with just enough fat for plenty of flavor. The beef is smoky and tender, and the barbecue sauce is phenomenal: ridiculously sweet and thick, with just the right amount of smokiness.

The turkey is also delicious and even more tender than the brisket; it falls apart on your fork. It’s not as tasty as the beef, though, mainly because of a texture that results from either boiling or reheating the meat.

The side items are as good as, or better than, the main courses.

The giant baked potato comes with melted butter and a huge serving of sour cream, and the corn on the cob comes with two large pieces; both sides would satisfy at a sit-down restaurant, but at a fast-food joint, it’s pleasantly refreshing.

The best side item, though, might be the homemade flaky, yeasty dinner rolls, served with warm butter. You’ll forget all about corn bread, the more obvious barbecue go-with.

Another charming feature: The fountain sodas come in giant, vintage-style Coca-Cola cups, and Southern-style sweet tea is served as well.

Keeping with the spirit of the original clientele, the Juan Tabo location is adorned with military memorabilia on the walls, including framed photos, newspaper clippings and an impressive Silver Star – the military’s third-highest award – earned by a member of the owner’s family.

JR’s has a sizable catering operation. It also has a drive-through window so you can get your fix on the go. Kid-friendly menu items make the place a great spot to feed a family, too.

This unique barbecue joint is worth checking out, especially on an empty stomach.