A tray of barbecue for two at Ore Nell’s Barbecue in Biddeford, featuring brisket, ribs, pulled pork, collard greens, mac and cheese and a loaded, deep-fried baked potato. Photo by Tim Cebula

BIDDEFORD — When Kittery-based Ore Nell’s Barbecue opened a location in downtown Biddeford in August, chef-owner Will Myska’s Texas bona fides made me eager to check it out.

Myska – a Houston native whose restaurants are named for his grandmother – smokes his barbecue over oak wood using methods traditional to Central Texas. Some of the best barbecue I’ve ever tasted came from Central Texas, like Franklin Barbecue in Austin or Kreuz Market in Lockhart.

I visited Ore Nell’s early on a Wednesday evening in September and was happy I didn’t get there any later, as the Franklin Street restaurant was nearly full by 6 p.m., so clearly the new venue had already built a strong following since opening in August.

The dining room decor at Ore Nell’s doesn’t scream BBQ joint. In fact, it’s a little incongruously formal – stately dark wood wainscoting on the walls and several framed Cook’s Illustrated magazine covers give the room more of a fine-dining feel, though a few Texas-themed wall hangings are mixed in here and there.

But the tables and booths are all equipped with the tell-tale essential accoutrements: squeeze bottles of barbecue sauce and a roll of paper towels at the ready for the necessarily messy, hands-on experience of a traditional barbecue meal.

I was happy to find that Ore Nell’s house barbecue sauce is on the thin side with a nice vinegary tang, because the server had described it as “molasses-based,” which made me think it’d be gloppy and sickly sweet. The other squeeze bottle on the table was for Ore Nell’s spicy barbecue sauce, which had moderate heat but wasn’t fiery.


Our server was genuinely friendly and, despite the growing crowd, brought out our food in under 20 minutes.

The Frito Pie starter at Ore Nell’s, served in a mini cast-iron pan. Photo by Tim Cebula

Our table started with a Frito Pie ($14), a classic Texas casserole that typically involves chili-seasoned beef, cheese and Fritos corn chips. Ore Nell’s uses ground brisket for its version – which seemed nicely seasoned with chili powder and cumin – along with pinto beans, Mexican crema, pickled red onions for bright flavor and crispness, fresh cilantro, and a sprinkling of cotija cheese, along with the addictively salty, crunchy Fritos. The dish was a winner, tasting like a first-rate crunchy beef taco served up in a cast-iron pan, a nice rustic touch.

We also ordered a tray of barbecue for two ($43), which includes 1/4-pound each of brisket, ribs and pulled pork, along with “three lil’ sides.” We chose collard greens, a loaded, deep-fried baked potato, and mac n’ cheese with Vermont cheddar.

The slice of brisket on our tray came from the point cut and was pleasingly fatty and tender. The salt-and-pepper rub amply seasoned the meat, though it benefitted from a little barbecue sauce, at least after I first savored a plain bite or two of the nicely smoked beef on its own.

Even better were the ribs. Ore Nell’s ribs are St. Louis-style spareribs (fattier and more flavorful than baby backs), and the kitchen does a great job rubbing the racks to produce an intensely flavorful black bark on the exterior. The meat was tender – if just a touch dry in some of the smaller ribs – and pulled easily from the bone.

The pulled pork was a little stringy, but still succulent. Like the brisket, barbecue sauce helped boost the pork’s flavor interest.

Ore Nell’s sides didn’t measure up to the smoked meat. A loaded deep-fried baked potato should be an indulgent flavor bomb, but ours somehow tasted bland. And it was topped with unmelted shredded cheese, which didn’t raise the yum factor any.

The mac and cheese side was amply cheesy – though it could’ve been creamier and a crispy topping of some kind would have provided texture and taste contrast – and the vinegar in the long-simmered collards made my eyes water.

I’m not sure I’d bother with sides again on a return visit to Ore Nell’s. I’ll surely get more of Ore Nell’s brisket and ribs, though – both would make ideal offerings at a football party spread. The bark on those ribs was some of the best I’ve sampled in a while, and judging by the weeknight crowd at Ore Nell’s, I’m not alone enjoying them.

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