PAULS VALLEY: Stevenson Bar-B-Que
Leaving my wife to feed the baby in the back seat, I walked through the glass doors about an hour shy of closing time. The spacious interior of the former Braums building felt less than quaint, but the owner behind the counter oozed with small town hospitality. We discussed the joint's write-up in the previously mentioned publication, and his pride was evident. I got the feeling he was hoping for more customers after the book's release over a month ago, but he was happy that I knew about the book. I inquired about the menu on the wall that was missing the smoked catfish featured in the book and he laughed at he recalled how his brother happened to be smoking some catfish for strictly home consumption, but the authors had tried some during their back of house tour and decided to write about it. He then became one of my favorite proprietors when he offered a rib to munch on while I waited for my to-go order.
I arrived back at the car with a bag full of brisket, ribs, okra, pinto beans and banana pudding. Hickory smoke was liberally applied to the huge spare ribs which were nearly 3" thick at the fat end. The rub created a sweetness on the well formed smoky crust while the moist meat below the crust was intensely smoky if a bit tough. Slices of roast beefy brisket were far less smoky with little crust. The brisket had been wrapped during the cooking process creating moist, tender meat, but hindering all important smoke penetration.
A dish of well seasoned, peppery pinto beans swam in a thick, smoky gravy while okra was lightly breaded and flash fried to perfect crispness. If the ribs were the star, the banana pudding wasn't far behind. A layer of lemony crust creating an acidic counterpoint to the sweetness of the chunky pudding flecked with Nilla wafers that was layered on top. A truly great finish to an excellent dashboard meal.