Friday, July 31, 2009

Cliff Cafe to Become BBQ Joint

Update: From the Oak Cliff edition of the Advocate - "Can't wait to find out what's in store for the Cliff Cafe? Did you hear the rumor that they're installing a smoker? We heard that, too. Unveiling of the Cliff Cafe's new concept is still some six weeks away, but maybe you can get a glimpse of what's in store at a Belmont Hotel picnic Aug. 6. The restaurant's new chef, Tim Byres, is going to be working the grill. The media release promises "BBQ and fixin's." Besides that, they'll have $2 beers with a $5 cover. The party, at the hotel's glam-tastic pool, starts at 7 p.m. The King Bucks play from 9-11 p.m."

I'll see you there.

- BBQ Snob

According to the Dallas Observer, the Cliff Cafe is about to get a facelift and a concept overhaul. The owners, who also own the wildly popular Bolsa, are looking to turn it into a "semi-upscale barbecue joint, adhering loosely to Bolsa's local and seasonal mantra." You know I can't wait to see how this upscale BBQ joint comes to fruition. Austin and Houston each have one (Lambert's and Beaver's), so I guess it's DFW's turn. Here's hoping that brisket is always in season.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Robinson's Bar-B-Que

FORT WORTH: Robinson's Bar-B-Que
1028 E. Berry St.
Ft. Worth, TX 76110
Open M-W 10-7, Thur 10-9, F-Sat 10-10, Sun 10-4

Billing themselves as a Kansas City style BBQ joint, this joint is unapologetic about slathering their meat with the house made sauce that is bottled for sale on the front counter. A rib plate and a sliced brisket sandwich were on my mind, and shortly after I ordered, a big bag of food was passed to me over the counter. I headed back to the car to get my camera and headed back out front. As I took a picture of the sign out front, Mr. Robinson swept up outside. We started talking and he let me know he'd been around for 35 years, and wondered how this was only my first trip. He mentioned that he smokes his meat in an Oyler pit with hickory, at which point I made it right back to the car to dig in.

The consistent slices of brisket had an impressive crust and smoke ring, but just a hint of smoke was peeking below the sweet sauce with a twang of vinegar. The moist and tender meat was perfectly cooked, but it was a bit roast-beefy and all that flavorful fat had been trimmed away.

The tender ribs had a roasted flavor in the thick meat, while again the sauce covered up any smokiness. Well rendered fat swam beneath the layers of meat and sauce. The flavor was pleasing, but it was just passable as Texas BBQ. I haven't made it to KC yet, but if this is a good version of the style, then Texas BBQ isn't looking to lose it's crown in my book.

Rating **
Robinson Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Republic of Barbecue

A new book is set to release soon that should be near and dear to the hearts of any reader on this blog. The folks over at the Central Texas BBQ Association wrote their membership to say "This is to let you know that promotion for the Repulic of Texas Barbecue by Dr. Elizabeth Engelhardt and published by UT Press has begun. The story will be on the UT home page for the next two weeks. The book will be released in early October." This might be the first time I've heard from the CTBBQA since I joined a few months back, but it was sure welcome news. The story "Barbecue State of Mind" describes the book on the UT Press website.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sweet Georgia Brown

DALLAS: Sweet Georgia Brown
2840 E. Ledbetter Dr.
Dallas, TX 75216
Open Daily 11-9:30

They don't even bother giving you a plate at this joint. They pile the portions so high, they just know you'll need a to-go box, so your meal is served in one to begin with. I ordered up a two-meat plate of sliced brisket and ribs. They even asked if I wanted sauce, which I declined. On the side came generous scoops of creamy mac & cheese with a gooey baked on crust, cabbage with big chunks of bacon, and pinto beans with plenty of spice and more meaty goodness mixed in. As if that weren't enough, three corn bread biscuits came in a basket alongside.

The brisket was sliced thick with both lean and fatty slices. Little crust had formed on this brisket as it was probably wrapped to finish cooking. A hint of smokiness was evident in the meat, but although well-cooked, this was basically good, moist roast beef.

Ribs were thick spare ribs cut in half. A light crust had formed with decently smoky red meat below. These ribs were tasty if a bit tough with too much unrendered fat. Certainly a good place for soul food, but the BBQ may need that sauce. Sure this slightly disappointing meal was $15, but I truly had enough food for three meals, until I gave the leftovers to a homeless guy who tapped on my window in the parking lot. It's still in South Dallas y'all.

Rating **
Sweet Georgia Brown on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Way Way's Bar B Que

Driving down Loop 12 in South Dallas, I glanced the letters "B B Q" in the distance as I passed Houston School Road. I stopped off to try a bite, and found Wayman and his business partner (wife?) chomping on some lunch. They lamented that they would not be open for a week or so, but they left me with a flyer with their contact info and menu. Wayman plans to smoke in a mobile barrel smoker using hickory for fuel. I can't wait. Check them out if you get a chance, and here's hoping the health department gives them the green light soon.

- BBQ Snob

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Louie Mueller Barbeque on NPR

One of my favorite BBQ joints in Texas, Louie Mueller Barbeque, was featured today on NPR's The Splendid Table. Jane and Michael Stern from Roadfood talked about the beauty of brisket at this joint in their segment "Where We Eat". They also included LM in their pick for "Top 10 Places to Eat Regionally" in USA Today. You can listen here.
- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Railhead Smokehouse

FT. WORTH: Railhead Smokehouse
2900 Montgomery St.
Ft. Worth, TX 76107
Open M-Sat 11-9

Update 2009: Often times the quality of a joint's BBQ can be overblown in the mind of the beholder if absolutely everything else around it is done flawlessly. This seems to be the case at Railhead. While it's been voted best BBQ in Fort Worth I think since before the city was founded, it holds a special place in the minds of its clientele because it's a damn fine place to hang out that serves decent barbecue. Ice cold schooners of inexpensive beer, a laid back bar atmosphere, and excellent sides are all part of the true Railhead experience. What Railhead does not deliver on is intensely smoky meats with bold Texas BBQ flavors.

Sausage was average, but the guy working the line had a less than average knowledge of his wares. As he hollered orders to the folks in the kitchen his jaw flapped with the jackrabbit speed, but he stumbled when I asked where the sausage was from, and tried to recover by shouting boisterously that it was a move on down the line and stop asking questions. Ribs were picture perfect - red hued meat below a deep black crust. The texture was pleasing, and the moisture of the meat coupled with well rendered fat was delightful. Unfortunately, these things all added up to a rib with passable flavor, little smokiness and nothing memorable on the tastebuds. Brisket was similar with a good crust, meager smokeline, and again perfectly tender moist meat. Like deja vu, the smokiness was lacking as was a bold flavor of any sort. Don't be afraid of a little salt there boys. It's meat's best friend. Now get me another beer!

Rating ***

2008: After a day full of bad 'cue, Railhead was a nice way to finish. It really has more of a bar feel than it does a BBQ joint. The smell of smoke was pleasant, and the meat looked great too. The brisket was tender, with a good crust and a thin smoke line. The smoke flavor was heavy on the crust, but elsewhere it was slightly roast-beefy. The fat could have been more well rendered. Still a tasty brisket. The ribs were very good with perfect tenderness and nicely rendered. The crust was good as well as the seasoning. It was unfortunate that I ordered so few, and ordered them to-go.

A few words about the employees' uniforms. The read "Life is too short to live in Dallas" on the back. Those who live in Ft. Worth seem to yearn for a real city rivalry, but the cities are just different from one another, both with their good and bad points. Dallasites rarely mention Ft. Worth in a negative tone, and these shirts just attempt to perpetuate this sought after rivalry. Give it a rest.

Railhead Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Lambert's Fort Worth

Lambert's in Fort Worth has been on my radar since I tried their original location in Austin. This location does not describe themselves as a BBQ joint, but they did have ribs on the menu, and I was fascinated. Boar ribs to be exact, with plum barbecue sauce. This may sound a bit fancy, but I was intrigued since this was the same sauce Lou Lambert prepared for quail in a Central Market cooking class that I recently attended. When the plate arrived it was obvious that well enough had not been left alone when an additional horseradish based sauce had been drizzled overtop of these beautiful ribs.

The second sauce overpowered every bite that it appeared in, so i dove for a lower rib that was unsoiled. This was tender falling off the bone meat with little flavor from its cooking method (most likely braised), but a punch of flavor from the sweet and tangy plum glaze. These weren't Texas BBQ, but they were good eatin' once the horsey sauce was out of the picture.
- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cobb Switch BBQ

DALLAS: Cobb Switch BBQ
2625 Old Denton Rd.
Carrollton, TX 75006


Open Sun-Thur 11-10, F-Sat 11-11

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

07/2009: I decided to head back to this joint now that's it's been open for about six weeks. Based on the many comments I've received from other folks' experiences, I was braced for the worst. On this Saturday visit I stayed away from the hot dog like sausage options, and went back for the brisket, ribs and pulled pork...and pie.

Chunks of brisket that were once slices were piled high on the plate. These nearly fat free morsels were a bit dry from overcooking, but were tender with a good smoky crust, while the meat beneath the crust held a decent amount of smoke. The ribs were also a bit beyond their prime showing some signs of being stored for a while. However, the flavor of the crust was still smoky, and the meat was tender and moist with well rendered fat throughout. These were good ribs.

The pulled pork was lacking the complexity that it had on the previous visit, and the addition of sauce didn't help. The sauce is actually closer to marinara than bbq sauce. It tasted as if someone thought ketchup was below use in their recipe, and instead they started with tomatoes. It was lacking any sweetness or spice. The sides of green beans and potato casserole, and the key lime pie for dessert were again stellar. If the meats were all as good, the overall rating would surely be higher, but despite all of the naysayers the three stars remain intact. Maybe they're just better on Saturdays.

Rating ***

05/2009: Phil Cobb, Janet Cobb, Blair Black, Chris Andrews, Dotty Griffith...I've never seen so many names associated with one BBQ joint, but this joint is definitely getting some free buzz with that lineup. No telling how many of those cooks really inhabit the kitchen. This place just opened on Monday, but it seems the cooking has hit its groove. The efficient service may have helped by the fact that we had the only occupied table at 1:00 on a Saturday, but the staff was friendly and helpful.

Six hickory smoked meats are slow smoked in a Southern Pride smoker, and I tried them all. The standout was the St. Louis style ribs with a salty and subtly sweet rub. Ruby red meat hid below the deep black smoky crust. Brisket lacked a robust smokiness, but the moist slices were tender, with a well flavored crust.

Pulled pork had a good balance of moist meat, smoky crust and bits of silky fat, while the turkey (an actual turkey breast) was a bit dry with little smokiness. The big disappointment was the jalapeno cheese sausage which will take you back to childhood days of cheese filled hot dogs. Better was the black pepper flecked original sausage, which could have used a boost of smoke flavor. Management has confirmed that chicken will soon be added given to customer demand. I guess those adventurous suburbanites don't realize that turkey is also poultry.

The side items could not have been better. cole slaw and potato salad were well above the bar for typical BBQ joint fare, and the unsoggy green beans had actual flavor. Pinto beans were well cooked with good flavor, and the potato casserole was oozing with cheesiness, and flecked with bacon and onion. I attempted to order a fried pie, but was convinced that I should go with banana pudding while being basically forced to order the key lime pie in addition. The pie ended up being so good that I took a slice home for my wife. The butterscotch banana pudding had good flavor profile with addition of the butterscotch, but the consistency was incredible soupy.

Given the relative infancy of this place, I have to give them credit for churning out quality grub across the board. Even if none of the meats stood out as fantastic, this was a solid dining experience with few negatives beyond the cheesy frankfurters and banana soup. I'll definitely be back.

Cobb Switch BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gayot Top 10 BBQ Joints

The magazine Gayot has compiled their list of 10 best BBQ joints in the country. Contrary to numerous other national lists, this one doesn't stick with the usual suspects. They do make two mistakes. The first is adding Montgomery Inn with their saucy parboiled ribs served on white tablecloths (no really, I like them, they just ain't barbecue). The second is choosing any BBQ outside of Texas, but then they wanted to appeal to a national audience. The only one from the Lone Star State is a worthy choice in City Market in Luling.
They have some other good resources including a quick guide to meat cuts, a listing of good BBQ all over the country, wine pairings for BBQ, and a worthless list from John Mariani, who is obviously a blowhard who gets his 'cue education from Frommers guides.
- BBQ Snob

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Help! House Made Sausage

Most joints in DFW use Rudolph's for their sausage, and many others get hot links from Smokey Denmarks. Recently I've been asking folks where they're getting their sausage, or more importantly if they make it in house. I've determine that Mac's has a secret supplier for hot links that makes them especially for Mac's, Smokey John's makes their own hot links, and Off the Bone in Fort Worth has their sausage made especially for them. Do you know of any other joints in the DFW area that makes their own sausage or has a special recipe made for them? Let me know, and I'll go eat some.

- BBQ Snob

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Boomtown BBQ

11859 N Highway 259

Kilgore, TX 75662


Open W-Sat 10:30-5

A double wide trailer sits at the end of a long gravel drive just south of Kilgore. Inside, a friendly couple serve up generous portions of Texas BBQ. The interior of the trailer has been renovated so that nearly all of it is a kitchen with a small dining area to one side. Mostly take out orders are served from pans of meat resting in a residential oven while sides items rest in tupperware containers on the large island/transaction counter.

I ordered up a brisket sandwich and a rib sandwich. I watched as four huge spare ribs were piled between four pieces of bread, and a bun held a pile of sliced beef, all for nine bucks. The beef was incredibly moist. Well rendered fat melded with barely smoky but well seasoned meat to create succulent slices of beef that nearly melted in the mouth.

As pictured below, the spare ribs were huge. Unfortunately, the fat was not so well rendered with ribbons of fat remaining below the heavily seasoned meat. No crust had been able to form leading me to believe that much of the cooking had been done with the meat under wraps.

The out-of-the-way location coupled with the hefty recommendations created some high expectations, but the meat wasn't up to the challenge. While the protein was flavorful and satisfying, it was not a great example of smokey barbecue.

Rating **
Boomtown BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Luckie's Smokehouse

DALLAS: Luckie's Smokehouse
4351 Dallas FT Worth Turnpike
Dallas, TX 75212
Open M-Thur 10:30-10:30, F-Sat 10:30-12am, Sun 10:30-10

Update: This joint is CLOSED. They plan to reopen in Oak Cliff on Davis in early 2011.

2009: When I heard about this joint opening on Pegasus News, I couldn't wait to head west on I-30 and give it a try. Maybe this place would prove to be that elusive BBQ joint in Dallas that serves truly great 'cue. As I pulled into the shopping center parking lot, I was immediately filled with skepticism upon seeing the words "Famous BBQ" on the sign. Just how can a brand new restaurant with no BBQ history be famous? Try and stay open for at least a month before making such needless claims.

Three eager employees clamored to take a friend and I's order. We chose sides from a large chalkboard labelled"Side Items" but were informed that some were not available, and others, like the fried green beans, weren't really considered sides, but had to be ordered separately. I chose a three meat plate with sliced brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork, as they did not yet have sausage. A side of all three available sauces was added onto the tray.

Ribs were generously sized spare ribs. The tough meat was covered in a thick layer of rub so heavy on the chile powder, its taste resembled taco seasoning. Tearing at the meat with my teeth only revealed thick layers of unrendered fat beneath. The brisket was among the worst that I've ever eaten. Slices were tough with most of the intramuscular fat still intact from the inadequate smoking time. The total lack of crust, smoke ring and flavor makes me question whether this meat had just been boiled near the smoker and still considered barbecue. The pulled pork was the only meat of merit here, but even it had been cooked too fast leaving tough chunks of meat that had no chance of being "pulled" apart.

Sauces were also underwhelming. The Memphis style sauce was more reminiscient of corn syrup than barbecue sauce, the "Carolina" style sauce was tomatoe based with little vinegar kick, and tasted like a Peggy Sue knock-off. The third, a chipotle sauce was actually complex with adequate heat and not too sweet. Baked beans were a mixture of pork 'n beans with a sweet sauce, while green chile corn pudding was a pleasingly dense mixture of cornmeal, spicy chiles and whole kernels of corn. This was sadly the best item on the plate.

Luckie's needs to improve its smoking process if it plans to stay on the 'cue radar in Dallas. Right now, it deserves little of its "fame".

Rating *
Luckie's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Country Tavern

KILGORE: Country Tavern
FM 2767 at Texas Hwy. 31
Kilgore, TX 75663
Open M-Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-10

This joint might as well be a Texas legend. I've heard so much abou it from mgazines, friends, and readers that I was dying to make it over to this storied establishment. In my reserarch, I noticed the scorn heaped upon the new metal building with the cheesy awning reminsceint of Caligula XXI in Dallas. As I gazed at old photos on the wall of the now abandoned building next door that used to house the Country Tavern, I'd have to agree.

Lights are turned way down in this joint which feels more like a bar with the prominent pool table, juke box on the back wall, and tight jean clad waitresses. We appropriately sat at the bar which had an odd slope towards the stool side. Luckily we didn't spill anything. A left over receipt for $60 with a not so generous $2 tip written in made me wonder about the service we were about to receive. I had no reason to worry, as a perky young thing was happy to bring us a couple of frosty schooners to let us settle in and decide what to eat.

As you readers may know, it didn't take long to decide that I'd order up a plate of ribs and sliced brisket. Ribs made these folks famous, and in true East Texas style they were served wet with a sticky sweet sauce. The incredibly tender meat was moist, almost mushy, and lacked smoky flavor. The basting didn't allow a solid crust to form, and the flavor of the sauce was about all there was to it. Anyone favoring the Memphis style would enjoy these baby backs, but they weren't a good example of smoky Texas 'cue.

The brisket was better. These lean slices of beef were tender if a bit dry. A good smokeline was beneath the well formed crust, and each slice a solid level of smokiness. The sides of classic BBQ beans and slaw were also a good accompaniment. The beans had a good kick to the flavor of the sweet sauce and the cole slaw was still crisp with just the right amount of dressing.

It may have been oversold, or I might have just had too high of expectations, but this joint just left me wanting more from the experience. Guided by comments from jilted former customers, I took the road south out of Kilgore to try out the competition.

Rating ***
Country Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bolsa - Pulled Pork

Bolsa is a newish resturant in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas. Bolsa's owners also own the Cliff Cafe, and have recently announced that they plan to give that place a face lift and open a semi-upscale BBQ joint. Upon reading about these plans, I immediately wondered about their BBQ credentials. I noticed on their lunch menu that they offered a pulled pork sandwich, Carolina style, so I headed on over to give it try at lunch today.

I sat at the bar, and ordered up my sandwich. I was able to pass the time watching Cocktail and sipping on some iced tea along with a server provided sample of Thomas Kemper's Root Beer which is sweetened with honey...incredible. The food arrived quickly, and I dug right in. I snapped this shot a few bites in.

The bun was soft and buttery. The meat was truly pulled rather than chopped, but it had been baked rather than smoked. Also odd was the sweet tomatoey sauce lacking a kick of mustard or venigar so prominent in Carolina 'cue. The cole slaw on top was well seasoned and was finely shredded allowing it to hold tightly to the meat. While the conglomeration may not have been traditional, the combinations of flavors was satisfying, and I'd order it again.

Funny enough, the most memorable thing on the plate were the ridiculously good pickle slices piled in one corner. I ordered up a to-go container so I could enjoy more at home. I learned from the server that they were Nathan's (the hot dog folks) sweet horseradish pickles, but I can't determine if any local stores carry them. I'll track them down as soon as I finish my stash.
- BBQ Snob

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Yelp! Dallas

If you haven't tried out Yelp!, it's a great resource for honest opinions about food in any town. Dallas has no shortage of opinions when it comes to their grub, so it should be no surprise that they were able to get plenty of content for this week's e-mail blast which was all about BBQ in Dallas.

There are some pretty good joints mentioned in the article, so maybe the true 'cue fans know what they're talking about in Dallas. One thing I'm sure of is that the casual fans of our beloved Texas BBQ still have their head stuck in the sand. If you check out the top 5 list for BBQ joints in Dallas, the list is a sad regurgitation of the Dallas Observer's reruns. Get out there and try something new!

-BBQ Snob

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Pat Gee's Barbecue

TYLER: Pat Gee’s Barbecue
17547 Jamestown Rd.

Tyler, TX 75707


Open F-Sun 11-7

This second stop on a tour of East Texas first cam to my attention from a reader's recommendation. After seeing the pictures, I knew this shack was a must-see. Driving east of Tyler after a stop at Stanley's, we tooled along a country road until we drove right past this little shack. Making a U-turn at the 4-way stop, we could already smell the smoke. We pulled in alongside a pick-up truck with a load of watermelons for sale. Stepping inside this ancient door was like a jolt back in time with a fan in the corner providing the only cooling and a seasonably dormant barrel fireplace in the middle of the dining room. The walls enveloping the four tables, small counter and old refrigerator were clad not in windows, but in metal screens thirsty for a breeze.

Hangin on the wall was menu painted in wood (nothing else would be appropriate) with prices from another decade. We ordered sliced brisket, ribs and hot links. Meats were fetched one at a time from a smoker through the back door of the kitchen. They were chopped and sliced on a large wooden table by the deft hand of Arthur Gee and piled on a styrofoam plate. A nearby Mason jar full of sauce was then poured over top the mound, whether you like it or not. Vera then peeled the plastic wrap from a top the potato salad container to dole out a few scoops, then headed over to the crock pot for a heaping spoonful of BBQ beans.

Ambience aside, this would be nothing more than an average BBQ joint. The sacue soaked meat was definitely moist, but it the ribs verge on total disintegration. The smoky flavor was there, but after a few bites, they were hardly recognizeable as ribs. Well rendered fat, and good crust kept the sauce flavor from completely overpowering, but if you don't like the sauce, you won't like this meat. The brisket had been somewhat shielded from the bath by the ribs. It was cut thick from the fatty end fo the brisket. Beefiness stood out from the meager crust and smoke ring, and the meat remained a bit tough. Hot links were the far and away standout. These were all beef links with a generous dose of spice and black pepper beneath a snappy casing. With or without sauce, these links are not to be missed.

So the meat wasn't incredible, but it was decent BBQ made with heart and sweat. Just sitting there chatting with Authur and Vera made the trip worthwhile, and I wouldn't hesitate to make a return trip.

Rating ***
Pat Gee's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Texas Outback BBQ

414 E Main St
Grand Prairie, TX 75050
Open Mon-Fri 11-9, Sat & Sun 11-8
(972) 264-7370‎

Update: A return trip has yielded disappointing results regarding meats but one fantastic concept that I'd like to advocate. I got a sliced beef sandwich and a side of two ribs. The ribs were very similar to my first visit. Tender with a pleasant glaze, but no smoke at all. The brikset was even less distinctive than before. Low and slow was definitely not the tempo as the fat was barely beginning to render yet the meat was one consistent tone of grey and lacked any crust or smoke line.

The good news, at least at a conceptual level, is that I witnessed a stroke of genius while waiting in line. The implications of the item "Po Boy" on the menu had escaped my entirely until I saw one being put together. A long, buttered and toasted split roll was covered in sliced beef and doused with their sweet and dark sauce. While not a traditional Texas presentation of what meets our traditional Texas standards, it looking fantastic. Maybe it would be sacrilege to put some of Snow's transcendent brisket to use in that manner, but good Lord, would it be tasty.

Stars: * *

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Jack Jordan's Bar-B-Que

ODESSA: Jack Jordan's Bar-B-Que
1501 John Ben Shepperd Pkwy

Odessa, TX 79761


Open M-Sat 11-9

Here's a story about why I love fellow Texans. A college friend of mine (native Texan) traveled from her home in Brooklyn to visit us in Dallas. She came via Odessa, Texas from visting her own family. When she arrived at my door she hurried to the kitchen with a green collapsible cooler and instructed me to open it quickly. Confused and excited, I gripped this curiously warm cooler and unzipped it as quickly as I could. Immediately a smokiness filled the kitchen (oh, it couldn't be) as I peered at three large hunks of foiled covered mystery. Unwrapping the foil I discovered (oh yes, it could be) sliced brisket, then pork ribs, then sausage! Christmas cometh early to the Vaughn household.

As we dined, standing around the kitchen counter, Lindsay stood patiently for my opinion of her family's favorite BBQ joint. Well, the brisket could have used more time on the smoker to up the tenderness and to render the fat a little better. The smokiness was there, and good flavor resided in that crust, but the meat well below the crust was a bit roast-beefy.

Ribs were tender with well rendered fat. the meat was well seasoned, but the outside seemed to be too moist for a good crust to form. Despite that, the meat was still smoky,

The sausage may have been straight from the Sysco truck, but this proprietor knows what a good dose of smoke can do to transform an otherwise average sausage. The flavor from that smoke went deep into the juicy (fatty) meat created a complex flavor not normally found in this variety of sausage.

Overall, this meat was good if not great. But then, this was the first time I've had meat that travelled 350 miles and didn't have to be warmed at the tail end of that trip. Even with the distance, this meat held up well in the eyes of myself and my fellow diners, and did nothing to deter me from welcoming Meat Christmas anytime it's offered.

Rating ***
Jack Jordan Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

July 4th Smoke Fest

Over the weekend, I was up in Oklahoma away from any of my beloved Texas BBQ joints, so I decided to get to smoking on my own. The menu included St. Louis ribs, a whole brisket, thick cut pork chops and a tube steak combo of garlic pork sausage and polish sausage (not pictured). Everything was smoked over charcoal briquettes (packing for a weekend away with a two month old can make you grab the wrong bag as I would have preferred to use lump hardwood charcoal) and the smoke was provided by hickory chunks.

Ribs were rubbed with a mixture of salt, pepper, garlic salt and brown sugar. It was smoked for 2-1/2 hours while resting for 1/2 hour.

I'm hungry all over again.

Pork chops were seasoned with kosher salt and black pepper and smoked for 2 hours.

Ribs, garlic sausage and pork chops came from Central Market in Dallas, the polish sausage (admittedly pre-smoked) was from Rudolph's in Dallas, and the brisket was from my new favorite butcher shop in Dallas called VonGeertsem Butcher Shoppe. The storefront is tiny with only one reserved parking space, but the knowledge that Greg Geerts is willing to share with you is alone worth the stop. He described the location of the deckle (a thick vein of fat between the point and the flat) and explained how he cut it out. We talked raw meat for a good fifteen minutes, and I was not once bored. I won't be going anywhere else for whole briskets at this point.

The brisket was seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.

Part of the point was separated from the whole so it fit in the smoker.

It was smoked for 10 hours.

Then it rested, wrapped in foil, for an hour.

The verdict...well I could have done better. The ribs were nearly perfect with a black crust, smokiness through the meat, and well rendered fat. The pork chops were still moist, well seasoned and deeply smoky. The sausage needed more time on the smoker to develop a more smoky flavor, but the garlic flavor was prominent. A deep crust enveloped the brisket, yet only a meager smoke line laid underneath. The smokiness permeated the meat, but any slices heavy on crust made it evident that the meat had been over salted. The brisket moisture varied by the cut. The flat was a bit dry, while the well rendered fat in the point created a perfect level of moisture. If I were a BBQ joint, I'd give myself...

Rating ****

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.