Category Archives: Barbecue

BBQ Chronicles:  Ten 50 BBQ–Plano, TX

I found myself in Dallas yesterday car shopping with my we teen year old.  She and I share a love for good barbecue and when I told her were going to Dallas, she said, “For barbecue?”  I said, “Yes, and we have to shop for a car.”  I could have told her we were going to do anything I wanted, just so long as barbecue was in the plan.

I opened up my trusty Yelp app and saw that 372 people reviewed this new addition to the barbecue world (the cashier told me that they opened a year and a half ago), and I figured that 372 people can’t be wrong about Ten 50 BBQ.  Wrong they weren’t, but they weren’t quite right, either.

I made sure to order the fatty brisket, untrimmed.  I also ordered the sausage, ribs, and turkey.  I rarely order turkey, but we had my daughter’s friend with us and I think she can get a bit finicky.  I also had to sample their pinto beans and potato salad.

The meats were all prepared perfectly.  The brisket was incredibly tender and the fat was rendered so perfectly that it dissolved the moment it hit your tongue.  The St. Louis spare ribs had a beautiful smoke ring and pulled cleanly from the bone as you hit into them.  The sausage with its vivid black pepper note was incredibly juicy.  The turkey was decent and was moderately juicy.  If you want smoked turkey that’ll impress, you want to take a jaunt to Jefferson, TX for Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue.  I haven’t found any smoked turkey that compares. 

    
    
    
 As I said, all of the meats were beautiful and prepared perfectly.  It’s just that someone forgot to add flavor.  (The sausage was the exception.  I doubt the sausage is made in house.  It reminded me of the sausage I had at Pecan Lodge.  The brisket, though it looks as if it tastes otherworldly, is good but looks are deceptive.  The crust looked great but had little flavor.  I’d say the run needs work.  Same for the ribs.  They look great, but I only tasted an occasional hint of sweetness.  Overall, they were pretty bland.

As for the sides, the beans had a nice kick, but they weren’t terrific.  As a matter of fact, they were so underwhelming, I’ll pass on them my next visit.  I love beans, but they lacked something.  The jalapeños were nice, but they weren’t a patch compared to the jalapeño beans at Hutchins BBQ in McKinney, TX.  The potato salad was another story.  It arrested my attention so much so that it completely eclipsed the meat.  It had just the right tanginess–it was perfect with the red potatoes and green onions.  I should have gotten two servings.

As I looked at the clientele, my overall impression was that this restaurant was geared for old people and tourists.  It seems that flavored are toned down for both types of customer.  I had no idea how right I was until I read TMBBQ‘s review.  Apparently, the restauranteur’s claim to fame is his creation of the Chili’s chain and that the plan is to do the same thing with brisket.  I’m sure locations will spread like wildfire with its average flavors that are sure not to offend the palate of the uninitiated.

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BBQ Chronicles:  Williams BBQ–Greenwood, LA

I was passing through town when I saw Williams BBQ. I immediately pulled over to see if I couldn’t find any information online. Nothing. I decided to brave this intrepid establishment as I have a hard time passing up BBQ. I wish I had.

The owner promptly took my order–a half pound of sliced brisket and a half pound of sausage. As I was joyriding, I felt it best to eat on the road. First, the sausage. Though it was not bad, it was nothing special. Nothing but Eckrich or something similar. It was edible, though. After three or four bites, I was done with this mediocre offering. At least I was able to take it home to share.
As for the brisket, no such luck. 

Never serve up Eckrich if you want to impress.
 The nauseatingly gray meat made me think that this was the stuff during wartime–a time where food is so scarce that people resort to eating their boots. At this moment I wish I was eating pilfered boot leather.

Though the meat was sliced paper thin, it still was as tough as the aforementioned footwear. The fat wasn’t rendered which left an uneasy feeling not unlike the the unveiling of Ed Gein’s horrorfest. 

Never before have I encountered the stench of death on a plate.
 As I brought up a piece to my mouth, my nose caught something out of place. I couldn’t quite place the subtle sick fragrance of decomposition. When I took my first (and only) bite, I knew immediately the nightmare that enveloped my taste buds–it was sour. It wasn’t full-on maggoty meat, but was a subdued flavor of rottenness. I spit it out of the truck and this little delight found its way into the trash can.

The owner said they have been open for three weeks. I predict they will be out of business by Thursday.

If you want to read about real mediocre barbecue that won’t put you in the morgue, try this, this, and this.

BBQ Chronicles:  Pecan Lodge–Dallas, TX

It’s been a month and a half since I last noshed on barbecue.  Last time I was in Nashville, TN, and in Rooster Cogburn fashion, it didn’t hold a patch to Texas BBQ.

I was inspired by the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ joints some time ago, and I always enjoy the adventure, though there are times when Texas Monthly boogers up their ranking–they apparently like Cousin’s BBQ.  I’ve had it and I’ve had better BBQ at Dickey’s, and they serve crap. 

A nice variety of meat to gauge Pecan Lodge’s deliciousness.

Let’s start with the brisket.  I ordered both fatty brisket and some from the flat for my less enthusiastic family members.  The fat was perfectly rendered and the meat was incredibly tender.  I was immensely happy with the flavor, but it’s not as good as Lockhart in Dallas or Black’s BBQ in Lockhart.  I also have to say that Bartley’s BBQ in Grapevine, TX produces superior brisket.  Regardless, their brisket was noteworthy.

The sausage was also nice.  We tried both the regular smoked sausage and the jalapeño/cheddar sausage.  Both were enjoyable.  The skin had a beautiful snap when you buy into it and the meat had a coarser grind than typical.  This sausage was definitely better than average.
While the spare ribs were tender, they didn’t have a lot of flavor.  Stanley’s in Tyler, TX is far superior. 

These links weren’t magical, but they were good.
 The beans were adequate.  They didn’t taste as if they came straight from a can, but they weren’t stellar, either.  Normally, I would gorge on beans, but these weren’t gorge-worthy.  Again, Stanley’s beats Pecan Lodge.  But if it’s beans you’re after, try Hutchins in McKinney, TX. 
These beans look fantastic, but it’s the unassuming slices of brisket in the background that are the winners here.
 Texas Monthly gives Pecan Lodge high marks with a 4.0/5.0.  Because of the shortcomings, I think I’ll have to award a 3.4/5.0.  

BBQ Chronicles:  Bar-B-Cutie–Nashville, TN

Since Nashville is near Memphis, TN, I felt that I may have a chance at some incredible barbecue.  Bar-B-Cutie was recommended and the long lunch line showed promise.  We waited thirty minutes to be served, which set me up with empty hopes.

The baby back ribs looked promising, but all hope was lost as my teeth discovered that they were overly cooked.  They tasted okay, but the meat pratically fell off the bone and I could taste that they were definitely finished off in the oven. 

A lackluster barbecue performance.

The barbecue chicken looked institutional, like the middle school lunch lady would award as a penalty for cutting in line.  It definitely basked in the warm glow of an oven.

The best part was the pulled pork.  It was average and predictable.  If you want authentic barbecue, try another joint.

Bar-B-Cutie scores a 2.5/5.  I’ve had worse. 

BBQ Chronicles:  Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue–Jefferson, TX

Yesterday was one of those rare days when both my wife and I were off work. We had planned on some type of outdoor family adventure, but the rainy weather made us modify our plans.  Plan B was to make a short trek to Texas for some delectable barbecue.  I brought, Alli, my oldest daughter to Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue last year when I started my journey to visit the TM Top 50 joints, so I already knew that we were going to get a respectable meal.

 

Spare rib, fatty brisket, and sausage.
 
Alli and I asked for untrimmed fatty brisket–sliced.  I’ll have to admit that there wasn’t much of a crust, but the perfectly rendered fat made up for it.  The meat was a bit blandish, but it did have a nice smokiness and was deliciously tender. Any joker can chop shoe leather and slather it in sauce, but it takes a certain level of expertise to smoke up a slab of fork tender meat.  My wife, Heather, and I had a second dose of brisket in our swamp fries–a devilish concoction of hand cut fries smothered in brisket, jalapeños, onions, and cheese.  Hand cut fries are the best and when they are paired with BBQ, they are phenomenal.

 

The fabled swamp fries that might be the Fouke Monster’s main staple.
 
The spare ribs had a nice smoke ring.  There wasn’t much rub induced flavor, but they were nice.  They gave the perfect resistance when bitten.  No mushy meat and it came clean from the bone.

The smoked sausage was forgettable.  It gave a nice hint of fire as if they were hot links, but I should have passed on it to make room for some smoked turkey.

The barbecue beans were punched up baked beans from a can, but man, they were punched up.  I really enjoyed them.

I also asked the pit master what he puts in the sauce that gives it its sweetness. He immediately responded with brown sugar.  When I pressed him, he gave a bit of a sly smile but wouldn’t give it up.  I detected a fruity note, perhaps cherry.  Whatever he sneaks into his sauce works.

Aside from the lack of bark on these delectable morsels and the tired sausage, everything was great.  I’m a bit surprised because my favorite from our smorgasbord was the swamp fries.  Incredible.
Explore the following links for more BBQ exploits:

Bartley’s BBQ

Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

Hitch-N-Post

Bob’s Bar-B-Que

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q

Dreamland

Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue

BBQ Chronicles: Bartley’s BBQ–Grapevine, TX

We were in Dallas Saturday, and interestingly enough, I learned about a restaurant that is known for its chili when I was researching BBQ joints. We headed out to Grapevine so that I could sample Tolbert’s Texas Red. I know, I’m always on the lookout for BBQ, but why not seek out great chili as well? It turns out that Tolbert’s has a very nice bowl of chili. So much so, that I would certainly return for another bowl. My wife’s steak also had a nice flavor, but I caught a glimpse of little Maddie’s hamburger. Let’s put it this way: I don’t plan on going to Tolbert’s for their burgers.

After a nice lunch, we piled into our van so that we could get to our hotel. Just as we turned the corner, I saw Bartley’s BBQ. It’s on my list! I had to stop for something. (As you may know, I’m trying to visit all BBQ establishments on the Texas Monthly Top 50).

As I walked in and perused their fare, I suddenly uttered, “That’s bologna!” They had barbecued bologna and I had to get some. The proprietor told me their specialty was brisket, so I ordered a half pound of the fatty stuff. He pulled out a fresh brisket and deftly cut to the fat. He was also careful to maximize on the crust so that I would fully enjoy this treat. To make the family happy, I grabbed a half dozen cinnamon rolls which are made at their sister bakery.

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It was much later before I enjoyed these take out treats, but the cinnamon rolls were delicious. The BBQ bologna was a definite treat. I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed this under appreciated meat quite this way.

The brisket is what caused my wife to call me an addict. She has drug addicts in her family and she hates that mentality. Apparently, my behavior isn’t that much different than a junkie looking to score. She just doesn’t appreciate a perfectly rendered piece of fat candied with a nice black crust.

Bartley’s BBQ easily earns a 4.0/5.0 from me. Everything I tried exceeded all expectations and they are a place you mustn’t overlook if you are in the Dallas area. Do yourself a favor, get some cinnamon rolls. Next time I will try their kolaches.

If you are looking for other joints that scored at least a 4.0, try Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue and Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue.  You will not be disappointed.

BBQ Chronicles: Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q–Fayetteville, NC

Last week I endured a marathon road trip to Portsmouth, VA and back to Shreveport in four days. It was somewhere on the order of 2500 miles. I went to assist a friend transport a mobile kitchen for Mercy Chefs. We only slept 3-4 hours a day so that we could cover these miles. As a result, we had our share of truck stop food.

On December 4, we decided that we needed to enjoy some fine BBQ, not once, but twice. Our first stop was at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, NC. That evening we were passing through Birmingham, AL and had to make a stop at Dreamland BBQ.

Simple presentation.  Big flavor.
Simple presentation. Big flavor.

Everyone knows that I’m a BBQ junkie. I take my fifteen year old daughter on Texas road trips to seek out and savor the best BBQ. I was pleased to sample some Carolina BBQ. I’ve heard about it and my chef buddy I was accompanying actually made Carolina BBQ on a deployment in Chambrun, Haiti. It was delicious then and I expected nothing short of perfection in North Carolina.

You may think a pulled pork sandwich is just a pulled pork sandwich. If you blindly accept that error as truth, then you live an empty life. I don’t want to sound mean, but the sweet pork tangified with the right amount of vinegar elevates this humble sandwich to something epic.

I was skeptical of the slaw on the sandwich as I really don’t like slaw. There is something unappetizing about shredded cabbage coated with a runny mayo. This slaw wasn’t runny and I had to try the sandwich as it was intended.

I’m not going to say that I became an overnight fan of slaw, but the crunch paired with the soft pork works. The fries were frozen, but were mightily fried and I hungrily scarfed them down.

Extreme closeups make me hungry.
Extreme closeups make me hungry.

My only regret is that I was too full to sample the fried chicken. The week prior, I enjoyed Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Little Rock, AR. I suspect that Smithfield’s chicken was insanely good. I’ve never been to a restaurant that sells sacks of fried chicken skin. If they sell chicken cracklings, the chicken itself must be unmatched. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to pit Gus’s and Smithfield’s against each other one day, but in the meantime, I’d like to see a restaurant at home sell fried chicken skin.

BBQ Chronicles: Dreamland BBQ–Birmingham, AL

Our trip back from Virginia is nearing its completion, so we had to celebrate with a second round of BBQ today. As we passed through Birmingham, AL, we decided to stop at Dreamland BBQ.

I have heard many good things about Dreamland. I actually visited the Mobile, AL location a few months ago. The ribs were tough last time, so I thought I needed to try a different location at a different time.

That pit is enormous.
That pit is enormous.

We started with BBQ nachos with pulled pork. Those alone are worth a visit. The nachos are loaded with meat and jalapeños and are sure to please. I also have to state that I love the sauce. It is tangy and spicy and is the perfect complement to any meat. It is served with white bread. If you are given white bread for dipping, you can feel confident that the sauce will enhance the meat.

That's a lot of ribs.  I like how the sauce is haphazardly slathered on top.
That’s a lot of ribs. I like how the sauce is haphazardly slathered on top.

Now for the ribs. They are hickory smoked. That is notable for two reasons. First, the hickory imparts a very unique taste to the ribs. These spare ribs had incredible flavor. However, hickory burns hot and can leave ribs tough, just like the first time I ate them. I want the meat to release from the bone with a little effort. I don’t want to fight the ribs which is what happens when you consume tough, leathery ribs. I like the flavor, but tough ribs are bad news. If you want tender ribs, just go to Tyler, TX.

Extreme closeup.  These ribs may be tough, but they really taste great with that hickory flavor.
Extreme closeup. These ribs may be tough, but they really taste great with that hickory flavor.

As for the sides, they were nothing special. Typical baked beans and potato salad. Probably Sysco brand and they aren’t even punched up. You can punch up a can of beans and make them phenomenal. Or you can heat and serve. These happen to be heat and serve beans.  If you want to be dazzled by beans, you may want to visit The Cotton Boll Grill.

Conclusion: BBQ nachos are required eating. Don’t waste your time on sides. The sauce is excellent. The hickory smoke is great. Stick with pulled pork or chicken. The leathery ribs get a ding for toughness. This establishment is worth your time as it scores three stars out of five.

BBQ Chronicles: Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue–Jasper, TX

The hunt for the best barbecue continues with the second joint today. This is a small victory as I have always wanted to hit more than one restaurant on the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ establishments in a single day. Billy’s Old Fashion Barbecue happens to be number 9. I have a hair less than four years to visit the other 41 before the list is updated. I have my work cut out for me as these places are as far at 500 miles from home.

I wasn’t hungry when we rolled into Jasper, but I was here to eat barbecue. I knew I wanted brisket and when we found the dilapidated restaurant, I knew we were going to experience some magic.

I chose the sliced brisket sandwich. I wasn’t expecting this monstrosity as it was quite large. Topped with pickles and onions, this sauce soaked sandwich was perfect. I only wish I had ordered the sauce on the side. The sauce was decent, but I came for the meat.

The sliced brisket was very nice. It was juicy and the fat was rendered beautifully. It was a bit toothsome, but it certainly wasn’t tough. I had forgotten to ask for untrimmed meat, so I was pleased when I saw that the crusty bark was intact.

The meat had a mild flavor. Not too much smoke, and it wasn’t overpowered with seasoning. It was a simple, beefy masterpiece. At only 2 1/2 hours from home, I can see myself loading up the family for a nice meaty adventure. This is easily a 4.0/5.0. Well done, Texas Monthly. This BBQ doesn’t disappoint.

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BBQ Chronicles: Hitch-N-Post–Livingston, TX

It’s been a few months since I have been able to hunt for some good Texas BBQ. It is a bit of a tradition that I enjoy with my oldest daughter, Alli. I’m not a hunter, so we aren’t likely to go kill deer as we spend time together, but we have our own game we like to track down. We decided to have lunch at the Hitch-N-Post in Livingston, TX. It’s 3 1/2 hours from home so we had time to work up an appetite.

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Schlock.

We both ordered untrimmed fatty brisket which in my estimation, is the best tasting meat. I usually try the sausage as well, but we are planning an early supper at another BBQ place and I don’t want to gorge myself.

The brisket, though cooked, could probably have used another four hours in the smoker to completely render the fat and make the meat fork tender. I actually had to use a knife to cut the meat. There was a beautiful smoke ring and a decent crust, but I was hoping for a denser crust. Then again, this ain’t Lockhart.

The beans were good, but they were punched up canned beans. The potato salad probably came from Brookshire Brothers, but I came for the meat. The sides are just a bonus.

More schlock.
More schlock.

Apparently, the proprietor has a policy to give free cake to first time customers. He was a really nice BBQ enthusiast as he asked if I had tried Snow’s in Lexington. Then he started showing me pictures of BBQ joints on his phone.

The ambience was a schlockfest with old tricycles dangling from the ceiling and tiki umbrellas reminiscent of Gilligan’s Island. It was enjoyable soaking it in while I soaked up sauce with my bread.

The food was good. I would rate it a 3.0/5.0, but with the outstanding service and friendly atmosphere, I rate it a solid 3.5. Hitch-N-Post is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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