Lonnie Ray’s Cafe

81 E Sexton St
Harrisburg, 65256
I'm always on the lookout for BBQ, so when a handful of people recommended Lonnie Ray's to me, I knew it was on the menu. It's a short drive from Columbia, but if take the back roads, it's a lovely little jaunt that's well well worth it. My wife and I arrived and walked into the sparse dining room. Down-home decor and paper bag menus adorned the walls, but I totally disagree with other reviewers who called this place 'dirty.' Yeah, it's old and retro, but I thought it was pleasant and I felt confident as we sat down in our booth. We ordered the Que combo platter and my mouth started watering at the thought of ribs, pulled pork, and ribs danced through our brains. When our plate came out, quickly, it was piled high. The ribs were on top and were so so. The pulled pork was delicious and flavorful. But the brisket. Oh the brisket. Thus was by far the best brisket I've ever had, by far. Far far. It had a nice crispy layer in the outside which was really tasty. And when I picked up a chunk with my fork it fell apart with tender deliciousness. Seriously, I'd been searching for brisket like this all over Columbia and I finally found it in Harrisburg. It didn't need sauce and there was a gigantic pile of it on my plate. All the sides were great and they were served in Styrofoam cups (matched the rest of the experience). Try the fried corn, spicy beans, and slaw. All delicious. Finally, I usually only give 4stars based in food alone. But considering his well Pit Master Mike took care of us, this was an easy 5Star. He took us in the back and showed us his smokers and the various slabs of brisket at different stages of deliciousness. When we told him it was our first visit, Mike promptly demanded we try all his experiments including jalapeño cheddar sausages and fried bologna. He was nice and really cared. Easy 5 star review. Go here. Seriously go here. Bring cash ( no cc accepted). Call ahead, too as Mike only serves so much per day until it's gone. Oh yeah, and make sure the roads aren't flooded before you trek out. It's all worth it though. For the brisket. Brisket.
Since we purchased our farm near Harrisburg, we have had the opportunity to dine at Lonnie Ray's several times. The ribs fall off the bone. The brisket is so tender you can cut it with a spoon and it is not dry or paper thin. Best brisket since we lived in Texas! The smoked bologna sandwich was at least 2 inches thick and delicious. Pork steaks are also tender and smoked very well. The cole-slaw is OK...I still prefer Hoss's and Buckinghams slaw (both in Columbia) over anyone elses. The corn is really good too. All meats have a unique dry rub flavor. I have been trying to place it but have not yet figured it out. I guess I will have to eat here a few more times and continue my research. The sauces are also good to excellent, and unique. All are tomato based though. As one review indicated, the inside of this place is not much to look at, which is why it get 4 stars. The food is 5 stars - hands down - best BBQ in Boone County. The interior of the restaurant is tiny. It was not filthy like the other reviewer mentioned, it just has not been updated since - well - maybe 1960. It is quaint and looks old, but that adds to the charm IMHO. If you tour the smoker, you will be amazed by the amount of meat that he cooks at any given time. They use firewood only for a heat source and the smokey flavor. Depending on the day, they might be using hickory, pecan, apple, oak, etc. The servings are on nothing fancy - think a family picnic with foam dishes, paper napkins, and plastic silverware. Again - I think this adds to the charm. When you leave, the door opens INWARDS. You can always tell who is there for the first time by the way they try to leave the restaurant. Cash only! No credit cards.
This is the best barbecue in Mid-Missouri. The atmosphere is down home good ole boy, and so is the cooking. Delicious!

(573) 874-0020


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