Saturday, April 30, 2011

Joe's Burgers

DALLAS: Joe's Burgers
4408 Ash Ln

Dallas, TX 75223


Open ?

A new sign was hoisted on Joe's Burgers that said "Real BBQ", and of course I could not resist. You can order inside, but this is really a Sonic knock-off with a similar drive-in ordering system. Brisket and ribs were on the barbecue portion of the menu, so I ordered a sandwich of each meat and hoped for the best.

Brisket was dense and a bit dry, but the overall flavor was better than expected. These slices were very lean with a thin crust and no smoke ring. Surprisingly, the meat had some decent smoke to it. I could imagine the chopped beef with sauce on one of the grilled buns would be pretty good.

Ribs were less impressive...actually they were just downright bad. No smoke, chewy and fatty meat, and no bark made for a poor experience. Stick with the brisket if you find yourself in this part of East Dallas.

Rating **
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Definition of a Pitmaster from John T. Edge

Last month I asked the question on twitter whether my readers preferred the term "Pit Boss" or "Pit Master" when speaking of those that tend the meat and the flame. John T. Edge, Director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, sets the record straight in this lecture at the University of North Carolina. It's a long video, with the first half being the lecture and the second half is a short film entitled CUT/CHOP/COOK. The film features the work of Rodney Scott at Scott's Variety Store in Hemingway, South Carolina.

John T. Edge - Pitmaster: An Homage and Rumination from CSAS on Vimeo.

I always liked Pit Master anyway.

- BBQ Snob

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Mesquite is gearing up for their fifth annual Real.Texas.Festival. After a successful BBQ cook-off event in 2010, the city of Mesquite will once again host an LSBS sanctioned event at the Real.Texas.Festival this coming weekend. Of course the most important part about the event is the BBQ cook-off on Saturday, but there's plenty else to do as well. Here's a bit of their press release:

"Mesquite’s Fifth Annual Real. Texas. Festival., held at Mesquite’s Rodeo Center, April 29 – 30, 2011, offers great entertainment and value! Tickets are $15 for adults, and children 12 and under are admitted FREE. Tickets include free admission to all of that day’s concerts, that evening’s performance of the world-famous Mesquite Championship Rodeo, as well as the Cowboys & Chrome Car Show presented by Hooters. Add to this our “Taste of Mesquite” Barbecue Cook-off, a fun-filled carnival and midway, a Real. Texas. Marketplace. featuring Texas-grown and produced products, there’s plenty for folks to see and do! Additionally, we provide free remote parking with continuous, complimentary shuttle service is from Mesquite’s Memorial Stadium!"

Look for SmokeMasterOne and myself at the judge's table.

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, April 25, 2011

BBQ Book Review: The Pits of Middle Texas

Title: The Pits of Middle Texas
Author: James Latimer
Published: 1994 L'Adrienne Press

A book this old certainly has some joints listed that are closed for good, but who knows what hidden gems it might contain. I picked this book up in hopes that one or two joints listed in here might be a great place who's reputation has been forgotten, but the only joint still open that I hadn't already heard of was Ronnie Ingle BBQ in Abilene. I guess that calls for a road trip.

All twenty reviews in the book read more like a conversation between the writer and pitmaster of joints from La Grange to Abilene. Each review is in depth and covers the venue, the service and the food along with some history. I also enjoyed reading the work of a contemporary of mine from a couple decades back. One great nugget in this book is a short history of Cooper's Bar-B-Q. Here's an excerpt:

"The story of the restaurant began in 1962 when a man named Tommy Cooper opened Cooper's Bar-B-Q in Llano. His father, George Cooper, had operated Cooper's Bar-B-Q in Mason for 20 years and was a seasoned pit tender. George decided to branch out with his BBQ, so he sent Tommy to open the restaurant."

Tommy died in 1979, so the family sold the business. Seven years later, the current owner, Terry Wooten bought the place and he's been operating it ever since. This is the same Cooper's chain that has expanded to New Braunfels and Fort Worth. I have no idea how the location in Junction took on the family name. Thanks to this book, I know a little more about the history of this incredibly popular BBQ destination.

- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stop 6 BBQ

FORT WORTH: Stop 6 Bar-B-Que
4708 East Rosedale Street

Fort Worth, TX 76105

Open M-Sat 11-9

Update: This joint is CLOSED and is now South Texas BBQ & Tex-Mex Grill.

2011: The third time's a charm. After two trips to this joint, I came up empty in the homemade sausage department. The large letters advertising it on the front of the building seemed to taunt me. On this trip I was making sure I'd get there before it ran out. Sitting in the parking lot at 10:55, I waited patiently for the joint to open. At 11:10 the pitmaster came outside and let me know I could come in and place an order.

Sausage was all I needed, and I asked for a pound. I was quickly informed that it hadn't been completely warmed and was offered a quick zip in the establishment's microwave. I opted to take it home in its lukewarm state, but they held firm to the $15.99/pound price tag. For those of you complaining about the prices at Lockhart Smokehouse, I've found a new target for you.

The link was substantial, and had been cut from a larger ring. The grind was fairly fine with a slightly chewy casing. Given the girth, it may have been beef middle casings, but the filling was mostly, if not all pork. Heavy with herbs and spices, it had more of a breakfast sausage flavor with light smoke. A good bit of heat provided some bold flavors, but it just needed more time on the smoker. While it was a fine sausage overall, I'd probably go out of my way to the Sausage Shoppe for less expensive and smokier links in Fort Worth.

Rating **

2010: The music could be heard from the compact parking lot. It was so loud I thought a club scene might greet me on the other side of the thick metal door. Instead, there was a young girl at one of the few tables with textbooks and a notebook out trying to do her homework. The boom-box in the corner was literally blaring into her ear while she tried to study, and it was just uncomfortable to watch. The ordering process was just as difficult. A few lines were exchanged at an all out yell before it was determined that they were out of their homemade sausage. I opted for hot links, brisket and ribs.

None of the meat had much smokiness. The beef was tender as if baked, but the generous portion of fat within each slice was chewy. The ribs were fall apart tender, but the meat's flavor was covered up with the sweet sauce. The best option was the hot link. Sliced in half lengthwise, these links had a great snap, and the flavors were well balanced. A little black pepper heat was evident, but they weren't really too hot. My next visit will be a sausage sampling with these hot links along with some of that homemade sausage. I'll just wear some ear plugs and arrive with a written order.

Rating **
Stop 6 Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Riscky's BBQ (Original)

2314 Azle Ave

Fort Worth, TX 76164


Open M-Sat 8:30-7

I've had both good and mediocre experiences at two other Fort Worth locations of Riscky's, but was told by a few folks that the original location on Azle was one of the best. I was also told not to miss the meaty (no beans) chili. I arrived for a late lunch with my two year old daughter who was craving sweets, so having the option of banana pudding as a side item on my combo plate was great. Getting to choose three sides was even better.

Pea salad is a quintessential Texas dish. Even some New Yorkers I know can make a great version. It starts with fresh or frozen peas. To that you add a mayo based dressing, onions, cheese and bacon bits if you're lucky. Using mushy and salty canned peas as Riscky's does is an unfortunate choice that results in a not so pleasing side. Riscky's again offends the Texas BBQ lover with a poor rendition of one of my favorite desserts. Banana pudding is the national BBQ dessert of Texas. It too has a simple recipe for success that includes few items. None of these should be the palate torturing concoction that is fake banana flavoring. Even my daughter wouldn't eat it.

The meat was a bit better. Ribs were tender, moist and had a good flavor from the rub. They were missing solid smoke flavoring, but were decent overall. Brisket was a good version of salted roast beef, but couldn't be confused for high quality smoked meat. It really needed a dip in the sauce to liven it up. The only flawless dish was the chili. Made with little more than ground beef, chili powder and some water, this bowl of red showed some real Texas roots. It's too bad that just the chili really satisfies at this Texas BBQ joint.

Rating **
Riscky's Barbeque on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BBQ Book Review: Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin

Title: Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin
Author: Gloria Corral
Published: 2010 by Barbecue Lover's Guide

Gloria Corral moved to Austin in 2008 and promptly immersed herself in the local BBQ culture. This book is a collection of profiles for many joints in and around Austin, the furthest of which is Snow's which is an hour and a half away in Lexington. I call them profiles because none of the entries resemble reviews. Nothing distinguishes each joint, so you may walk away form the book with an equal opinion of Bone Daddy's and Bill Miller BBQ as you would for City Market in Luling or Louie Mueller. While the lack of opinions make it less useful for those looking to go straight for the good stuff, the overall breadth of her list is impressive. There are seventy profiles, and the list dives much deeper than most Austin based lists. You can tell there was an honest search for BBQ along the backroads of the area. The black and white illustrations create a nice study of BBQ joint signage. Each one page profile includes a drawing of the joint's sign along with the basic information, most importantly, the hours of operation.

It's obvious that the author has given herself an adequate Texas BBQ baptism to have an honest opinion about the genre. I just wish she'd share them. Maybe her second edition (already in the works) will provide some insight on which joints are worth the visit.

- BBQ Snob

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Smokie's Bar-B-Q

DALLAS: Smokie's Bar-B-Q
6869 Frankford Rd.

Dallas, TX 75252


Open M-Sat 10:30-8:00, Sun 10:30-6:30

Delivery is certainly not a new concept in food service, but I've rarely seen a BBQ joint that specializes in it. Smokie's shares the front half of a convenience store with the main check-out counter, but a large part of their business is done through deliveries made by the owner and pitmaster. I placed my order inside and took a spot at one of a few tables. While you wait for your order, you can peruse the aisles of African and Indian spices, or grab some beef biltong out of the cooler.

Brisket was smoky and well seasoned, and showed real potential. Unfortunately, the meat was a bit dry and over tender. A trip around the microwave just before serving probably didn't help. Ribs also had good smoke, but were also overcooked. The meat was tender and moist, but came too easily from the bone. Sausage had good spice, but the casing was chewy rather than snappy. Sides of previously frozen corn and canned sweet beans were afterthoughts, but the homemade cakes were dense, sweet and tasty.

Rating **
Smokie's Bar B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Miller's Bar-B-Q

10305 Leopard St.
Corpus Christi, TX 78410
Open M-Sat 11-9

GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Michael Alanis from Corpus Christi offers his opinions on a local joint.

Miller’s BBQ has been around for a long time in Northwest Corpus Christi. While it has two other locations, we opted for the original. Walking in, we were met with a cafeteria style line and the meats right in front of us. We chose two brisket plates one lean and one moist with sausage. The ribs looked delicious so we ordered a few. We ordered potato salad and pinto beans for our sides. As we made our way down the line, the BBQ sauces (2 types) were available in plentiful pans.

The beans were decent but lacked a little salt, and the potato salad was good as it was not overpowered by any one ingredient. The meats, well that’s another story. The “lean” brisket was tender but very dry. Now I know why the sauce is so plentiful. The “moist” brisket was so chewy that I was unable to even swallow a piece. I hate to leave brisket on my plate but I had to this time. The sausage is made “right next door” said the kid slicing it. (Miller’s used to have a meat market next door). The sausage is very good and could easily replace any of the top sausage vendors at your local supermarket.

The ribs were the best thing we had this visit. They were tender and smoky with a bit of crust and not overpowered with a rub. They were juicy and flavorful; I needed to order a few more. The ribs are worthy another visit as is the sausage; take a chance on the brisket, if you must. Rating **

Miller's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Uncle Willie's BBQ

FORT WORTH: Uncle Willie's BBQ
1506 Miller Ave

Fort Worth, TX 76105


Open Tues-Sat 11-7

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2011: Good smokers seem to run in the Brown family. I've had a much publicized love affair with Off the Bone in Forest Hill where Eddie Brown is owner and pitmaster. A few months back I popped into Uncle Willie's to see just what had replaced the old Adam's Rib location. After getting a heaping plate of brisket and St. Louis ribs, I noticed a few staffers with Off the Bone shirts on. A few questions later, and I learned that "Willie" was Eddie Brown's brother, Willie Brown. They had honed their craft together at Off the Bone, and it was time for Willie to branch out.

A few bites in, and I knew there was solid potential. The brisket was a bit dry, but nicely smoky with just enough fat left on each slice. The fat was still chewy, and the ribs too tough, but that great flavor was shining through. It was just two weeks after their opening at that point, so I decided to make a return visit. In between visits, Bud Kennedy beat me to the first review, but after the second visit, I now know this joint deserves some serious media coverage.

Perfect brisket was my reward on the subsequent visit. Pull apart tender, beautifully seasoned with salt and smoke with fat rendered down so well I didn't want to leave a morsel uningested. The crust was a luring shiny black, and cracked under my teeth. I was actually saddened to find only four slices, but with four ribs in this combo plate, I had plenty left to gnaw on. While Off the bone uses baby back ribs, Willie has opted for the juicier St. Louis cut. Save the need for a bit more time on the smoker to render out all that fat, these ribs were stupendous. A light rub didn't hinder a good crust formation, and the meat was tender and flavorful. There's no doubt these suckers are smoked with 100% wood. Sausage is the same as his brother's, and is just as good. One item that Eddie may have the upper hand with is sliced pork. The pork tenderloin at Off the Bone is flawless, but these pork shoulder slices were spongy in texture with tough lines of fat. The good flavor and smoke were there, but they needed more love.

Most of the love comes from Willie's deft hand at using his new homemade smoker. He had it specially built for the location, and it stands prominently in the kitchen. A visit back to this room will leave your clothes saturated with oak smoke for the remainder of the day, so beware the behind the scene tour if you have plans afterwards. With a tour or not, this is nothing short of a regional BBQ destination. Willie has risen beyond simple apprentice and has made a smudged smoky mark of his own on Fort Worth's barbecue scene.

Rating ****
Uncle Willie's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mama Faye's BBQ

DALLAS: Mama Faye's
2933 Commerce St

Dallas, TX 75226


Open Daily 10-10

Update: Many changes have come to Mama Faye's recently. A new coat of brick red paint on the exterior, a new Bewley pit in the kitchen, and a new menu that includes soul food favorites starting this month. Based on the lunch traffic on several visits, I understand their desire to expand the menu, but the BBQ can now stand alone.

The addition of that brand new Bewley pit was certainly a hefty investment, but after a few weeks of breaking it in, it's showing some dividends on the brisket front. The meat was well smoked with nicely rendered fat. Slices were tender and moist, and certainly the best of any of my visits. Now, both spare and baby back ribs are available. I tried both and enjoyed the deeply smokey baby backs. They came easily off the bone with a little tug. Spare ribs needed more smoke, but the sauce was the perfect complement.

Sides and dessert always stand out here. Having the soul food menu brings more options like greens, mac & cheese and vegetable gumbo. A whipped cream cake was moist and sweet on this visit, but I prefer the peach cobbler or the earthy sweet potato pie. While the sides and desserts have always impressed, the meat made another step forward since the new pit arrived. Now I just hope they can find some customers to feed it to.

Rating ***

2010: You may have already heard about Mama Faye's in a previous entry on this blog (using the wrong business name) or in the Texas BBQ Posse's first look a couple weeks ago. Given the wild variation in my first two visits to their new brick and mortar location, I had to make a third (it's just 5 minutes from my office, after all). One thing that remained the same on all three visits was the utter lack of patrons in the worn out interior. I sat at the bar with the only other soul there one day at lunch when they were out of nearly the entire menu (they stay open until 10 pm), so my order of chopped beef, chicken, potato salad and peach cobbler was the only option. A Mountain Dew was the only thirst quencher available, so I sucked down the citrusy goodness to cut the heat from their honestly hot sauce. Chicken was a bit dry but nicely flavored and perfectly smokey. The chopped beef was some of the best I've eaten. There were fatty bits and crispy pieces of oh so smokey crust mixed with the moist and tender mound of beef. I was thinking three stars for sure, but I had to come back and try the ribs. This wasn't a big deal since I knew the homemade peach cobbler would be waiting.

On the second trip I took an order to go. This time I asked for the hot sauce on the side, but when I went to dig into those ribs my mouth was on fire from the generous hot sauce lathered over the meat. It was hard to distinguish the rib's flavor under all that sauce, but the extreme level of smokiness was evident. These ribs were tough and chewy, and tasted as if they'd been smoked hot and fast rather than 'low & slow' like the sign outside touts. Ironically the brisket had very little smoke and had been overcooked to the point of dryness. Smokey Denmark's hot links (I think that's what I tasted under the sauce) were adequate, but nothing special. So which place was it? I needed another visit.

Tempted by a free lunch (sandwich specials are $5) a friend joined me on a cold Monday afternoon. The space had been transformed with a new sign showing of a cool logo, a fresh coat of interior paint and a great meat-centric mural on the back wall. They had also expanded the menu to include three more pie options, all of which are homemade just like the cobbler.

Even though I had my choice of sides, I asked if peach cobbler could be my other side and was obliged by the cashier. This time an $8 two meat plate (cash only) was offered, so I went for another shot at the brisket and ribs. Again the ribs were intensely smoky, but were still a bit tough with undrendered fat. The flavor was good, and now it wasn't adulterated by the sauce which had been kept on the side. A dip into the mild sauce showed just how much these folks love the heat. It wasn't as scorching as the hot, but could have easily passed as a hot sauce at most other joints. Brisket was in serious need of the sauce. The meat lacked smoke and overall flavor, and had been cooked to a roast beef texture but remained moist.

In true East Texas style, the chopped beef sandwich that I longed for on my lunch partner's plate is the strong point here. I'd return anytime for a soft bun piled high with meat and (mild) sauce with some of the smokey sweet beans alongside. I'll certainly use it as an excuse to get back there just to try some of those pie options, but I can't rate the joint any higher based on the sliced beef and ribs.

Mama Faye's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

C&C Trading Post BBQ

4095 S. US 287

Corsicana, TX 75109


Open M-Sat 7-7, Sun 8-3

The family was headed south for a ranch field trip where BBQ was being served. My wife's not a fan of smoked meat, and I wasn't looking forward to what I knew would be presliced and reheated brisket. We were in mutual agreement that a stop at The Diner in Corsicana would be in order. Chicken fried steak and burgers were what we were craving, but the bottom of the menu featured 'Trading Post' BBQ. I would soon learn that the Trading Post was just a few miles east of town on Highway 287.

Just as many customers were placing orders for live bait as those ordering BBQ. A few seats inside were mostly full of folks eating large burgers while I waited for my order of brisket and sausage. They were out of ribs at noon, or maybe they never had any. The lady working the counter was short on explanation, so I went to the well stocked cooler for some refreshment. Looking past my normal BBQ accompaniments of Dr. Pepper or Big Red to the bright azure glow of Big Blue.

I couldn't tell the difference between it and Big Red, so it went with the BBQ perfectly. The brisket was more chunked than sliced, and had heavy smoke. The meat was a bit dry, but the flavor was good. A dunk into their spicy sauce was the perfect compliment. The sausage was standard mass production grade stuff with high fat content and a very fine grind, but the flavor was heightened to an even enjoyable level by the heavy smoke that penetrated the skin. It may have even had too much smoke from the creosote induced numbness left on my tongue, but I kept eating anyway. The joint is certainly worth a stop. Let me know how the ribs are if you do.

Rating ***
C & C Trading Post BBQ & Catering on Urbanspoon

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Rump's BBQ

120 FM 3328 (at FM 645)

Palestine, TX 75803


Open Tues-Thur 5am-2:30, F 5am-7, Sat 7am-5

These days I find myself taking the back way to most far away destinations just so I might happen upon places like Rump's. About 6 miles outside of Palestine, Texas along sparsely used FM road 645 is a sign with a giant pink pig painted upon it and the words "Rump's BBQ". Rump's was opened by a couple from the DFW area who decided to move out to the country. Carlos McGriff is the pitmaster, and a few of his trophies from BBQ competitions in and around Little Elm decorate the walls. The smoker is within its own detached building, but I couldn't get a look at it.

Sides were certainly homemade. The crunchy slaw was lightly dressed with a sweet mayo mix while the dirty rice was spicy and earthy. Ribs were recommended by the staff, but ended up a bit undersmoked with too much unrendered fat. They needed more time to develop smokiness and tenderize, but had good flavor from the rub. Smokey and dense brisket slices were better. A light coating of sauce on the top of the neatly stacked slices allowed most of the meat to remain untainted. A deep black and crispy crust had developed that held a good amount of smoke, and the overall flavor was great. These slices were a bit dry and completely trimmed of fat, so order yours from the fatty end with no sauce if you have the chance to stop in.

For the rating, it was right on the cusp of 3 stars, and I decided to put it over the top since most everyone wouldn't find there way here without going out of their way.

Rating ***

Rump's BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Regional Rib Rub Challenge

I heard from a friend that local superstar chef Kent Rathbun had a line of BBQ rubs and sauces available at Central Market. After finding several other commercial rubs available from regional producers, I decided to pit them against one another in a "Rib Rub Challenge".

Here's the line-up:
Angelo's Pork Ribs and Poultry Bar-B-Que Seasoning; Fort Worth, TX
Sucklebusters Competition BBQ Rub; Coppell, TX
Kent Rathbun Elements Barbeque Rub; Manor, TX
Big Fatty's Mistress Karlita's Spanking Rub; Valley View, TX

I also threw in a control sample of fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt at a 4:1 pepper to salt ratio.

I fired up the smoker with some hickory and apple wood, and rubbed five half racks of baby back ribs.

When they were done, I packed them all up to go to the park and meet a fried who'd smoked a pork shoulder with a hefty dose of Kent Rathbun's rub.

The Rathbun rub had a good kick of spice, so it worked well on the pork shoulder that had a high meat to surface area ratio. The pork was pulled on site, and was good and juicy. I'd recommend this rub for the same cut, but it needs to go on pretty lightly. All of that paprika (first ingredient) created a powdery coating that just can't soak into the meat if the rub is too heavy. A dip into any of Rathbun's three sauces didn't improve the flavor, so we enjoyed it without sauce.

That same powdery character became even more apparent on the ribs, and the importance of salt became paramount.

I had planned to get some photos of each half rack after cooking, but when it came time to eat we were just too quick. All I got was this shot of the Angelo's rubbed ribs, which was the favorite for the commercial rubs. Having salt as the first ingredient was key to its win. The paprika and other spices were there more for color and to add a hint of flavor so they didn't gum up the texture of the bark. The basic reason for this is that rub ingredients like salt and sugar dissolve into the meat and flavor it, while powders like paprika, garlic and onion powders sit on top of the meat and do not dissolve. If those powdery ingredients make up too much of the rub, then the result is a grainy texture of spices rather than a good bark. This was the main reason for Kent Rathbun's rub to take the next spot down. It's got the most coarse texture and has paprika as the first ingredient. Sucklebusters came next. The rub smelled of Lawry's seasoned salt, and the finished product didn't have enough saltiness which makes sense since salt is its fourth ingredient. With salt and sugar as the first two ingredients, you'd expect Big Fatty's to have a fine showing, but this rub was just too spicy to be enjoyable. None of the other flavors could compete with the heat from four types of pepper.

In the end, the basic salt and pepper rub was the winner, and was the only half rack that was finished off. Here are the full results:

1. Salt & Pepper
2. Angelo's
3. Kent Rathbun
4. Sucklebusters
5. Big Fatty's

- BBQ Snob

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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.