Monday, February 25, 2013
I'm not sure where to start with this. Hmmm. I did not expect much to be honest and I quickly got a bad taste in my mouth without tasting a bite. I walked up to the meat cutter and asked for fatty brisket with bark. The answer I received...
"We only have fatty and lean brisket and this is our fatty." Huh?
Ok, lemme start again. I noticed the lean brisket off to the side having a bit of bark on it so I requested lean with crust. He then turned the crusted side away and begin to slice. You can see a tiny amount of crust but compared to the amount he could've cut...very stingy or just didn't know. Because of his earlier answer...I'm going to lean on the lack of knowledge.
I then asked how long have they been smoking and he mentioned they start the night before and bring them over in the morning to be finished up. You may be waiting a while for them to be "finished" as the brisket was tough, dry and lacked smoke. The sausage may as well have been from Hillshire Farm. Unfortunately they did not have ribs so I requested the smoked turkey and this was actually somewhat edible. Or maybe because the bar had been lowered so much that at this point...anything would taste promising.
Unfortunately, a poor representation of Texas BBQ for those unlucky patrons flying in and out from Love Field. Airport BBQ. As much of a debacle as buffet BBQ.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
I ventured into 3 Stacks a couple days before it open to get the low down. Not only was 3 Stacks going to focus on BBQ with the three J&R smokers...it was going to celebrate craft beer as well having a heavy dose of local. There isn't another BBQ restaurant in the Plano/Frisco area making an attempt to do this so I welcomed the idea.
Now that it had been open for over a week and reading through some half-witted Yelp reviews, it was time I stepped foot into this building. It was a rainy, cold and windy day but the smell of smoke carried in the air. Walking up to the building you will see the stacks of Mesquite and Hickory wood to your left and an inviting patio to your right. When you set foot in here, you will notice the ordering line will be to your left with a large man wearing a cowboy hat directing his team. This gentleman is Mr. Trace Arnold aka "The Rib Whisperer". You may have seen him on the History Channel hauling around an 18 wheeler transformed into the "World's Largest Ultimate Smoker Grill". This guy is no frills about the meat having cooked for some worldly known clientele.
I ordered my standard which each individual part was wrapped in foil. He made sure what I ordered was correct unlike the Sonny Bryan's in Lovefield where the request for bark fell flat. He mentioned that lunch specials and meat plates were coming soon but right now all orders were by the pound. You will find a line of servers behind you ready to deal out a wide array of sides. Jalapeno corn bread, cheesy corn bake, 6 cheese mac and cheese and green bean casserole were ordered between a colleague and I.
I snapped the jalapeno cheese link and it wasn't bad at all. The amount of cheese within mixed well with the red pepper flakes and diced jalapeno. It surrendered a nice spiced kick. I was told they're handmade on location. The brisket was spot on. The bark had one of the better tastes I've had and the meat was moist with a smokiness which was not overbearing though still present. The bark had a sweetness to it as well. Possibly maple, honey, coffee, cayenne and paprika? I found that similar flavor on the ribs but with the flavor hitting differently. The first two ribs weren't as meaty as I would've liked but that didn't take away from the flavor as they were far above the average. Well rendered, pink coloring, fall off the bone easy. After a welcoming visit by a few servers, the manager, and Trace...I was offered two more ribs with their plum chipotle sauce on them. The cayenne and paparika on the backside were more pronounced as the plum chipotle sauce on the meaty side married all flavors well. The sides were all very fresh and can be shared amongst two. Overall I was well pleased but a bit more smoke wouldn't hurt either.
I'm absolutely thrilled to have a great BBQ joint in my backyard. With great meat, great service and a Texas theme, I look forward to 3 Stacks providing me with a couple hours of Hill Country solitude while living in the suburbs. Luckily it rests away from Preston Road and the classy Hooter's next door. I hope this consistency is maintained for every customer with every visit...as I will be a returning customer with many more visits.
Thursday, February 7, 2013
This was my first repeat visit and I looked to Schoepf's to do two things for me. Redeem themselves after my first visit in July 2011 and deliver the great BBQ that has them featured in numerous national and local publications. It was my birthday and I had to pull the BBQ birthday trigger. After getting my pants set on fire by Stiles Swith and Lambert's in Austin...it'd be nice to wrap up the week on a central Texas BBQ high note followed by whiskey that evening. Unfortunately every birthday wish doesn't come true.
Let's start in July 2011...Schoepf's had been on my agenda for a long time and the opportunity presented itself to eat there after a river trip with some buddies. Needless to say we were not impressed with what we had. Fast forward to now, cross my fingers and surely that day in July was just a fluke.
I pulled into a decently busy parking lot close to 1 pm. First thing I noticed there wasn't a heavy smell of smoke resonating through the air. Granted it was windy but even when I walked up closer and checked out the pits...nothing. Ok, so maybe the smokers were done for the day. Walked into the ordering line and ordered my standard with jalapeno cheese sausage. The sides I ordered were the cucumber salad, potato salad, and jalapeno cornbread. The Atkins diet is good and all but man cannot live on meat alone. I think that's what I read in the Bible.
I went straight for the sausage and the cheese oozed from the center. It was good but honestly too overwhelming. The ribs had flavor from the salt and pepper but other than that...I was fighting a losing battle taking the meat off the bones with my teeth. Probably resembling an old man trying to bite into an apple...without his dentures. By far the toughest ribs to date. The fatty brisket was served with a lack of bark and smoke. Roast. I would imagine most BBQ joints would taste some of their meat before serving but maybe I'm naive about that. You can see a faint ring on both ribs and brisket but it's just that...faint. Jalapeno cornbread was good!
After this being my first repeat visit on a BBQ joint and having bad experiences both times...I can't find myself recommending it to anyone. I'm sure this would be excellent to some but I wonder about those journalists and food critics who have written them up numerous times. I've read Yelp reviews giving them 4 and 5 stars after bitching about the meat but because the sides are good. Huh? Only trust the 1 stars for those Arm Chair reviewers are not lost in space. Thank Jesus for the whiskey.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
I had my mind made up for Lambert's my first night in Austin but unfortunately a large group of people decided that a private party was more important than me getting my BBQ needs met. No loss because Stiles Switch fulfilled that emptiness.
The next day I found my way to Lambert's which is located in the restored Schneider Brothers historic building off 2nd street. I have a slight obsession with history and seeing historic buildings preserved so any chance to see the inside of one is a plus for me.
I sat at the bar and fortunately seated next to me was an employee who had just got off work and was enjoying a cold beer or three. Needless to say, great conversation ensued as he informed me of how the kitchen was run. I ordered the two meat plate with the Brown Sugar and Coffee rubbed natural brisket and the Maple and Coriander crusted natural pork ribs. Sides were baked mac and cheese and jicama and carrot slaw. I've been reading about coffee rubs being used on meat so I was excited to have the opportunity to try this. It did not disappoint. The fat was well rendered, moist throughout, with a great tasting bark. I dug into the ribs which delivered a burst of flavors. Notably the maple, a sweet orange glaze, crushed red pepper and coriander (which is cilantro). Meat was tender, rendered, easy off the bone and the nice pink from the smoke. As reported by the employee, no salt or black pepper is used. The sides were excellent as well.
After this onslaught of flavor, I regretted not trying their homemade jalapeno link. Next time for sure. Their wood of choice is Oak and they know how to use it to maximize the taste. They do not have just one pitmaster but two executive chefs and a handful of sous chefs...all with unique culinary backgrounds who work together to ensure the quality is present. I'd say this concoction works well and I look forward to a return visit for their "fancy bbq".
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Stiles Switch was brought to my attention back in December when I was in Austin but opted with La BBQ. Well I wouldn't turn down Stiles this time. It was a bit after 8 pm and going to this place on North Lamar was out of the way from my hotel but I was hungry and they were open late. I had done my research on them and some early reviews were shaky but it seemed that over time...the reviews became better as the negative words did not fall on deaf ears. Apparently repeat customers noticed the quality becoming better which I believe is a good sign for BBQ because as I've been told "great BBQ comes with great humility."
Like a great majority of restaurants, cafes, and bars in Austin, it's in a throw back art deco styled building with the neon sign on the roof for all to see. Any time I walk up to a BBQ joint and smell that smoke, I get excited like a young kid the night before Christmas. Now what you receive the next day dictates the greatness of the holiday as kids are selfish punks and don't just enjoy family time. Joking. The inside of Stiles is pretty cool...wide open dining room, TV's, Austin music memorabilia decorating the walls as well as the Stiles Switch name history. It was also used as the pool hall in the film "Dazed and Confused."
I ordered my standard but chose the Stiles spice sausage as this was a fan favorite. For sides the corn casserole and slaw were calling my name. I sat down and became that creepy guy taking pictures of his food. Which still is weird to me but I'm guilty...obviously. I took the sausage in my hands and popped it. I've never had a link snap this well. The casing was perfect. Friends, this was one of the best sausages I've ate. The meat was ground well and packed tight with flakes of pepper throughout. I could've easily ate another. Next were the ribs which had a red ring and appeared well rendered. I bit in and did the annoying "oh dear Lord, this is good" noise to myself. Cayenne, paprika, salt, pepper, and maybe golden angel tears were used in the rub. Off the bone and moist. Next was the brisket. Solid amount of bark and ring. Fat was well rendered, nice texture, great smoke flavor although a very minor taste of roast but not enough to care. The sauce was original. It was a thinner sauce with heavy pepper and tomato flavors with onions were floating about. It was a compliment to meat that needed no help.
If you're ever asked "why do you eat so much BBQ?" Here is your answer. Finding good BBQ is kinda like women. Go through a lot of pain and let downs but when you find a gem like this...it's worth it.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Apparently "Life is too short to live in Dallas"...and eating as much BBQ as I have lately will also shorten your life. Either way after a pretty rough night before in Ft. Worth I needed a cure for the hangover.
Going to the place voted "Best in Ft. Worth" almost every year seemed a good place to start. I hear it's a great joint to drink as well so when you're drunk...anything generally will taste "the best". I swear Jack in the Box tacos are the best many late nights. My stomach disagrees the next day.
With the rodeo in full swing, Railhead was in no shortage of cowboy boots and hats. A little added authenticity to the wild west. After waiting in line and doing some people watching, it was time to order. The smell of smoke was promising but I've been caught up in that lie before. Ordered fatty and lean brisket, ribs, and a link. The sausage was pretty decent, nothing special. I was excited about the brisket as you can see it has a nice ring on it. The meat did come apart easily but didn't have the smoky flavor I would've expected. There was a roasty flavor and not too much crust on the outside. More smoke please guys. The ribs were the highlight here. While they weren't anything superbly special, they were just solid. More seasoning could've helped for sure. They were definitely well rendered though.
Overall, it was good across the board although more smoke for all the meat and if only the brisket had less of a roast flavor. A few bites hinted at it's potential but as far as the best in FTW...maybe I need to have a few schooners first next time. A few more tweeks here or there and it could've had a fourth star but being in business for 20 years means more than an additional star from me.