Find a Que joint.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mac's Barbeque

3 Stars

Coming from south of Dallas today just after lunch and needed somewhere to belly up to. Decision was between Off the Bone and Mama Faye's. However Mac's was brought to my attention. I was told to order the chopped brisket/sausage sandwich...but I stick to my standard. Fortunately they had a three meat plate which came with two sides for $15. Not a bad deal in this economy.

Walking into this location of Mac's, which they've been here for 30-odd years and before Main Street off Exposition for some period as well...having been around since 1955. I walked in and back into the late 70's and early 80's. A bit of Dallas history hung on the faux wood panels in frames and the humming fluorescent lights were overshadowed by the bright sun outside. What I'm noticing more and more and subtly appreciating is the look inside majority of older Que joints. They just stopped giving a shit or never did on the appearance after the 80's.

I walked up to the counter and saw the brisket displayed under the heat lamp. Time was approximately 1 pm. Ordered my standard with slaw and okra. The plate delivered was promising. Jalapeno sausage first. This was juicy and had a nice little kick in it. All the reviews read claim this sausage to be made locally...not the case. A meat market in West, TX makes Mac's because "everyone around Dallas wants to do it how they want it done." Billy, the pitmaster, concocted this recipe and he said they do it to his specifications in West. Nicely done. The ribs had a shine and I couldn't wait to bite into them. Unfortunately, hardly a notice of smoke and somewhat under seasoned. There was just a well-rounded pork flavor and the meat came off easily. Lastly the chopped brisket. I don't exactly prefer my brisket chopped but that shouldn't deter from the flavor. Sadly enough, it reminded me of pot roast. There was no smoke and minimal crust. Luckily the sauce helped it down the hatch. Ah my heart hurt and this wasn't from the copious amounts of greasy meat I eat weekly. I was a bit let down. Longer in the smoker and this would've been perfect.

I spoke to Billy and looked at his built in smoker "the cremator" as he called it. I got a kick out of that. The smoker appeared to be done smoking and when he opened it, I didn't receive a big whiff of smoke. Hmmm. He had some brisket already smoking for the next day and I left baffled to why a lack of any smoke on the meats.

Billy and his wife are absolutely nice to speak with. The okra was spot on. On the fence between 2 and 3 stars...I chose 3 because I believe this could be done better. I would love to return to see if the meat at 11 am is different than 1 pm. 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kenny's Smoke House


Update: No movement (Feb. 2013)

After great customer service, I came back to Kenny's to try again. Unfortunately the brisket had slipped compared to my first visit and unfortunately the ribs had been drowned in sauce. Let the meat speak for itself guys. I could tell a difference in texture on the ribs had I only been able to try them naked.

3 Stars

After reading most of the froo-froo reviews about this and that...let's get serious here. To the meat of the thing. I walked into Kenny's on a Friday afternoon of their opening week to get a menu. I was told "they're the best in Texas". Speaking locally, I said how about Pecan Lodge, Lockhart, and Meshack's. The reply "oh we rival any of them". Hold those horses.

Enough with the 5 stars people. It's good but not great. I stuck to the BBQ because hey...you wanna be a BBQ joint then that's what better take the cake. I've read once when BBQ restaurants have a plethora of other menu items, this can be questionable. Are they really concentrating on the meat? I understand they're at the Shops at Legacy and probably couldn't live on selling BBQ alone here...hence the seafood side of the menu.

The atmosphere was cool. Framed portraits of BBQ pits from around the state. Blues music was playing over head. A healthy lunch crowed ensued. I ordered the jalapeno cheese sausage for the appetizer. Of course it came with two sauces to dip, neither one being BBQ sauce. The sausage was confirmed to be Elgin Southside. It appeared to have stayed on a stove rather than a grill as it was served in an immeasurable amount of grease. Marbled and lean brisket were both ordered as well as the pork ribs (St. Louis style). I had them hold off on the sauce on the ribs.

The marbled brisket looked beautiful and this truly hit the nail on the head. The smoke flavor was on par with the amount of bark and rendered fat. So good. The lean brisket had a small ring, good bark but was a tad dry. Flavor still smoky. On to the ribs. The outer layer was dry enough the meat begin to harden. Maybe they were done with high heat. Or put in the oven for a bit. There was decent flavor, not much smoke, steaming hot under the dry outer layer and did come off the bone. Looks like only salt and pepper used.

Since sides come with meals, I'll hit this fast and hard. The Gouda Mac and Cheese was over salted and of course gouda cheese is very sharp anyhow. Bit overwhelming. Coleslaw was good and what I'd expect. Bread pudding and Henry's ice cream (Plano, TX local) hit the spot.

They've been open a week. I'll give them that. But for two employees who I presume are unfamiliar with BBQ to say you're the best in the state and could rival DFW notables...don't get a hitch in your giddy-up too early. I'll be back to try again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meshack's Bar-Be-Que Shack

3 Stars

After eating unique BBQ at Mamma and Pappa B's, worse than mediocre BBQ at Michna's (both in Waco) and good but not great BBQ from Pecan Lodge this past week, I was cashed. There were no more BBQ cravings within me. I needed a breather. Until I was summoned by my cousin who equally knows a great deal about BBQ and has tackled most of the notable in the state.

Ok, fine...where to? Meshack's was the place. This got my attention as I've heard about it for years and its always been highly reveled for Dallas BBQ...a city not widely known for good meat.

A couple of pointers for new visitors. You walk up to a window and order and wait. No tables to sit down. Parking lot has either been under construction for 20 years or the completion doesn't really matter. Also, they are no longer cash only.

Three meat plate would work on this chilly day. One issue I had starting off was they soaked all meat in sauce. What the hell? I keep running into this issue...this isn't Memphis. I'll start making it a point to say no sauce. First timers...keep this in mind. Beside that, there was enough meat not covered in sauce I felt I could give a proper review. The sausage, which apparently is from Smokey Denmark's, had a spicier kick than some links I've had. It was actually very good and the ground meat within was packed well so when you open the link it doesn't crumble out. The ribs were well smoked, seasoned perfectly and came off the bone. I believe my cousin had some that weren't as easy but no major issue. So far so good. Next was fatty brisket with bark. Got the semi-fatty brisket...but where's the crust? So the meat was moist, pulled apart easily, semi-fatty but no bark. My cousin had a bit more crust on his but nothing consistent. Next major issue...no smoky flavor. I had Pecan Lodge the day before and their smoky flavor was spot on as well as the bark amount. If only Meshack's brisket spent another hour or so in the smoker, this could remedy that issue. I typically don't do sides but I'm a sucker for potato salad and completely obliterated theirs.

All in all, a good experience. Be prepared to either eat in your car or on a tailgate. I will go back in hopes that the brisket will have more smoke. Do yourself a favor and stand next to the ventilator from the wood burning furnace and inhale. Smelling like smoke, you may have a tough time keeping the honeys off ya...especially the thick ones.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mamma and Pappa B's BBQ

3 Stars

After making the mistake of heading to Louie Mueller without calling ahead to see if they were sold out, which they were, I had to quickly find a backup. Staying in Waco and being short on time, I had to look at what BBQ joints stayed open long enough for my arrival. I knew the obstacles, freshness of meat or again being sold out, and had come to conclusion I'd settle for Rudy's if need be.

This old corner store wasn't far from where I was staying and it had decent reviews. I pulled in about 7 pm and was greeted by three elderly black men inside of this small cafe that appeared to have ceased being decorated in the 1980's. Here's hoping their concentration on meat was the reason for the lack of decorating. Judging a book by it's cover, I was excited. Based on the BBQsnob , Daniel Vaughn's picture, I assumed that the meat would be served with no sauce. This was not the case.

I ordered the standard, which they wrapped in foil and I sat down at one of the checkered cloth covered tables after grabbing a Big Red. I opened the foil to find all meat had been covered in sauce. Uh oh. I started with the sausage with had a deep red hue to the casing and meat. Claimed it was from Elgin...I've had sausage from two different places in Elgin but it was years ago and will need to revisit. The sauce and sausage meshed well. Next I worked on the ribs. They came off the bone very easily. It was hard to gauge the smokiness but there was very, very little salt or pepper on these...definitely no rub. What you had was a just a good pork flavor. The brisket had a small red ring and some bark. It came apart easy, fat rendered well, was very moist but could this had been because the sauce helped? Dunno but from what I could taste, with as much sauce taken off as possible, it had good flavor but more smoke would've be helpful.

The sauce was vinegar based with sweetness to it and I swear...a hint of Big Red. I've grown to love Big Red again after a disastrous spell in high school mixing it with vodka so I did enjoy this Memphis style presentation. All meat soaked. Normally I'd frown upon it but because of it's uniqueness, I will return. I'll definitely ask for the sauce on the side next time because I would like to measure the meat's smokiness. The texture was there...but the smoke? MIA.

When I asked about the sauce...the reply I received with a smile "oh, we just mix a bit of everything in there." I replied "fair enough" and left. Can't wait to return and give this place a higher rating!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Michna's Bar-B-Que

1 star

Years ago families would flock around buffets such as Furr's, Luby's and Golden Corral in joyous gatherings. Fast forward to now and they've bad reps for "how long has the food been sitting here, touched by multiple dirty hands and...is that a cockroach swimming with the beans?" This is no different when it comes to one of the worst anomalies known to man-kind. The buffet BBQ.

I've been hitting up Texas BBQ joints since 2006 and have never been to a buffet BBQ until I walked into Michna's (Dickey's doesn't count). I've read of this place for a few years in articles here and there on Texas BBQ and with Waco not being widely known for any great BBQ...I figured why not. The night before I had some unique product at Mama and Pappa B's and had high hopes for Michna's to live up to it's years of experience from Bob Michna in the Texas BBQ scene.

It wasn't awfully crowded inside and the clientele were mostly blue collar type. Some elderly here and there with oxygen tanks as their hip. I walked up to the nice ladies behind the counter and they immediately suggested the buffet because it's "All-you-can-eat". I looked at the buffet with false interest, noticed ribs sadly decaying in a pan and decided my life was more important. As I ordered my standard, the lady started laughing when I asked for fatty brisket with bark. Was this a sign of the outcome? 

I got my plate and ordered a side of slaw just in case I needed some saving grace. I chose possibly the worst seat there...right in front of the ladies who worked there and the meat cutter. The sausage was really the only notable product on my plate. Ribs lacked in flavor and seemed a bit dry. Brisket was tough to the point I'm slightly struggling to pull it apart. It all lacked smoke. As their watchful eyes begin to cause an uneasy feeling...I just kept hoping one bite would change the doomed look upon my face. Not even the sauce could save this meat. Highlights were the Big Red and John Wayne life-size cutout.

I found out when I returned home that Bob Michna, who had worked and learned from some of the greats, had passed in early January. I would like to think that may have something to do with the meat quality as they were voted best BBQ in Waco for 2011. Buffet BBQ can sometimes do injustice to your product.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

5 Stars

Having never heard of Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q before I attended Meat Fight 2012...I went into this joint with no prior knowledge, no reviews read, and no word of mouth from anyone. Who were they? What are they known for? I don't fear the unknown but with BBQ...you're asking for indigestion problems if you're not careful. Pitmaster Nick Pencis was asked to judge Meat Fight, something must be right.

After Meat Fight I forgot about Stanley's or their location. I found myself in Tyler for business this past Wednesday. I just so happen to be driving along Beckham toward the hospitals and after scoping other Q joints and taco stands - I saw the neon sign of Stanley's. Almost like the rays of Heaven from a BBQ Jesus who lead me here and opened my eyes. I had a new purpose that day.

I arrived at 1:40 pm...folks were still coming in although the lines I have now read about weren't in existence. Thank ya BBQ Jesus for I had to head to Longview soon after. From outside appearance and interior, this place would fit in Austin or Dallas. John Lee Hooker's thump humming overhead with blues music posters and random stickers littered along the walls - perfect. Now would the meat match the atmosphere?

Yes.

By now anyone who reads these reviews are familiar with what I order...my standard so to speak. Quarter pound of brisket (fatty with bark) or burnt ends, 2 ribs and link of sausage. The sausage was the hot link. It was provided from the local meat market so I had faith. Good snap but nothing over the top special. Pretty indifferent about it although a good flavor. Next I decided to dissect the brisket. The fat was well rendered throughout thus providing a moist product. Moist is good. If not moist, you may have to use the sauce as a lube. I'm glad this wasn't the case. Brief explanation of bark is the coming together of the sugars, rub and protein from the meat while in the smoker. It essentially seals the juices. Lastly were the ribs. They were meaty and came covered with a sauce which I generally frown upon. I dug into these meaty morsels and had a "q-gasm". Heavenly. They were pink throughout and came off the bone with ease. Dry rubbed with this unique sauce that after research...no clue what goes in it. Hints of heat and sweetness. These were special.

It was a memorable experience. After I did my homework, come to find out...they've won best ribs in Texas within the last few years. A couple times. Stanley's has been around for a bit...but has apparently had a renaissance of sorts. It was good going into a place with no previous knowledge.

Five stars because the brisket and ribs made up for the generic sausage...throw in the blues music and you have a deal. Don't worry...I've some bad reviews to complete but I've hit a good streak this week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lockhart Smokehouse

 

Updated: 5 Stars ( May 2013 )

www.lockhartsmokehouse.com

Finally making a return trip to Lockhart Smokehouse and having tried more joints around the state and the D/FW locale, I must give credit where credit is due. Unlike my previous visit and review, this time the ribs were absolutely perfect. You could pull the meat right off and warm your face from the heat hidden beneath. The fatty brisket was warm, moist and melted easily upon entering my pie hole. No need for forks or teeth. The lean brisket came apart with precision right along the fine lines of the meat. Both barks were well peppered and salted and the burnt ends ordered were so good it was unfair. If I had tear ducts, you would've witnessed my inconsolable crying of joy. Standing at the bar, with greasy hands covering my face whilst having a divine moment of Holy Beef. If overturning tables in celebratory fashion were allowed, tables overturned you would've found.

One amends that could be made was the time of day between both stops. My first visit was at 2 pm...this visit was right before noon. Should that matter? No, but it may have been a difference maker. The only hang-up I have (and I actually mentioned this in my first review but played the devil's advocate) are the prices. Because of the price complaints from others, I paid particular attention when ordering the meats. Had what I ordered been precisely cut and weighed, it should've come out to around $30 at most...but somehow, this meal wound up at $50. I ordered a 1/4 lb. of brisket (cost is $7.5/lb.) however, this somehow resulted in $10. I notice other joints making attempts to keep it as close as possible, usually within a dollar, and I would like to see Lockhart work on this. That being my only concern, between Pecan Lodge and Lockhart Smokehouse...I'm going with Smokehouse. See below...happy rib face.

 
4 Stars ( Jan 2013 )

Lockhart Smokehouse has gained attention rather quickly for a few reasons. The association with Kreuz Market (hence the name Lockhart), being seen on BBQ Pitmaster's, and for being a solid Que joint in Dallas. It was time that I knocked this off my local list. Which has taken longer to complete than the statewide list.

We arrived around 2 pm, after the lunch rush though there was still a good crowd within. I was worried about the meat...would I get fresh being a bit later in the day or dry and tough? That was a chance I was willing to take. The theme inside is rustic Texas Que joint playing off the exposed brick d├ęcor you would find in Smitty's or Luling City Market. Heading past the bar to the ordering line you will see the wall of accolades and publication mentions, which is impressive considering it's existence of near 2 years.

The menu is self-explanatory, which helps the most amateur BBQ fan. If you're not sure, ask for a sample. They will oblige. We ordered 1/2 lb. of brisket with burnt ends, 3 ribs, one regular link, and deviled brisket eggs. Total came to about $30 which may be a bit pricey to some but hey...you pay to eat well. Go to Dickey's if you don't like it. No complaints. The staff which included Pit Guru, Will Fleischman, was very friendly. We were promised entertainment from the bartender. So that's right where we headed.

I quickly ignored making a trip to the sauce stand and dug into the sausage. It was perfect. Snapped well, was full within casing, didn't fall apart in your hand. Flavor delivered mild black pepper. Which was a bit opposite of La Barbecue's sausage, albeit great flavor for theirs as well. Luckily my friend hit the sauce stand and I'm glad she did. I did dip a couple bites of sausage into the sauce. A nice sweet, smoky, and peppered flavor. Not too thin and not too thick. I next dug into the rib. Salt and pepper were the right amount with peppercorn scattered about and it did come off the bone easily. Rib tips were still on and I found these to be a bit tough but the flavor was still solid. Occasionally I bit into a hint of something sweet...possible layer of honey? I'll need confirmation which means another couple ribs and the Pit Guru's secret. The brisket was moist but dryer than what I wanted but the burnt end flavor made amends. A lot of bark and nice smoke ring though. I could blame this as I worked backwards thus leaving the brisket exposed to room temperature and having time to dry. I could've ask for more fat. Next time, I'll try the clod. Deviled brisket eggs...speechless. The smoky flavor resonated well on all meat products.

All in all, I will return. I will recommend. Daniel, the bartender, a jolly fellow who doesn't mind talking jalapenos and stomach ulcers will keep you entertained as promised. I've been told he can dance on the bar.