Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mr. B's Barbecue

GRAND SALINE: Mr. B's Barbecue
1505 W. Garland
Grand Saline, TX 75140
Open Tues-Thur 11-8, F 11-9, Sun 11-8

It was early. They weren't yet open on this gray and rainy morning, but the lone lady working opened the door up for us anyway. It seemed the guy who owns the joint called her at about 4:00 am to come open the joint because he was ill. It was Tuesday and we were informed not to worry because everything was almost ready. It had all been smoked on Sunday and just needed to be reheated. Now we were worried.

More and more meat piled onto our plate with every ding of the microwave. The only meat worth eating were the ribs helped by a good crust and a sweet sauce. The two thin ribs were overdone while the thicker two were just too chewy. I won't waste too many descriptors on the poor quality hot links, the awful fatty commercial sausage, and the wet and salty deli ham.

The dry as a bone brisket fell apart into chunks on the plate. The first bite was awful, and I didn't need anymore to make an adequate assessment. A gallon of sauce wasn't going to fix this.

The lone bright spot on the morning was the only thing cooked fresh. Onion rings were hand battered and fried to order. A dash of salt and they were a welcome crispy excess on a dreary morning. Come to think of it, fresh onion rings make a better breakfast than microwaved brisket any day.

Rating *

Read the rest!

Lum's Country Store

JUNCTION: Lum’s Country Store
2031 Main St
Junction, TX 76849
Open Sun-Thur 7-11, F 7-12am, Sat 7-1am

Update: It's been four years since my last visit to Lum's out on the far west side of the Hill Country. On this return visit I was hoping to affirm what I'd found on the previous trip, which was that Lum's serves some of the state's best BBQ. My suspicions arose immediately when I pulled up to ind their new sign proclaiming "Best BBQ in the World." Really? What I normally find out on the BBQ trail is that humility is usually a big part of great barbecue. Those that crow themselves the best tend to get complacent having already reached their mental mountain top.

It all looked promising as it was being cut. The ribs and brisket both had a black crust, and they yielded easily to the knife. The sausage had a casing that was darkened and had some good snap. A couple of deviled eggs could be subbed for a side item. As I strolled out to the picnic tables, things were looking up.

As we reached the table I noticed that the brisket's surface had already dried out considerably. The ribs hadn’t dried to that degree, but the edges were showing some age. The sausage link was sliced, but the knife hadn’t gone clean through. As I pulled them apart I could now see why. While sitting on the steam table the bottom edge of the link had dried to a crisp. The knife couldn’t slice through it easily because it was so stiff. It simply should not have ended up on the plate. The flavor of both the brisket and ribs was adequately smoky. They both could have used more seasoning. I could easily chalk this visit up to a bad day or bad time of day (late afternoon) to visit, but all three of the meats had issues. Either way we left a bit dejected after sincerely looking forward to this visit. At least the deviled eggs were good

Rating ****  

2008: On a drive from Del Rio to Mason we passed through Junction, Texas were the famous Junction Boys from Texas A&M spent 10 grueling days under the hot sun. The giant metal contraption belching smoke and all the bikers out front of this joint forced me to make an unscheduled stop with a friend. We didn't expect much from a gas station trying to serve 'cue on the side, but we soon learned that the gas station was the side business. We ordered brisket ribs and sausage. Their sausage supplier is in San Angelo. The links had a great snap and a medium grind with lots of visible spices. They had a bit of heat which married well with the sauce. The brisket had the thickest deep red smoke line that I've seen. The crust was incredible, and the meat was deeply smoky throughout. The tenderness was perfect as was the overall flavor. I haven't had a brisket that's any better. The ribs here were also great. They had a deep red crust, excellent flavor throughout, and the fat below the crust was perfectly rendered. The meat was smoky right down to the bone, but the meat could have come of the bone a little easier. This is the only negative I could find in the meat here. It may just be the best find of all the joints in my road tripping due to the fact that it is unmentioned in any BBQ publication that I've read. Based on this trip, it belongs in some of the future ones.

Read the rest!

Bill's Bar-B-Que

KERRVILLE: Bill's Bar-B-Que
1909 Junction Highway
Kerrville, TX 78028
Open Tues-Sat 11-7

Joe Marino has been running this joint on the outskirts of Kerrville since 2005. It's been around a lot longer with the business starting some thirty years ago. Their set up is not your usual one. They opt for indirect smoking for briskets, but direct heat over coals for ribs, chicken and sausage. No matter the equipment they're using, it's live oak wood that supplies the smoke or the coals.

Ordering is done in the U-shaped line. After you've made your way around to the register, you can find a spot inside or take a seat at a couple of picnic tables outside. I like the smell of oak smoke in the morning, so we immersed ourselves into the pit area.

The ribs had a great flavor from the coals and a rub heavy in black pepper. The meat had been cooked quickly and the fat had a seared flavor. Nick described the rib bark as being reminiscent of fried chicken skin. I wasn't complaining. While the brisket had too much of the fat trimmed away, what remained was a deeply smoky and very moist cut of beef. The bark was a nice black color and the fat that still clung to the ends of each slice was quite tasty. The pork shoulder was more chunked than pulled. The moist meat had a great crust and good smoke. After a very good meal I was bit surprised that I'd never heard much about the joint. The owner came out to see how we liked it and mentioned that some folks had been around recently taking photos. Maybe word's about to get out.

Rating ****

Read the rest!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Bar-B-Q Express

 MARSHALL: Bar-B-Q Express
801 Elmore St.
Marshall, TX 75670
Open Tues-Sun 11-7

A few months ago I realized I was closing in on 500 reviews. Not visits, but 500 unique barbecue joints visited while writing this blog. I wondered aloud then if I should contrive it to be somewhere special or notable, or if I should just let it happen. The feedback from readers was mixed, so I thought I would just let it happen. If the joint wasn't great it would be more fitting anyway given that most of those first 499 BBQ joints weren't really notable. It wasn't until a couple of weeks after this visit to Bar-B-Q Express in Marshall that I realized it was the big #500. I'm glad to say it was some serviceable barbecue served in a bleak part of the state for well smoked meats.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter
I had a eaten my share of fatty little East Texas links the previous day without uncovering my fondness for them, but they'd all been baked. Maybe it was the smoke they were missing. Nope. They were crispier here, but still awful even after a bath in the smoker. A “Hot-Hot Link” on the special board was nothing more than a spiced up hotdog, but the crusty and saucy ribs were much better. The meat was tender on the thick spare rib and the smoke wasn’t hidden by the relatively mild sauce although it covered entire rib. This was solid East Texas style barbecue.

The chopped beef sandwich wasn’t scooped out of a steam table vat of pre-chopped meat. I watched as a fresh brisket was sliced thick then chopped on wood block. The knife man told me it was lean sandwich, but I had just watched him chop some very fatty slices from the point end of the brisket. No matter as the meat was well smoked and the fat well rendered. The texture of the sandwich was silky with a spicy sauce. The hickory smoke was prominent even with the heavy amount of sauce.

If you travel into East Texas, don't expect to get heavily smoked meats on butcher paper sans sauce in the Central Texas style. Meat around here will be over-tender and saucy and served on styrofoam. Sometimes it will even be pretty decent which is why Bar-B-Q Express might be notable after all.

Rating ***

Read the rest!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Before a Charlie Robison show in Luckenbach I hadn't eaten barbecue in several hours, and a sign next to the small concession stand read "Pulled Pork". A sandwich came dressed with slaw, sauce, pickles, onions and of course the pork.

Even better, they had fresh spiral sliced potatoes to dunk in the hot fryer. A shaker of spicy salt amped them up. These were some great potatoes that were delivered quickly after I ordered them even though they were fried to order. This would not happen at the ballpark. Real smoked pork probably wouldn't either. A small barrel smoker sat behind the concession stand, and I could honestly taste some smokiness in the moist meat, which I really expected to be dry given the usual concession expectations.

The show wasn't bad either. Charlie rocked the house, and after a half dozen longnecks I needed another sandwich. Too bad they'd already closed up for the night since the second one would have surely been even better in my altered state. So, if you're headed to Luckenbach on an empty stomach, fear not as the nice German lady behind the counter will fix you up with some pretty good smoked pork. Just don't forget the fried potatoes.

- BBQ Snob

Read the rest!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Hunt Store Pit Bar-B-Q

HUNT: The Hunt Store Pit Bar-B-Q
1634 Highway 39
Hunt, TX 78024
Open M-Sat 6:30am-9pm, Sun 8-8

The Hunt Store sits right along the very curvy State Highway 39 as it meanders alongside the Guadalupe River. Kayakers and tubers use the Hunt Store as an embarkation point so its a mix of convenience store in the front selling loads of ice, beer and coolers, and a small restaurant counter at the back.

Pulled pork and sliced brisket was the only BBQ on the menu. We had a long day ahead of eating BBQ, so I went with just the brisket sandwich to check the quality. Eight bucks for a few slices of beef on a bun was steep, but they have a captive audience here away from populated areas. The beef was tender but a bit dried out. The smoke didn't stand out beyond the salty seasoning. This was just some average brisket, and nothing about compelled me to go back in and spend another eight dollars on the pork sandwich.

Rating **

Read the rest!

Keese's Cafe & Bar-B-Que

MEDINA: Keese's Cafe & Bar-B-Que
13869 State Highway 16 N
Medina, TX 78055
Open M-Tues 7-2, W-Sat 7-8, Sun 8-3

After a cigar flavored link of boudain back at the Hog Pen in Leakey, I needed something to get the creosote flavor out of my mouth. We were hustling back to Bandera to make the check-in time at the cabin awaiting us, but the light was still on at Keese's as we rolled through Medina. I walked in to order and was surprised to find they had all the meats available at this late hour. The service was accommodating and genuine, and she suggested a slice of 'Cedar Bark' pie to go with the meal. It's like a pecan pie filling, but with walnuts and coconut replacing the pecans.

A couple of slices of good and moist brisket needed more seasoning. Other than concentrated flavors at the ends of each slice with nice bits of well rendered fat, the meat was a little flat. It must be said that the brisket showed exemplary texture and moisture for beef that was being served right at closing time. A thick spare rib was very enjoyable. The meat came easily from the bone and had a pleasant chew. The flavor from the smoke worked nicely with the thin sweet glaze. A loaded baked potato salad was very good as were the spicy beans. This was a solid plate of barbecue.

The cedar bark pie was extremely rich with a buttery crust. This was just the kind of sweetness we needed to counter balance all of the protein we'd ingested on this long day of barbecue. While we finished dessert, the owner Keith Keese came out to chat along with Missy our gracious server. He had built the pits himself and they were doing everything with direct heat using live oak wood. He's been cooking barbecue for fifty years and his specialty is cabrito. Sadly, the meat is too expensive for him to carry it regularly at the restaurant. The rest of the meats were plenty good to make up for it, but I'm interested to return at the height of the lunch rush instead of minutes before closing.

Rating ***

Read the rest!

The Hog Pen

LEAKEY: The Hog Pen
373 US Highway 83
Leakey, TX 78873
Open Thur-M 10-midnight

The sun was setting was setting as we go tinto Leakey (pronounced Lakey), and we realized there was no hope in getting to Bandera before nightfall. Bar-B-Q was on the sign so I went inside to investigate further. I was fifth in line so I saw the order taker scoping out presauced chopped brisket from a crock-pot whenever a brisket order came up. No thanks. They were out of ribs, but the smoked boudain was still available.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Smoked boudain is on of those things you might find in the piney woods of East Texas, but out here it was rare. Most folks just use the smoker to warm these spiced up pork and rice filled links, but these were black with smoke. I was hopeful until I bit into what tasted like the lit end of a cigar. I think a puff of smoke emerged as the casing snapped. I removed the charred and creosote covered casing to try just the filling. It too was more smoky than I could take. I was literally coughing from the smoke and the spice wasn't tame either. Driving another hour east, I finally found another BBQ joint where I could get this taste out of my mouth.

Rating *

Read the rest!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

"Thou Shalt Not Steal" Also Applies to the Knights of Columbus

Commandment number eight: Thou shalt not steal. You'd think the Knights of Columbus would be familiar with this one. Alongside "Thou shalt not kill", commandments 6 and 8 are the most succinct of the holy commandments, but when the Knights of Columbus St. Jude Council #6269 designed their 'Carnivore Cookoff" T-Shirt logo, they didn't want to start from scratch, so they just stole mine. It's for a charity event that just wrapped up in Arlington, Texas today, but they forgot to ask for my donation. They just took it. I guess they thought adding a couple more animals and using Corel Draw to cover over some of the text (ironically including "GOSPEL") would do the trick to hide the source, but tell me folks, do they look much different to you?

The "New and Improved" Logo from K of C

My Logo

Big thanks to @PittmanKid for bringing the logo to my attention. The sad thing is that due to their thievery of a prominent Dallas-based blog's logo, an attendee at the Arlington event genuinely thought I had some involvement in the event, which I do not. Without any luck, I sought a comment from Anthony Fontanelli, the event chairperson.

To the Knights of Columbus: I know a great graphic designer. She designed my logo, and I paid her to do it. You could do the same. As for the Ten Commandments, they're hidden in Exodus, the second book of the Old Testament in a book called the Bible, or you can just "Google" it, which is probably where you found my logo.

 - BBQ Snob

Read the rest!


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.