Ray Lewis’ Full Moon Bar-B-Que Churns Out Workaday Fare in a Corporate Atmosphere
Here’s something I wasn’t expecting: Ray Lewis’ Full Moon Bar-B-Que (2400 Boston St.,  327-5200) turns out to be a family restaurant. On a weeknight, there are tots and toddlers at nearly every table, and every so often the waitstaff assembles to sing “Happy Birthday” to another kid wearing a Ray Lewis 52 jersey. Diner-controlled large-screen TVs are installed in every booth, and they’re as likely to be showing Shark Tale as sports.
It was good to see families out enjoying themselves, but there is some corporate-chain stank about the place. This Can Company space, which formerly housed the gloomily beautiful Atlantic, looks now like someplace you’d find at a renovated airport or Arundel Mills. I guess like many people who didn’t grow up frequenting authentic rib joints in the South, I have mind’s-eye clarity what a rib joint should look and feel like, checkered-linoleum images constructed out of Reese Witherspoon movies, TV commercials, and the roadside-dining books of Jane and Michael Stern. So for me, the ambiance was a downer.
And the food didn’t win me over, either. It definitely filled me up (portions are sized for the training table), but it never turned me on. Full Moon Bar-B-Que is based in Birmingham, Ala., where the art of barbecue is fiercely competitive and where it’s not unusual for joints to offer, as Full Moon does, only one signature make-or-break house-proud barbecue sauce. So, if you don’t love—I mean really love—the barbecue sauce, then you’re stuck. As it happened, I liked Full Moon’s sauce—it’s smoky-sweet at first but packs a nice little pepper finish. But I tired of it eventually, on the half-rack rib plate ($15.99), the two-meat combo plate ($14.99), the bbq pork sandwich plate ($11.99).
Full Moon slow-cooks its ribs over a hickory wood fire pit. The baby-backs we tried were meaty and tender, but I had some trouble locating the hickory-imparted flavor under all the sauce. I’m willing to let partisans and detractors of this sauce fight it out among themselves, but I’m taking a stand in the barbecue pork wars. Whatever slow-cooking love Full Moon brings to its pork just doesn’t offer the vinegary, arousing pleasure of Carolina pulled pork. More chunky than stringy, and with tantalizing bits of crispiness, Full Moon’s version is strangely absent of seasoning. The pork did taste somewhat better on a combination platter than it did on a sandwich, where it had virtually no flavor at all. The chicken on the two-meat platter was too dry, though. The best meat dish was slow-cooked beef brisket that came on a sandwich ($8.99). One stroke of the fork slices completely through this five-inch high sandwich. And the beef—its sinewy texture, the strength of its flavor—seemed to work very well with the inevitable sauce.
Listed appetizers—some of them served with fries—are too heavy for all but the biggest eaters. Crispy, persuasively hand-battered onion rings ($3.99/$6.99) are worth trying. The Brunswick stew ($4.99), a traditional slow-cooked blend of pork, chicken, and vegetables like lima beans, okra, and corn, was the worrisome start to our meal; it had a thrown-together quality about it, not nearly approaching the slow-simmered pleasure the menu promised.
If anything flat-out didn’t work at Full Moon, it was the trimmings. The chopped coleslaw is admirable, as is the house specialty, the piquant mustard-based relish known as chow-chow, but other sides flopped: flabby, underseasoned fries, supermarket-style potato salad, absurdly huge and flavorless baked potatoes.
Dessert pies are homemade and include the famous Half Moon cookies ($3.99 for six), chocolate chip cookies half-dipped in chocolate. We tried the Key lime pie ($3.99), which was creamy like a cheesecake and not near tart enough. Our dinner at Full Moon didn’t put a big hurting on our wallets, at least, which was a small consolation, because it didn’t give us more than fleeting moments of pleasure.