Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Shady Oak Barbeque & Grill

FORT WORTH: Shady Oak Barbeque & Grill
6364 Sandshell Drive

Fort Worth, TX 76137
Open Sun-Thur 11-10, F-Sat 11-11

Just north of Fort Worth sits the Old Stone Barn, built in 1937, which houses Shady Oak BBQ. This is the final remaining location of Shady Oak which is part of the Spring Creek chain. Rather than cafeteria style it's a sit down place with full service and grilled salmon on the menu. While waiting for my order, I sat at the bar and watched the flat screens while I enjoyed a Bud on draft.

Along with my plate of ribs and brisket came a loaf of steaming hot fresh bread. The bread and sides might be the best part, so I was glad was included. The brisket was devoid of any smoke and had barely any flavor at all. It needed a jolt from the salty sauce that was heavy on the worchestershire. The ribs had more flavor in the form of an overly salty rub. They were drenched in the sauce which added to the mushy texture of these overcooked ribs that fell from the bone when I lifted one.

In addition to the tasty bread, the cole slaw was fresh and crispy without too much dressing while the beans were spicy and thick with great flavor. The bland corn rounded out the plate, but it was complimentary anyway. Sure they have cold beer, decent sides and the good fresh bread, but there's no need to bother searching for fine quality 'cue here.

Rating *
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Monday, December 28, 2009

BBQ Book Review - Republic of Barbecue

Title: Republic of Barbecue
Author: Elizabeth Engelhardt
Published: 2009 by University of Texas Press

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and if you've taken some time off this holiday season, be sure to give this a read. There is no collection of Texas barbecue stories more in depth or diverse than what is between the covers of Republic of Barbecue. The book is written by some Austinites, so don't be surprised when the subject matter ventures into social and racial discussions as well as feminism's role in BBQ, but when the book focuses on the 'cue, the stories are great. In collecting the stories for the book, this group of UT students (in conjunction with the Southern Foodways Alliance) ate their way through Central Texas to find the essence of barbecue in Texas.

Much of this collection's focus is on the tradition of Texas BBQ. Whether it's in the form of an essay trying to define tradition, or stories from some of the old timers who helped form the traditions like Bobby Mueller (Louie Mueller Barbecue), Vencil Mares (Taylor Cafe) and Richard Lopez (Gonzales Food Market), you'll know the difference between the old time smokers and the new fangled gas-fired rotisseries by the time you finish the book.

The subtitle, "Stories Beyond the Brisket" is evidenced in some often ignored links in the BBQ chain like commercial sausage manufacturers, wood suppliers and beef producers. Their stories really enlighten the casual BBQ fan of all that's involved in getting that smoked brisket to their plastic tray.

If it's coverage of Dallas or El Paso you're seeking then you'll be out of luck. This book features only stories from Central Texas, but if this book is any indication on what would come of statewide expansion, let's hope this group branches out to document the rest of Texas.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Smoke Shack

OKLAHOMA: Smoke Shack
3901 N. Lincoln

Oklahoma City, OK 73105


Open M-F 10:45-3

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2009: Ordering here is done normally enough at a counter, but the full color menu reads like a McDonald's menu. There are multiple combo meals, and I think I even saw a 2 for 1 apple pie. I ordered up a two meat plate with ribs and brisket and sides of cole slaw and greens.

Both the creamy slaw and the slow cooked greens with a good pork flavor were satisfying, but the meats weren't so stellar. Brisket had nearly all of the crust trimmed away along with all of the fat. The slices were gray with no smokering, and any smokiness was missing. Ribs had a decent flavor, but they had a mushy texture like they'd been stored for a while. This mediocre barbeque needed a kick from the sweet sauce served on the table.

Smoke Shack Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Chef Hymie Grande Sauce Unique

I got a bottle of sauce in the mail from Jaime Faitelson a.k.a. Chef Hymie Grande. It's not so much a traditional BBQ sauce meant for dipping, but it's a thinner basting sauce. I had the smoker fired up for some chicken and sausage, so I added a pork chop rubbed with salt, pepper, and Chef Hymie's Polapote BBQ Glaze.

After taking the finished chop off the smoker, I added another layer of glaze and dug in.

Th chop was perfectly cooked and still juicy. The sauce did not overpower the smokiness of the meat, but added it's own kick. For the "Medium" spiced sauce in Hymie's line, it sure packs a punch. One other great thing about Hymie's sauces is that they are all natural with no corn syrup or preservatives. While this sauce won't make me plaster everything I smoke with a glaze, I'll certainly consider it when grilling chops and chicken.

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, December 21, 2009

New Smoker

I graduated from the Brinkman bullet smoker to a new Oklahoma Joe's model horizontal smoker with a firebox on the side. I didn't get it home until late in the afternoon, but set-up was a breeze since it was already assembled.

My good friend Scott helped me haul it to the backyard, and he insisted we christen it immediately. I got a fir going and threw on some chunks of pork shoulder I had left from making sausage.

I pulled them off earlier than I would have normally, but it was past dinner time, and we were all hungry.

It ended up as chopped rather than pulled pork, but with a little mustard and vinegar based sauce, and a hot buttered bun, the taste was incredible, and I couldn't wait to get the smoker into action again.

The smoker ended up working flawlessly. The metal is a heavy gauge, so it holds the heat well, and stays at a constant temperature for about 90-120 minutes with no tinkering. It also fills the whole backyard with great smelling pecan smoke. I hope my neighbors are appreciative.

- BBQ Snob

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George's Happy Hog Bar-B-Q

OKLAHOMA: George's Happy Hog Bar-B-Q
712 Culbertson

Oklahoma City, OK 73105

Open M-Sat 11-7

George's sure looked like it had potential, but it was just bad in all phases on this trip. A great smoky aroma greeted me when I exited the car, but that smoke didn't seem to make it into the meat. I applauded the offering of a four meat sampler plate, so I went for some brisket, ribs, pulled pork and sausage.

Brisket was sliced with the grain making for some chewy slices. They had a decent crust and smokering, but were incredibly dry. Sausage links were a tepid version of low grade grocery store sausage. Rib tips had more fat than meat, but the few morsels did have a decent flavor. Pulled pork was nearly half fat by weight. The pork had been baked and had no crust or smoke, and whole gobs of fat had been chopped and added to the plate. It was just plain nasty.

Based on positive input from other BBQ lovers in their past visits here, I feel like I need to give this place another chance, but for now...

Rating *
George's Happy Hog Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Steve's Rib

OKLAHOMA: Steve's Rib
1801 W. Edmond Rd.

Edmond, OK 73003


Open M-Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-10, Sun 11-8

Steve's Rib makes many of the top BBQ lists for OKC, so I was excited to try it. When the unappetizing plate arrived, I know I was in for a disappointment. Overcooked ribs had no smoke flavor, and little flavor of any sort. The meat nearly disintegrated when I picked up the bone.

Slices of brisket shredded beneath my fork, and what entered my mouth tasted just like roast beef with no smokiness to be found. Luckily the french fries were good for dipping into the very sweet baked beans. Other than the tall cold Boulevard beers, there's not much of a need to stop here.

Rating *
Steve's Rib on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 03

Decatur Jaycees Riverfest

The third episode was filmed at the Riverfest in Decatur, Alabama. This episode features the return of Paul Peterson and the Pablo Diablo team from McKinney, Texas. This team has finished badly in the first episode, and were absent from the second, but Paul went back to square one trying new recipes and holding a tasting to determine the recipes that would go to competition. One recipe that changed dramatically was his chicken which had been the competitively abnormal chicken halves to the more prominent chicken thighs.

In his thigh preparation, Paul used muffin tins to form the meat, and of course Myron got all saucy because Paul had "stolen" the idea from Myron. Myron had the last laugh in the end when Pablo Diablo missed the chicken turn in time by 16 seconds.

The producers tried to stir up some drama when Lee Ann was informed that the electricity would be cut by the competition organizer for 1/2 hour to make repairs. Her rotisserie needs the juice to keep moving, so she got huffy when her briskets had to sit above direct heat. All that anger disappeared when she tried her brisket and it was better than expected, and it got her a sixth place in the category.

Tuffy pulled a competition no-no by trying a new recipe for the first time in the competition without relying on a trusted back-up recipe. He swore all through the competition that this brisket was going to win him the prize much to the perturbance of Myron.

At turn-in time, Johnny Trigg was convinced that his pork woes were over after tasting what he thought was his best pork ever, but come crowning time his pork got him just 19th place.

None of the cookers on the show placed in the top five of the competition, with Myron being the highest at 6th place. Some high points were Johnny Trigg taking first in ribs and Tuffy taking first with his experimental brisket recipe. Paul Peterson's heading back to the drawing board again after finishing dead last again. His highest finish was 31st in pork, and he's now having second thoughts about competing at all.

One thing I enjoyed about this episode was the lack of manufactured drama, less of Myron's mouth, and more focus on the meat preparation and cooking. We'll see you after the holidays at the American Royal in Kansas City. Next week (Christmas Eve) is a rerun of Episode 2, in case you missed it.

- BBQ Snob

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Way Way's Bar-B-Q & Everythang

DALLAS: Way Way's Bar-B-Q & Everythang
5225 Houston School Rd.

Dallas, TX 75216


Open M-Sat 12-11

Update 12/2009: I stopped by this little shack for lunch the other day, but made sure to call ahead and verify that they had sliced brisket and ribs ready. They were ready, but that might be because it was yesterday's brisket.

Don't get me wrong, the brisket had a decent crust and smoke ring, and the smokey flavor was there, but these slices were very dry, and the texture was a bit mealy. So it was either overcooked, or warmed from the previous day's leftovers. The ribs tasted fresher. They were haphazardly chopped, and the batch that made its way into my box was heavy on the fatty end of the rib, but the meat that remained was pleasant. There was substantial crust and a good amount of smoke flavor. The meat was tender, but also a bit dry. Sides were just like the first visit. Mashed potato salad that was very sweet, and meaty beans with good spice.

A bonus is that while you wait for your order, you can contemplate your order for candles sold by the owner's mother. She'll be happy to let you sniff scents like "Christmas Tree" and "Canteloupe", or you can be more daring and try "Lick Me All Over". There are also fragrances for Michelle and Barack Obama, but no word on how they determined that presidential smell.

Rating **

09/2009: Way Way's just opened up a few weeks ago, and haven't quite gotten their timing down yet. When I arrived at 12:30 the ribs weren't ready and all the brisket that had been smoked was already chopped. I opted for the somewhat pricey ($13) two-meat combo with chopped beef and sausage. While I waited, I snuck around back to check out the mobile smoker spewing out hickory smoke.

The beef was rich with beefy, smoky flavor which the hot version of WW's sauce complemented nicely. The sauce could have added more heat, but the mixture of meat to crust to fat was spot on. Sausage was actually Smokey Denmark hot links. The links were sliced lengthwise making for easy finger food, but the best combination was a quarter slice of hot link with some chopped beef wrapped in a slice of the cheap white bread that was provided.

No choice is given for the sides of beans and potato salad. Both were homemade versions with plenty of sugar added. The beans had chunks of brisket and a spice mixture with a cajun kick. This joint, which oddly enough sells "everthang" from deodorant and toothbrushes to playing cards and black & milds, really shows some 'cue promise. I'll just call ahead next time to make sure I can get some sliced beef and ribs. Only then can I provide a proper rating.

Way Way's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Iron Starr Urban Bar-B-Q

OKLAHOMA: Iron Starr Urban Bar-B-Q
3700 N. Shartel

Oklahoma City, OK 73118


Open M 11-9, Tues-Thur 11-9:30, F-Sat 11-10:30

Iron Starr is an unapologetically fancy barbeque joint in a historic building in the Crown Heights neighborhood of OKC. In addition to BBQ, the menu includes a salmon salad, beef tenderloin and prime rib. My brothers-in-law and I opted for a couple of plates. One with sliced brisket and pulled pork, and another plate with St. Louis style pork ribs.

The brisket was overcooked and overtrimmed. There was no fat on or in these dry slices which barely tasted like roast beef. The pulled pork saved the plate. Moist and tender meat had good smokiness and great overall flavor. Fancy mac & cheese was closer to penne alfredo, and the greens had too much bitterness remaining, but plenty of heat.

I had high hopes for the ribs based on my memory of a previous visit. My father-in-law took me here for lunch just after granting my request for his daughter's hand in marriage. Maybe my memory was tainted by the occasion, because the ribs I remember being so tasty were fatty and overcooked. The bone slipped away from the meat as I lifted it from my plate, but a layer of fat had to be scraped away before the meat could be sampled. The black pepper rub added some good flavor, but the smokiness was barely there. Corn pudding on the side was great, as were the whole pods of fried okra.

Urban Bar-B-Q this may be, but they could use some pointers from out in the country about smoking meat. Stick with a plate of pulled pork, fried okra and corn pudding if you plan to make a trip.

Rating **
Iron Starr Urban Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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Monday, December 14, 2009

BBQ in the News

Texas BBQ has been in quite a few news stories over the last month.

The Dallas Business Journal did a profile on Sadler's Smokehouse, which was a recent contestant in this blog's Vacuum Packed Brisket Battle.

The Dallas Morning News' food critic, Leslie Brenner, made her way down to Huntsville for some 'cue at New Zion Missionary Baptist Church a.k.a. The Church of the Holy Smoke. She loved the meat, and appreciated the value as well. did a video profile and a very positive review of BBQ Chop Shop in OKC.

Robb Walsh of the Houston Press christens Mustang Creek B-B-Q as the joint with the best brisket in the state. It's a long drive from here to Louise, Texas, but I'll make it a point to get there when I'm in the area.

Finally, a group from the Dallas Morning News used Full Custom Gospel BBQ as their guide for a trip to the mecca of BBQ, Central Texas. Read about their road trip here.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 02

Murphysboro Barbecue Cook-off

The second episode was filmed at a unique event in Murphysboro, Illinois sanctioned by both the KCBS and the Memphis Barbecue Network (MBN). While KCBS focuses solely on the meat through blind judging, the MBN judges cookers at their rig. Judges take into account the cleanliness of the rig, the knowledge of the cooker, and the overall eating experience as well as the meat.

Myron starts things out with his jackass attitude describing the enormous rig he uses for this whole hog competition. He and Lee Ann both use gallons of injection in their whole hogs, but Lee Ann's night crew let her fire cool down, so the hog was in jeopardy.

The evening before the competition a drunk competitor challenged Johnny Trigg to a side bet for the brisket category. During the challenge, the challenger pointed his finger into Trigg's chest, and things nearly came to blows.

Competition day came around, and it was going to be a long one. Between the combined KCBS and the MBN categories, there were nearly six hours of judging. On this day we get to experience more of Myron less than masterful swearing. It's like someone's paying him for every word because he squeezes them in at every chance. On the other hand, Johnny Trigg could barely get any words out while the judge was at his table for ribs, other than telling her that she wasn't going to like his baby backs. She didn't.

At the end of the day, when the results were revealed, Myron was the only team on the show to make the finals in the MBN side of the competition, and he took home the top prize. On the KCBS side, Wood Chicks got 5th place, which was the highest score for those on the show. Johnny Trigg did win that brisket bet, while hapless Paul Peterson and good guy Tuffy were not in attendance.

The next episode will take us to the Decatur Jaycees Riverfest. We'll meet you there.

- BBQ Snob

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MasterChef Casting Call

I know this isn't strictly related to BBQ, but the folks over at FOX are putting on a new show called MasterChef. It's been a hit in the UK and Australia, and they're coming to Dallas next month searching for cast members. All you amatuer pit masters and foodies out there may want to try your hand at making it on TV.

- BBQ Snob

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Earl's Rib Palace

OKLAHOMA: Earl's Rib Palace
6816 N. Western

Oklahoma City, OK 73116

Open M-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-8

If there's an option on the menu with a name like "Earl's Binge", you know I'm ordering it. I've been coming to Earl's for years now when I visit OKC because it is the preferred joint of my family there. I'm normally drawn to the Smokestack sandwich, but on this day I needed a wider variety of protein offerings.

Along with perfectly crispy okra and a creamy yet chunky cole slaw, the Earl's Binge plate comes with ribs, brisket, hot links and bologna. Bologna tasted very little of smoke, and could have been warmed in a pan for all I could tell. Hot links had a bologna-like consistency with a one-dimensional heat with little additional flavor. Brisket was flavorful and moist, but lacked a solid smokiness. On this plate, the best item was the smoky rib with a well formed crust. The meat was moist and not overcooked, but the fat could have been more well rendered.

The real standout on this menu is the Smokestack. Layers of chopped brisket, hot link slices, barbecue sauce and cole slaw melt together between two halves of a buttered and lightly grilled bun. These items alone are decent, but together they create an incredible sandwich bursting with different flavors that work so well together.

After a pretty good meal, the rating of this joint was right on the edge, but the beauty of the Smokestack sandwich gives this joint the edge.

Rating ***
Earl's Rib Palace on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

BBQ Chop Shop

7801 N. May

Oklahoma City, OK 73116


Open M-Sat 11-9

Update: This joint is CLOSED. Call 405-802-5966 if you'd like them to cater.

2009: This new joint is Nichols Hills is run by an unlikely couple in a (barely) remodeled Pizza Hut. Cutting the meat behind the counter is not the large burly pit master stereotype, but instead a diminutive, bespectacled fan of the Ramones and Black Flag. Each foil-wrapped meat is taken from the warming oven, unwrapped and sliced right there in front of the customer. Custom cutting requests are welcome, so I asked for some crustier ends of the brisket. A three meat plate of brisket, ribs and pulled pork was easily enough for two. Cole slaw and creamy corn on the side were both very good, but the meats stole the show.

Ribs were huge with incredible flavor. The smoky meat had perfectly rendered fat throughout with a bold flavor from the good crust and a simple rub. Brisket slices were very moist with smoke flavor throughout. The crust and smokering were impressive, and the these slices were the first to disappear from the plate. Pulled pork, an OKC staple, was equally moist, and the texture was perfect. Bits of fat and deeply smoky crust were mixed in with the flavorful meat. Sauce was served on the side, but the meat needed no adornment. After eating at several lackluster joints in OKC, it was good to find a newcomer that is such a solid performer.

Rating ****
BBQ Chop Shop on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

BBQ Book Review - Texas Barbecue and Barbecuing Around Texas

Title: Texas Barbecue
Author: Paris Permenter & John Bigley
Published: 1992 by Pig Out Publications

Title: Barbecuing Around Texas
Author: Richard K. Troxell
Published: 1999 by Republic of Texas Press

I picked up this pair of books a few days back to see what they were saying about Texas Barbecue a decade ago. Neither book has aged well mainly due to the high turnover of barbecue joints around the state. It seemed that every third page highlighted a joint that is now unfortunately closed.

If you're familiar with the big names in BBQ around the state, then you won't be surprised by most of what's included in Texas Barbecue. There are few hidden gems here, while some curious additions are included like multiple locations of Tony Roma's and Dick's Last Resort. The entries read less like reviews than a tour guide, so you're left assuming they liked all of the places equally. A smattering of ho-hum and basic recipes, many from the National Pork Producers, fill the second half of the book.

Barbecuing Around Texas begins with a brief discussion of his singular goal to find the best BBQ in Texas, and his rating criteria are described. His tastes favor tender brisket without a hint of fat and lean sausages. He has a penchant for Colter's, Luther's and Bill Miller, while all of the usual suspects appear, there are truly some hole-in-the-wall joints that are unfamiliar. Here's hoping they're still open.

- BBQ Snob

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Friday, December 4, 2009

BBQ Pitmasters on TLC: Episode 01

Smokin' in Mesquite

Each episode follows six teams through the process of a barbecue competition. This episode was filmed in Mesquite, Nevada at the inaugural "Smokin' in Mesquite" competition from September 4th to the 6th. S.I.M. is a KCBS sanctioned competition, and my guess is that all of the episodes will also be KCBS events.

In this first episode we meet six pit masters. Of the Texans reatured, there's the naive and brash newcomer Paul Peterson (Pablo Diablo) from McKinney and the soft-spoken old-timer, Johnny Trigg (Smokin' Triggers) from Alvarado. Burleson's own Jamie Greer is featured on the website, but did not make an appearance on the show. Others featured are the loud-mouthed Myron Mixon (Jack's Old South), the nice guy Tuffy Stone (Cool Smoke), the Californian Harry Soo (Slap Yo Daddy), and the blonde Lee Ann Whippen (Wood Chick's BBQ).

In the end, Paul Peterson lets his fire go out overnight, and ends up finishing 47th out of 47 teams while Johnny Trigg finished third and Myron Mixon took home the top prize in the form of a giant check with his name spelled incorrectly). What is oddly left out of the show is that Jack's Old South had to forfeit that prize after being disqualified for having entered another competition in South Carolina on the same day which is frowned upon by the KCBS.

If you remember a few years back in 2006, the Versus Network aired the Barbecue Championship Series which pitted amateurs pit masters against seasoned veterans. Myron Mixon and Johnny Trigg were in the veteran's group, and Lee Ann Whippen was in the amateur group. Hopefully, this series last a bit longer than the short-lived BCS. Be sure to check out the next episode from Murphysboro, Illinois on December 10th.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Moon Dallas & Fort Worth Handbook

I recently picked up a copy of the very recently published Moon Dallas and Fort Worth Handbook to check and see what kind of BBQ options are being recommended in the DFW area. There aren't many travel guides dedicated to the DFW area, so I was hoping that the local author, Jonanna Widner, would give visitors something better to look forward to on their visit than the tired lists of mediocre Dallas 'cue that can be found on any thoughtless online Top 10 list. Well, her research seems to come straight from Citysearch. The big winners mentioned in the handbook are:

From Fort Worth:
Railhead Smokehouse
From Dallas:
Peggy Sue BBQ
and Best BBQ in DFW goes to Sonny Bryan's

The nods to Peggy Sue and Sonny Bryan's are not a surprise when I learned the author used to write for the Observer who routinely includes these two lackluster BBQ joints in their "Best of" lists. At least visitors to DFW will get some decent options in Angelo's and Railhead, but it's not like these joints are well kept secrets that would require the use of a guide book to seek out. I'm sorry that visitors using this guide won't get clued in to where to find the hidden gems. Maybe they'll check this blog first.

- BBQ Snob

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From Tha Heart

DENTON: From Tha Heart
702 S Elm St

Denton, TX 76201

Open M-Thur 10-2, F 10-8, Sat 12-8, Sun 12-5

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2009: Open just a month, this joint is already becoming well known for its ribs and smoked burgers. On this visit they were out of both along with sliced brisket, so I had to settle for a duo of a hot link and chopped beef sandwiches.

Both sandwiches were served on unadorned buns and covered in a thick sauce sweet enough to go over ice cream. I wish I could have tasted the meat on its own because the sauce covered up any underlying flavors. The hot links had some detectable spice beneath all that sauce, and its texture was pleasing, but the sauce dominated here as well.

The meal was topped off by more sweets. I couldn't resist the sweet potato pie sitting in the case by the cash register, and it did not disappoint. The crust was buttery and the filling had a great depth of flavor from the spice mix, and the sweetness was pleasantly subdued. I'll be sure to grab another slice when I return to try the ribs, sliced brisket and smokey hamburgers, and I can give it a proper rating then.

- BBQ Snob
From Tha Heart 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.