Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Mesquite Bean Bar-B-Q

MERKEL: Mesquite Bean Bar-B-Q
610 Kent St. 
Merkel, TX 79536
Open M-F 8-7, Sat 8-2

I noticed this tiny joint from the Interstate a while back and added it to the list in hopes that the mesquite bean, rather than just the wood, was somehow featured on the menu. Owner Urban Bright says the name came from one of his first jobs where he would get paid a few dollars for every hundred pound bag of mesquite beans that he could collect from a nearby ranch. Those beans weigh almost nothing, so it took a long time to earn those few dollars. Urban does smoke with mesquite, but there's no mesquite beans on the menu, not even mesquite bean jelly. He isn't afraid to warn you from ordering a few things on his menu. He actually steered me away from the barbecue and towards a pork guisado taco, and flat out told me I didn't really want the store-bought peach cobbler. I heeded his advice on dessert, but ordering the barbecue was inevitable.

That pork taco wasn't bad at all, but the meat had only been stewed rather than smoked. I guess there's only so much room in the smoker.

No ribs were available on this day, so we opted for the brisket, ham and sausage. The slices of sausage were just re-warmed links of cheap commercial sausage, and the ham was little more than deli ham with just a whiff of additional smoke. The brisket was most certainly from the day before, since we learned back in the pit room that part of the brisket preparation process is a generous layer of plastic wrap and an overnight stay in the cooler. Not surprisingly the meat was dry, but it at least had some well rendered fat and smokiness to it. It's not often that day old brisket is the best meat on the menu, but it's a little easier when it's up against precooked grocery store meats.

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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.