Sunday, July 1, 2012

Merle's Bar-B-Q

VICTORIA: Merle's Bar-B-Q
611 South Moody 
Victoria, TX 77901
Open M-Sat 11-8

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2012: This joint's been open for a little over a year, and they already have awards decorating the wall. I was hoping the engraved silver platter from a local competition would translate into well smoked meat. It was three in the afternoon so things were a bit slow inside. We chatted with the owners while they prepared a three meat combo plate, and learned that they had moved up to Victoria from Port Lavaca. On the way out, the owner said “I’ve cooked 10,000 pounds of brisket, so they say now that I’m a pitmaster.” I’m not sure who ‘they’ are, and quantity alone doesn’t get you that title. I know the meat we got on this day didn’t come from a master.

Indirect smoking with mesquite can be tricky business. It is by far the strongest of the Texas hardwoods used for smoking, and using any sticks that aren't properly seasoned can create poor quality smoke full of creosote. I've had enough over smoked mesquite BBQ to know the symptoms pretty quickly. Your tongue starts to go numb just after the the first bite of what tastes like a telephone pole. The first bite of the eminently dry rib had this issue. The bone was plenty meaty, but the jet black surface didn't provide a pleasant bite. The chewy meat wasn't coming off the bone easily, and what did succumb was dry with a layer of tough unrendered fat.

Sausage had a decent flavor and may have been from Pollack's, but it suffered from not enough time on the smoker and still had a flaccid casing. Soggy brisket had most likely come from the day (or two days) prior. The meat was just as over smoked as the ribs, but suffered from being overcooked (and streamed from wrapping) to the point of sponginess. Sides of beans with little flavor and potato salad from a bucket didn't help. With Mumphord's just up the street, there's no need to stop here.

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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.