Tag Archives: Barbecue

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.  

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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: 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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Spicy Orange-Scented Breakfast Sausage

I have never considered orange in my sausage, but this recipe looks scintillating. I remember there was a time when someone got chocolate in his peanut butter. That combination turned out okay. This is definitely going on my must try list. I’ll bet it’s great with redeye gravy.

Grilling & Outdoor Recipes

Orange-Scented-Breakfast-Sa

What? You can grill breakfast sausage? This is a great spicy breakfast sausage that I came up with for serving with Mother’s Day breakfast. Slightly sweet, a little spicy and nicely flavored with a touch of orange zest. Here’s a tip: use the Bull BBQ Mini Burger Press to make perfect size sausage patties!

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Motor Oil and a Blowtorch

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Grilling or smoking is a relatively straightforward endeavor. At least starting the fire is generally uncomplicated. Who am I kidding? There are as many varied ways to start fires as there are men with pyrotechnic tendencies.

I don’t normally spend time considering ignition methods of charcoal, but when I read Grilling Primer: Fuel and Fire, it triggered a childhood memory that showed me that my dad, though he is from Minnesota, is a redneck at heart.

I was born in Minnesota but spent the bulk of my life in the South. My brother and sister sound like Southerners, but growing up with my dad’s hyper-enunciation, I sound like a Yankee.

I tell you this because people usually connote rednecks strictly as southern jerry-riggers who replace fan belts with pantyhose and rely on duct tape for household repairs. A redneck is a master of backwater ingenuity.

My dad is very skilled with all around maintenance. I’ve seen him do electrical, plumbing, concrete, and even woodwork. It always looks professional. My dad, however, is deficient in the art of cooking.

This man has told me about his time as a cook in the National Guard, but his time as a cook was time wasted. I have had to eat some of the most horrendous concoctions. My dad and his Frankenstein foodstuffs are creative, but not ingenius. Actually his cooking is something that fever dreams and nightmares are made of. He fries great eggs, though. I suppose he had lots of practice growing up on an egg farm.

My dad approached grilling with a laissez faire attitude. He started the fire and put the meat on the grill. He would go watch tv until he smelled the food burning. Then it was time to eat.

We were out of lighter fluid this particular time. At least we had motor oil. He drowned the coals in 30 weight and put the torch to it. Yes, he balanced a blowtorch so that it would ignite the coals. Then he went to wait inside. It’s his tried and true method for grilling meat, only to start the fire to this time. My dad has had his share of sparks of brilliance, but that is one of the best (or worst).

Two summers ago the temperatures consistently hit 110. For me, grilling season is basically over if it’s 85 degrees. I was going to smoke some baby rack ribs, but I was out of lighter fluid and I wasn’t going to use motor oil. Sans propellant, I balanced my blowtorch so that the flame hit the coals just right. Then I went into the house to enjoy the cool a/c and watch tv.

BBQ Chronicles: Bob’s Bar-B-Que–Henderson, TX

It’s been six months since I have been to Texas for BBQ. Granted, the Texas State Line is only a few miles from Shreveport, but in order to obtain the good stuff, you usually have to drive awhile.

I can’t explain why I love good BBQ, but I use Texas Monthly’s Top 50 as my roadmap. I’m only at number seven. I have forty-three more joints to visit before the new list is released. The list just came out last spring and it is released every five years. It’s going to be tight, but I like a good challenge.

Today’s journey was relatively short. Bob’s Bar-B-Que is in Henderson, TX. It’s only a ninety minute drive to get there.

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BBQ Turnoff: using a microwave on smoked meat. Bob loses points. I don’t even care using a microwave at home. It tends to sadden meat.
Let’s start with the potato salad. I don’t know if it is produced in house or not, but I’m betting it’s store bought. It’s nice and tangy, but so is Kroger’s. Besides, I didn’t drag Alli, my oldest daughter, to eat potato salad.

I expect a good smokehouse to have some good beans. I happen to love Ranch Style Beans, so I was in luck. However, I can get beans from a can at home. Punching it up with a little meat and barbecue sauce does not constitute homemade. Points lost for the attempted canned bean fake out.

Enough of the sides. Let’s talk turkey. Or brisket in this case. I like to research my restaurants so I know what to expect. TMBBQ has solid advise for this joint. If you don’t want to lose the crust, you have to specifically request the fatty brisket with the crust. If you don’t, the flavor will get chopped away and sent to BBQ limbo. Seriously. I don’t know where they put the flavor after they chop it off the meat. There certainly aren’t any burnt ends in the beans. If you think it’s weird to discard the culinary meaning of life, you’re not alone. It appears that northeast Texas (and north Louisiana for that manner) fear flavor. The food in this area is a bit bland. Not Minnesota bland, but food around here is usually only a notch above truck stop fare.

Anyway, the crust had a nice flavor and the fatty brisket was plenty juicy. I had a slice of regular brisket and it was like swallowing sawdust. You know, good food. If you travel, you know that good food in one place is synonymous with yucky food elsewhere.

The hot link wasn’t fire engine red like I’m used to. It looked and had the consistency of a normal sausage. And it wasn’t hot. My guess is Bob heated up some Earl Campbell (I hope he’s not using that microwave) from Piggly Wiggly. It was good, but I’ve had better.

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Nice bark. Definitely not crustolicious like Black’s in Lockhart, but this ain’t Lockhart. It’s Henderson.
I’m not sorry I forgot to take a picture of the peach cobbler. Cobbler is never very photogenic. I have read that this is homemade. I enjoyed it, but somebody went crazy with the cloves. I go by this rule of thumb: spices are flavor enhancers, not main ingredients.

All in all, I had a great time with my daughter. It was a very nice lunch. Texas Monthly was generous by awarding a 4/5. It topped out at 3.0/5.0, but it is good enough for a lunchtime jaunt.