Sunday, January 31, 2010

Old Smokehouse

SAN ANTONIO: Old Smokehouse
5145 Fredericksburg Rd

San Antonio, TX 78229


Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

Walking through the dining room to reach the counter, my eye was caught by beautiful mounds of meat piled high family style on some of the tables. The slices of brisket looked promising, and I couldn't wait to get my own. As I ordered the standard ribs and brisket, I noticed they had lamb ribs on their menu. Now I've rarely met a lamb rib worth craving, but I always make a point to get at least a taste of this big city menu rarity. The meat cutting area is just out of view over the ordering counter, so it was too late when I saw the ladle rising and quickly falling onto my unwitting styrofoam container. I felt ambushed given the lack of sauce on every tempting plate I passed in the joint. My wife said it best when I got back in the car by noting that it smelled like BBQ sauce rather than BBQ.

This joint has been around since 2003, and I learned later from some friends that it used to be a San Antonio favorite when it was Bob's Smokehouse under previous ownership. They also said Bob wouldn't have been so capricious with his sauce. Forlornly, I opened the box in the car while my wife drove to the next destination. I went straight for the lamb ribs on top. These were truly lamb (less than 1 year old) rather than mutton ribs, which can taste similar to wet wool. The meat had a nice hint of smoke, and the bone had a large portion of meat attached. Lamb meat is very fatty, so they were a bit chewy, but the flavor was excellent.

The pork ribs were beyond saving. They had already been drowned, so they were plenty moist and tender. The flavor of the meat was hard to distinguish, as was the smoke. Brisket was hard to rescue, but the slices were admirable. The meat could have been more tender, but they had a decent crust and a good smoky flavor. The potential was evident. Sides were excellent with a nice mustard potato salad that had plenty of celery chunks and a not-too-sweet creamed corn. I'd eat here again, but I'd be adamant about having sauce on the side.

Rating ***

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fuschak's Pit Bar-B-Q

SAN MARCOS: Fuschak's Pit Bar-B-Q
920 Highway 80

San Marcos, TX 78666


Open Sun-W 10:30-8, Thur-Sat 10:30-9

It's hard to miss the well lit sign on the side of I-35 in San Marcos. The bright red lights bring in hungry diners, and the smoky smell inside kicks in the salivary glands. I had heard that the food here was unremarkable, so I went in with some low expectations based on that and their somewhat ostentatious presence. Usually when those two items unite, you're in for some mediocre meat. Not so on this trip.

They squeezed as much flavor from the smoker into the otherwise pedestrian grocery store grade sausage. The ribs had good flavor, but lacked good smoke. The meat was a bit dry and tough, but They were still enjoyable. The crust on the brisket was so heavy that it cracked between the teeth. You could tell that this beef had not been wrapped. The meat was incredibly moist with just enough fat left on each slice. The flavor in the brisket crust was very smoky almost bordering on gaseous, much like the intense smokiness of the ribs at Dr. Bell's in Dallas. After talking with the proprietor, I learned that like the Dr., they use an Ole Hickory gas-fired pit fueled with post oak and mesquite.

The sides of fire-cracker corn and green beans were both good. The corn was creamy and spicy, and the beans had a meaty flavor. Next time I'll grab a few of the sides, and go straight for that smoky brisket.

Rating ***

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Best Barbecue in Dallas (Just Missed)

Hopefully by now you've read my list of the top 16 BBQ joints in the DFW area. If not, then check out the D Magazine article here, here and here. With any list, there are those that just missed the cut. I thought I'd use this space to share with you the joints that almost made the cut, in no particular order.

- Big Al's Smokehouse in Dallas

- Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth

- Mike Anderson's in Dallas

- Odom's in Dallas

- Back Country Bar-B-Q in Dallas

Each of these places is definitely one that I have either made repeat visits or plan to return to, so I thank all the pit masters for their great work.

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Railroad Bar B Que

KYLE: Railroad Bar B Que
107 E. Center St.
Kyle, TX 78640
Open M-Sat 10:30-9, Sun 11-8

Just down the road from Milt's, you'll find one of the two locations of Railroad Bar-B-Que. This joint's been smoking with mesquite since 1983, and they do it well inside this weathered corrugated metal building. The interior is full of long dining tables for seating, and orders are taken at the front counter. I was taking mine to-go, so I waited patiently while the order was boxed up. Meats are sliced in the back, so I couldn't get a look until I got to the car and opened the container.

The ribs had a sweet glaze and a good bark, but could have used more meat on the scrawny bones. I was expecting more smoke flavor given that they use mesquite, but it was faint. The brisket had plenty of smoky flavor in from the well formed crust, and a nice smokering. The meat was a tad dry, but it had great overall flavor. Their proprietary blend sausage had plenty of red and black pepper along with a good snap. The links were smoky and robust, if not particularly unique.

The sides and sauce were also standouts. Cole slaw was minced pretty fine with a creamy dressing. Potato salad was a mixture of smashed and chunk potatoes, and it had a nice hint of sweetness. The sauce worked very well with the meat, and didn't overpower the smoky flavor. While it was all very good, I'd have to suggest Milt's if forced to choose. But then if you're like me, just hit them both for lunch or dinner sometime.

Rating ***

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que

NEW BRAUNFELS: Cooper's Old-Time Pit Bar-B-Que
1125 N. Loop 337
New Braunfels, TX 78130
Open Sun-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

By far the best of the Cooper's chain, this location is relatively new, and just as pristine as the new Ft. Worth location. Ordering is done right at the new stainless steel pits just inside the doors, and the display of meats is impressive.

While this is the home of the "Big Chop", I was here for a meat sampling, and the chop is only available in cuts larger than a pound each. Instead I opted for some brisket, a large pork rib, a beef rib and some pork loin. I tore into the beef rib first, and it was one of the best beef ribs I've ever eaten (second only to Louie Mueller). The meat was silky smooth from the well rendered fat within these short ribs, and the thick cut held up to the excessive seasoning that Cooper's uses on their meats before cooking. I don't call it smoking, because they use high direct heat from mesquite coals rather than creating actual smoke.

I got a piece of brisket from the end, and it just had too much seasoning to be enjoyable, but slices form the interior of the brisket were tender with just enough fat remaining on each slice. The pork rib was very good as well, but a bit tough. There was no crust, and little smokiness, but the meat was well cooked and flavorful. The pork tenderloin was perfect. Like the beef rib, this cut was thick enough to stand up to the heavy-handed black pepper and salt rub. The meat on this normally dry cut, was beautifully moist and tender. The flavor of the meat was rich and robust, and I would order it again every time.

In ranking this joint, I hesitated to give it a high rating for two reasons. There was a lack of smokiness that I prefer, and the pork rib was not exemplary. In the end, I felt I had to rate it in its own category since it is done in the direct heat "cowboy style" rather than slow smoking. That couple with the incredible beef rib and pork tenderloin, and the great brisket, I had to bump it up.

Rating ****

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 06

Diamond State BBQ Championship

The sixth episode was filmed in Dover, Delaware at the Diamond State BBQ Championship. It starts out with Tuffy giving an unprepared Myron one of his extra briskets for the competition since Myron delivery fell through. They spent so much time discussing how Tuffy hoped the decision wouldn't bite him in the ass, you almost knew it would by the end of the episode. Johnny Trigg and Paul Peterson weren't featured in this competition, although Johnny makes an appearance at the awards in the end.

No surprise here, the volatile relationship between LeAnn and her boyfriend Billy is over, and she now will have to do all the cooking (gasp!) instead of kicking Billy around. In the middle of the night, she had to call over some other guy to help her get the equipment going, and her dad came to the rescue on turn-in day to help get things done.

One of the former members of Harry Soo's team, Gary, decided to compete on his own, starting up a potential rivalry. He's putting much of his money on the pork, paying extra for Kurobuta pork (that's a fancy Japanese name for Berkshire pork).

The game inside the game for this episode was the weather. It was cold and rainy, so the fires were burning much quicker, and some of the competitors let their fire go out. Everyone took the chance to complain about the rain, but the most fun was the friendly verbal sparring in the rain between Tuffy and Myron who were parked next to one another.

Both Tuffy and Myron made their wives run for it to turn in the briskets, but they both made it on time.

The judges, one of which was guest judge Herschel Walker (he didn't make it on camera), braved the weather under a tent for the tasting. Once the votes were tallied, none of the show's competitors made the top five, but Myron finished the highest at sixth place, with a first place showing in brisket (no surprise from all the foreshadowing). LeAnn was eighth, Tuffy was twefth, and Gary beat his mentor Harry by 3 places at twenty-sixth.

We'll see you next week at the Big Pig Jig in Vienna, Georgia, so Myron will be on his home turf.

- BBQ Snob

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The Best Barbecue in Dallas (That’s Not Really in Dallas)

The folks over at D Magazine have just released their February issue which features the top 16 BBQ joints in the DFW area. I know a little about the list, because I wrote the article. I urge you to pick up your very own copy, as it's available in newstands today. The pictures are incredible (not my own), and the writing is, well, not too bad either. I hope you enjoy it, but I welcome any comments, positive or negative.

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Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ (Fort Worth)

FORT WORTH: Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ
301 Stockyards Blvd.

Fort Worth, TX 76106

Open Sun-Thur 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9:30

The newest palace of BBQ has opened in Fort Worth right next to Billy Bob's. This location is both cavernous and squeaky clean. Like the other two Cooper's locations, ordering here is done at the pit at the entry. This is really just a showy warming pit, but the real work is done out back in the (oddly uncelebrated) fire pits where mesquite wood is burned down to coals for high heat cooking. Low and slow is not the Cooper's way. These meats are cooked with direct heat from coals rather than smoked with indirect heat and wood smoke. You'll notice the lack of smokiness in the flavor, but this is what Cooper's fan have come to expect. They've also come to expect some expensive meat covered in salt and pepper.

I ordered a sampler of brisket, pork ribs, a beef rib and a "Big Chop". After all, Cooper's calls themselves the "Home of the Big Chop". As your meat is cut you have the option to have it dipped in a thin vinegar sauce, or to leave it naked. I dipped the chop and pork ribs, but left the brisket and beef rib untouched. It didn't matter much after the kid weighing my meat wrapped it all together in a single piece of butcher paper thus spreading the sauce all around.

If you're new here, you may be stunned once you reach the register. I purposely ordered more than I could eat, but it was $34 for my spread, which included a pleasant and eggy potato salad. The chop is precut, so you don't have much choice in the size you get. Mine was 1.3 pounds and cost over $15. That's a steep price if you want just a taste of their signature cut. The profits are also aided by the self servingly generous portions cut by the guys in the pit. I whittled down the amount of brisket I was offered to a paltry .44 pounds, which was approximately 1/3 of what the guy first offered to cut.

When I finally got a serving of the free beans, I found a spot at the long picnic tables. I think they could play arena football in this joint if they cleared out the tables, but if you can find one close to the end, you can stare at the huge flat screens. I happily started with the big chop (pictured above with a hot sauce bottle for scale). It was tender, moist and perfectly seasoned. Compared to their usual lathering of salt and pepper, they showed some restraint on this cut, and it benefited greatly. It was nearly a perfect piece of pork, but it could have use more smoke.

The beef rib was a mediocre piece of undercooked beef with far too much unrendered fat in the meat. Fat was a theme when it came to brisket. The untrimmed slices were nearly half fat (3oz. of the 7oz. of meat I was charged for) which is forgivable unless you're paying by the pound. The flavor was decent throughout, and the intramuscular fat was well rendered, but bites with the crust were overwhelmed by salt and pepper.

Pork ribs were better with a lighter touch to the seasoning, and a well formed crust. The smoke was more evident in this cut than any other, and the overall flavor was great. While I understand that this type of cooking provides less smoke flavor, I didn't miss it any less, especially since it was compensated for by generally overseasoning the meat. If you're looking for a sure thing on your visit, stick with the potato salad and a big chop, as long as you've got someone to split it with.

Rating ***

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beef Ribs in DFW

A recent question posed by Nancy Nichols over at SideDish about readers' preferences between pork and beef ribs, I started to wonder how many joints in DFW still serve them. After searching the web and my memory for those who still offer these behemoths, it seemed that they had become an endangered rib species. I decided I would scour the Metroplex to find some fine beef rib examples, and determine where to find the best.

Big Al's Smokehouse: Big Al's uses back ribs rather than the meatier short ribs. These ribs are generally cleaned to the bone so the butcher can charge prime rib prices rather than beef rib prices for the meat, but Big Al's has found a supplier in Dallas that leaves some meat on the ribs. A thin sweet glaze covers the meat which has well rendered fat throughout, but lacks a robust smokiness. Overall the ribs are good, but short ribs would provide more meat. If you want a pile of them, stop by for lunch on Thursdays when they're the special.

Bluebonnet Bar-B-Que: Whole Foods smoke these short ribs in house. While a similar cut to beef back ribs, short ribs have more meat, and much more fat. This helps keep them moist as long as they're cooked slow. These behemonths had definitely been slow smoked as the meat was very moist and plenty tender and could be pulled cleanly from the bone. Unfortunately, the crust had become tough and chewy after hours of heat lamp fueled storage which probably contributed to the meat falling from the bone. Because of the thickness of the meat, it's hard to penetrate very far beneath that crust until the smoke flavor disappears, creating a double whammy against the chewy crust.

Riscky's Bar-B-Q: This joint cuts their ribs down to a reasonable size for handling, but you can expect a heap on your plate, especially if you order the all-you-can eat plate at just under $10. The crust was well formed, but the smokiness was lacking a bit. These ribs were a bit chewy, but the fat was well rendered, and the flavor was beefy and bold. They, like Big Al's, use the back rib, but this one provides a bit more meat on the bone.

Pappas Bar-B-Q: You can get four of these on a beef rib plate, or two of these monsters on a combo plate. I watched as the knife man cut these from the bone, and he is generous. Only three bones are used out of a five bone rack, so each of the three remaining bones gets a bigger hunk of meat clinging to it. Although it was sauced, the meat flavor still shined through. I knew from previus visits that the sauce here actually complements the meat. Moist without being too tneder, this meat still needed some tooth tug to release it from the bone. A good crust ahd formed although a good level of smokiness was only really evident a the meaty rib end. This was a solid and generous performance.

Smoke: Known as "The Big Rib" on the menu, this behemoth beef ribs is actually an undivided short rib that extends to both ends of the plate. The large amount of intramuscular fat creates some incredibly moist meat since the fat is so well rendered. A dark, salty crust holds plenty of smokey flavor, while a sauce of reduced beef stock, garlic and dried mint create a complex flavor profile that a bit too heavy on the salt. Each bite holds a ton of beefy flavor, though it takes some work to separate meat from fat. Altogether, this was fine example of moist, tender Texas BBQ.

Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ: The last rib I tried was from the recently opened location of Cooper's in the Ft. Worth Stockyards. These short ribs are huge and meaty, but are overseasoned and fatty. If they were cooked lower and slower, the fat in these ribs might have a chance to render out, but the high heat cooking used here doesn't allow that process to take place. The heavy salt and black pepper rub overwhelms the flavor of the meat, and very little smokiness is evident. The flavor of the meat below the crust is decent, but the overall just doesn't warrant an order here.

Rankings -
- Smoke
- Big Al's Smokehouse
- Pappas Bar-B-Q
- Bluebonnet Bar-B-Que
- Riscky's
- Cooper's

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Lockhart BBQ Challenge

Smitty's Market (left) versus Kreuz Market (right). The battle has already been waged between family members providing this town of less than 12,000 with more than their fair share of great BBQ. Now the Travel Channel is coming to town to film a new series, and they're hosting a genuine throw down between the two storied joints. This is the announcement form the producers of the show.

"There is a great new Travel Channel series being shot in Lockhart, Texas this coming Wednesday, Thursday and Friday - January 20 - 22, 2010. Two great Texas BBQ joints, Kreuz Market & Smitty's Market will be featured on the show, so please come out to Lockhart Texas and participate in the Travel Channel's new food series about BBQ. Here's are all the particulars:

A new series will be airing this Spring on the Travel Channel. Our host is visiting cities around the country learning about their iconic food dishes. Next up on our food journey: Texas BBQ. If you’re a regular customer to Kreuz’s Market we want you there January 20th, between 11-2pm. If you prefer to dine at Smitty’s, then stop by between 11-2pm on January 21th. No matter which side off the fence you may fall, we want you all together at Field Stables on January 22nd at 12:15!"

Smitty’s Market
208 South Commerce Street
Lockhart, TX 78644-2737
(512) 398-9344

Kreuz Market Inc
619 North Colorado Street
Lockhart, TX 78644-2110
(512) 398-2361

Fields Stables
112 North Main Street, Lockhart, TX 78644
All fans should arrive at 12:15

To read a few more details, check out the article in the Lockhart Post Register. I wish I could make it.

- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 05

American Royal Day 2

The fifth episode was filmed at Day 2 of the American Royal for the Open Competition. This day is for teams that are vying for the Grand Champion title that will allow them to joint the Invitational next year.

The competitors on this episode are LeAnn, Harry Soo, Paul Peterson, and newcomer Jaime Geer, none of which were eligible for the Open competition the previous day. Between car trouble and a fender bender, LeAnn had trouble getting ready for the competition. Harry had issues being placed right next to the stage where the big party would be going down the night before the Royal, and Paul was feeling confident after his one-on-one cooking classes with Johnny Trigg.

With Myron cooking in the Invitational, it's unclear why we have to deal with his idiotic dialect in this episode, but I guess the producers see him as the star of the show. He spent most of his time complaining about the quality of the BBQ judges, whihc I must admit, I have to agree with his point that it's tough to get a fair shot at a competition where so many of the judges are not certified.

LeAnn had some real issues with Billy's prep and cooking performance, but she seems to rely on his help in the cooking process more than any of the other cookers. Harry is thrown off throughout the day by oversleeping by an hour, and his ribs have to be cooked at a higher temp, and his chicken getting overcooked in the process.

In the end, there were 488 teams competing. Of those on the show, the highest spot went to Johnny Trigg at 46th, Myron came in at 49th, LeAnn was 139th overall and 3rd in brisket, Paul Peterson was 177th overall (in the top third) and 62nd in ribs which he correctly assumed was his best entry. Harry Soo was the lowest at 266th overall.

We'll see you next episode at Diamond State BBQ in Dover, Delaware.

- BBQ Snob

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 04

American Royal

The fourth episode was filmed at the American Royal in Kansas City, Missouri. I feel a bit of a connection to this episode because I was judging at the Royal while filming was underway, but that was for the Open Competition. The folks on the show are competing in the Invitational, which requires that you've been a Grand Champion in the past.

This episode begins with Tuffy picking up his retooled pit which he sent to a friend for repair before the big competition.

To stop the bleeding, Paul finally reaches out for some help. He heads down to Alvarado, Texas from his home in McKinney to meet Johnny Trigg and hope for some cooking tips. When the meeting was over, he'd received an unprecedented invitation from Johnny to be a member of the Smokin' Triggers team at the Royal, so he could watch and learn.

In addition to the normal competitors, this episode features Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson's in Decatur, Alabama. He's a big rival of Myron Mixon, so I'm guessing most folks watching were rooting for Chris to knock off the wind-bag. Lee-Ann and Harry Soo don't make an appearance on this episode.

Paul then gets a detailed look at Johnny's secrets for meat preparation, and they plan to meet at 2:45 to start up the pits. Of course Johnny's waiting in the dark without a Paul sighting at 2:45, but he runs in at 2:47 after jumping the fence, and they get the fire started at 3:00. The pit warms for 45 minutes before the meat goes in, and they're off and cooking the brisket. Johnny then gives a lesson in trimming St. Louis ribs from a rack of spare ribs.

Just before pork turn in, Tuffy realizes he sent off his box without saucing it, but it was too late to do anything about it except fret. Despite that, in the end Tuffy and his Cool Smoke team took home third place overall, which was the only one in the top 5. The best outcome of the day was Myron all the way down at 73rd place, last of the pitmasters on the show.

This episode may be the best so far at actually focusing on the cooking rather than just manufactured drama. They also did a great job getting across what it's like to be a judge in the blind tasting.

We'll see you next episode at Day 2 of the American Royal for the Open Competition.

- BBQ Snob

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cooper's in Ft. Worth

Cooper's is now OPEN! I just called to verify, and they are ready for customers.

Update 01/07/2010: Even at the risk of jinxing the whole deal, I'm letting you know that Cooper's has actually commited to an opening date...sort-of. From the ever informed Bud Kennedy, I've learned that Cooper's will open before next weekend. They actually have an incentive now with thousands of hungry cowboys and wannabees coming into town for the Fort Worth Stock Show. The opening day should be next Tuesday to get a few days in before the weekend, but we've heard that story before. Fingers crossed.

Update 12/18/2009: Thanks to the news from Bud Kennedy over at the Star Telegram, we won't be wasting the day after Christmas on a trip out to Ft. Worth for some BBQ at Cooper's. They will not open until after the new year. Remember when their opening was planned for July?

Update 12/10/2009: For those of you in DFW hoping to get your Cooper's fix before Christmas, sorry. The opening date has been pushed back once again to 12/26. This is like waiting for a delayed flight.

Update 11/2009: I just learned that the opening date has been pushed back yet again until December 15th. Be patient.

July/2009: Local news stations and Pat Sharpe at Texas Monthly have both reported on the new Cooper's outpost currently being contructed in Fort Worth in part of the Billy Bob's parking lot. While out in Fort Worth for the weekend, I had to take a drive by and check out the progress. Originally set to open in July, the date has now been pushed back to November according to Bud Kennedy. I'll be waiting in line come rain or shine when these pits are open for business.

- BBQ Snob

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Home of Da Smoke BBQ

ADKINS: Home of Da Smoke BBQ
13433 Us-87

Adkins, TX 78101


Open W-F 11-8, Sat 11-8:30, Sun 11:30-5

Robert Nelson is the long time pitmaster here at Home of Da Smoke. The sign in front of the place says "Nelson's" which is what Robert goes by because, as he says, "there are too many Roberts around here". He's given a name to each of his smokers as well. Big Bertha sits out front while Big Tex sits in back full of briskets. Each meat here gets a different wood because Norman wants them to all have a unique flavor. Ribs get post oak, the house made sausage gets a dose of pecan while mesquite and hickory team up on the brisket. I had to try them all.

I took a bite directly from the to-go container as I was paying. I could not stop there. The slices were thick with a nice layer of rendered fat and an incredible crust with a slight crispiness. The smokiness was perfect and the overall flavor was great. Norman saw the look on my face an offered a tour. While showing off Big Tex, his pride showed as he implored me to try the sausage and ribs that were in the box.

The sausage was also impressive. It had a great snap, bold levels of spice and black pepper and incredible flavor. Ribs were the weakest meat. While the smokiness and flavor were there, the crust had too much rub, and the slightly dry meat was a bit tough. I'm guessing a guy with such a deft hand on his brisket was just having a bad rib day. I can't wait to get back there and double check.

Rating ****

Home of Da Smoke Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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Friday, January 8, 2010

Greenburg Smoked Turkey

If you've never heard of Greenberg Smoked Turkeys, they're quite famous around Texas, but this lover of smoked meats had never had the chance to try one. Smoke just outside Tyler, Texas, they'll ship them anywhere or easier yet, over the holidays you could pick on up at Central Market in Dallas. I convinced my wife that it was a good idea to have one on hand for Christmas night, and it was the hit of the party.

The anticipation begins when you open the box. The smell of smoke was strong when I pulled the paper bag from the box.

I was salivating at this point as I discovered yet another barrier between me and my turkey.

Inside that final bag was a thing of beauty. The dark skin was smoke personified, and I quickly cut a few slices for munching.

The slices had an incredible flavor from both the smoke and the salt and pepper injection. Although a bit dry, the meat was thoroughly enjoyable and worth the $50 price tag. The slices were great naked, but even better on a Hawaiian roll with some Durkee Famous Sauce.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Texas Pride Barbecue

ADKINS: Texas Pride Barbecue
2980 E Tx-1604-Loop S

Adkins, TX 78101


Open Tues-W 11-8:30, Thur-Sat 11-9:30, Sun 12-7

Texas Pride is quite a drive from San Anotnio, but given the endorsement of Guy Fieri from Diner Drives ins and Dives, I was willing to make that drive. Although it looks like an ancient gas station, the place has only been smoking since 1996 when the owners built it has an homage to their parents' old gas station. Word has it that this place really gets rocking on Friday and Saturday nights with live music and plenty of bikers, but I opted for the day after New Years on a quiet Saturday morning.

The sign that greets you once you enter the cafeteria style line had my hopes up. All of the meats are on display behind a glass window, and I was surprised to see very little bark on any of the meats besides the brisket. They smoke with all mesquite wood, but it's all done in a gas fired rotisserie according to my friends over at Man Up Texas BBQ, who happened to be visiting the same day. Ordering is done with the knife man, and he carefully weighs each meat. I opted for the three meat plate which promises 3/4lb of meat, and they didn't skimp a bit.

Back at the table I dug into the mound of ribs, brisket and turkey along with sides of green beans and potato casserole. Both sides were incredible, but the meat was not. The baby back ribs had a meager amount of meat with a few shiners in the bunch (bone showing through the top of the meat). A heavy rub of salt and pepper provided a good flavor, but the meat was dry and lacked smokiness. The brisket was a bit better with mild smokiness in the crust of each slice, and decent flavor throughout. The meat was well cooked with rendered fat and a moist tender texture. Sausage, stolen from my wife's plate, is a proprietary mixture that had good spice and decent flavor, but again, little smoke. Turkey may have been the best option with a hint of smoke and moist tender slices, all with great flavor.

While this place gets all the hype, stay tuned for my next review, and you'll learn about the gold mine just down the street that Guy Fieri missed altogether. It's a true dive that really deserves the attention.

Rating **

Texas Pride Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Riscky's Bar-B-Q

FT. WORTH: Riscky's BBQ Stockyards
140 E. Exchange Ave.

Fort Worth, Texas 76106


Open M-Thur 11-10, F-Sat 11-12am, Sun 11-9

Over a year ago, I tried Riscky's in Sundance Square without being impressed. I'd heard from a few sources that the Stockyards location was superior so I headed over to give it a try. This Riscky's is part of a larger complex of eateries, some of which are owned by the Riscky's family. Inside this large joint you'll find friendly service and plenty of people watching. The menu item that caught my attention was the hefty three meat platter, and I ordered it loaded with sliced brisket, pork ribs and Riscky's famous beef ribs.

The beef ribs were big and meaty with plenty of beefy flavor. The large amount of intramuscular fat was well rendered, and much of the chewiness had been smoked out of these tender rib. Pork ribs were also good with a nice texture and decent smokiness. The flavor was a bit more bland than the beef ribs, but it was a decent rib nonetheless. What really shined were the big thick slices of brisket, literally. I think some of the brisket rippings, or some other liquid was brushed on the brisket just before serving. This might be considered cheating, but the great flavor that it imparted on each slice was magnificent. A nice line of beautifully rendered fat was left at the bottom of each slice. The protein held together well, but needed the slightest tug of the tooth to yield. These were some exemplary slices of beef save the need for a bit more smoke.

If you've got the choice between this location and the Sundance Square location, make your way down to the Stockyards and get a heap of meat on your plate.

Rating ***
Riscky's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ultimate Bar-B-Cue

FT. WORTH: Ultimate Bar-B-Cue
5733 Crowley Rd

Fort Worth, TX 76134


Open Tue-Sat 11-8, Sun 11-5

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2009: I'd heard from a reader about this joint in south Fort Worth, so I made the trek. It was nearly empty at 2:00 on a Wednesday as I ordered up a two meat plate from the front counter. My food came out quickly, already in a styrofoam container. Along with sliced brisket and ribs, I got a quality mac & cheese and some nicely flavored green beans. roast beef, bland ribs

The meat was another story. The brisket slices had all of the crust sliced away, but plenty of poorly rendered fat attached. The slices were dry and tasted like little more than smokeless roast beef. The ribs were a bit better with a hint of smoke to the crust. The fat was well rendered throughout, but the flavor was missing from these poorly seasoned ribs. An addition of the sweet, smokey and spicy sauce provided the needed kick. The meat overall was forgettable, but the considerable amount of smoke coming from the stack on the roof makes me think this could have been an off day.

Rating **
Ultimate Bar-B-Cue on Urbanspoon

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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.