Monday, January 2, 2012

Que Shack

MARLIN: The Que Shack
208 Williams St.
Marlin, TX 76661
Open Daily 10-8

Update: Sadly, this joint has CLOSED. They just couldn't round up enough business. More here.

2011: Let's start the New Year off right, shall we? The Que Shack in Marlin is the type of joint I dream about. They serve great barbecue, I had never heard of it, they have a quirky menu item and gregarious pitmaster to go along with it. It was the epitome of a smoked meat 'find'. We drove into town looking for a joint that had closed so long ago that the burger joint that replaced it was also shut down. As we made our way through the town square there were some handwritten signs advertising a church barbecue the following day. A huge puff of smoke down the street grabbed our attention, and we obediently followed it. At the end of this smoky rainbow was a group of guys sitting around a corral of smokers at ten in the morning. We would later learn they were pooling their smoked meat resoures for that very church barbecue we'd seen advertised.

Pitmaster Jim Mitchell instructed our group to go across the street to the restaurant and place our order. A flustered woman inside didn't know why we were coming in before the 'Open' sign had been put out, but she quickly extinguished her cigarette and took our orders. I've gone through these motions so many times, that I was taken back when she said they didn't serve brisket. The sliced beef was tri-tip. Don't get me wrong, I love tri-tip, but that stuff is for California barbecue done in the Santa Maria style. Never have I seen this cut featured in a Texas BBQ joint, and I had little hope that I'd like it much. Was I ever wrong.

The tri-tip here is tender with the flavor of charcoal rather than oak smoke. It has a smoke ring deeper than most briskets and simple rub of salt, pepper and garlic powder. It would have been better if it hadn't all been marred with globs of the sauce that tasted of tomato paste. I'll never prefer any cut of beef to a well smoked brisket, but this cut made for a solid stand-in. A local sausage was neither warm nor flavorful, but the homemade sides or beans and potato salad were great. Baby back ribs were flavored with the same simple rub as the tri-tip. The meat was moist, tender with a unique smokiness that only comes from direct heat over coals. Pitmaster Jim Mitchell confirmed it when I asked him what he smoked with. "We don't smoke meat, we cook it." was his response. Everything is cooked over direct heat lump charcoal. According to Jim, indirect smoking is only for those who haven't learned to control their fire, and once you've mastered that you can move up to direct heat. Those are almost fightin' words if muttered in the wrong crowd.

After a quick conversation Jim convinced us to get some smoked pork tenderloin that was a special the evening before. A bit of cumin and cayenne in the rub gave it a punch of flavor, and the meat was certainly well smoked. A post meal tour came along with stories of Jim's many previous occupations, but it's easy to see that he likes barbecue best.

Rating ****
The Que Shack on Urbanspoon


wyatt said...

Time for little road trip !

Anonymous said...

You aint kidding! One of their recipes are in this book. Granted it needs a bit of a tweak but its excellent!

Ronny P. said...

Grew up in Marlin and know Jimmy Mitchell. Glad to see a Q joint in the big city get some props. Live in Baton Rouge now and never had alot of luck with brisket smoking ( i know it takes practice), but Tri-Tip is my new favorite thing to cook on my smoker/grill. Great job...enjoy your blog.


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.