Find a Que joint.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Off the Bone Barbeque

4 Stars

For years this place found on the industrial stretch of South Lamar has caught my eye. Not only because of the BBQ but because of it's home. Located in what appears to be an old gas station or possible corner store of an era gone by, you can't find too many nostalgic buildings still occupied (if Dallas hasn't torn them down yet). After deciding to begin work on South Dallas BBQ joints choosing Off the Bone wasn't a difficult decision at all.

A heavy drift of pecan smoke flowed through the air and I had arrived right before others so the expectations were high. Off the Bone has been voted "Best in Dallas" so this added to the allure. Framed pictures inside note the famous who have entered this joint throughout the years of it's existence. Walking into the ordering counter you will notice employees to your right prepping food and tucked behind them a J&R smoker.

After being inquisitive about the menu you may want to watch out on the pricing. I initially asked for my standard of a three meat plate with nothing more. This came to a whopping $20 plus dollars. How so? Well they were charging me sandwich meat prices and this would've been without sides. Ok let's back the word train up and start again. I asked about the sausage to see if this would be worth it and bingo...Hillshire Farms. Nope. Ok scratch that order and I'll take the two meat combo with ribs, lean brisket with bark and minimal fat (trying to watch my health now) and the Summer Cool Cole Slaw and Southern Potato Salad. I failed to make sure sauce was on the side.

The plate was delivered and as you notice above they do serve sauce on it. Fortunately for me there was enough naked meat that I could make a substantial judgment on the brisket. The meat was outstanding. It was tender, moist enough with minimal fat, crust was perfect and the pecan smoked flavor sealed the deal. I quickly began scraping off the remaining sauce. The ribs met the same unfortunate fate with a sauce bath as well. I worked my way around it and found rather pleasant tasting ribs minus the pecan smoke flavoring. With hints of cayenne and pepper the rib meat came off with a slight tug and melted in my mouth. Both sides were among the best I've came across.

On the fence of 3 and 4 stars I opted with 4. I'm beginning to realize that just because ribs don't have bark or the smokey flavor everyone thinks should exist doesn't mean they suck. Stanley's Famous has won best ribs in Texas before and they're just damn good ribs. You won't find a heavy smoke flavor to them or a sweet sticky crust. Off the Bone's ribs are done their way like it or not. The brisket rivaled Pecan Lodge on this day.

I want to challenge Off the Bone. First, please look into local handmade sausage and ditch the Hillshire Farm. This could separate you from many others. You have the quality product needed which brings me to my second request. Serve the sauce on the side. Let the meat stand on it's own and there will be no dissatisfaction.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Virgie's Bar-B-Que

4 Stars

On business in Houston back in December, I wanted to knock out some coastal BBQ joints. This was my first BBQ joint of the day with Pizzitola's being visited right after. The neighborhood I found Virgie's in seemed sketchy...a good sign. I hit the small lot right before lunch with a generous smell of smoke infiltrating my nostrils. As mentioned, I have been visiting legendary Texas BBQ joints since 2006 but have never considered myself a blogger or meat reviewer. Being an amateur and only starting to really care to learn great BBQ, I didn't ask what type of wood for smoking, the brand of smoker used, a view of the pit, questions about the sausage, rub and seasonings, etc. I was simply letting my taste buds guide me.

The service was extraordinarily friendly as I believe they are truly appreciative of the business. A nice change and definitely personable approach from the employees. I ordered the meat sampler plate as shown above. This was the lean brisket with a nice 1/4 smoke ring and crust surrounding the beef. The smoke flavor was pleasurable and the brisket actually reminded me of what I found at Pecan Lodge the day I visited. It was how brisket should taste with not one hint of roast flavor. The sausage was exceptionally well flavored with red and black pepper presenting a minimal spicy kick. I couldn't test the snap but the casing wasn't spongy at all. The ribs were last and looked as if God had personally plucked them from Adam's side himself. Beautiful outside crust, thick meat and a pink hue from the smoke. Open mouth, insert rib, and oops...tough and chewy. Damn. So close to perfection. The taste was great but these were not moist at all. I wouldn't deem them dry but they were rather difficult to eat off the bone. I believe this to be a flaw and would like a return visit.

All in all this was solid BBQ. I was on the verge of 3 stars but I truly believe the ribs may have woke up on the wrong side of the smoker. After further research the wood is oak and the pitmaster knows just how to use it. It's a shame that older BBQ joints around the state still can't figure out the science of proper wood usage to attain a healthy smoke flavor.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

K D's Bar-B-Q

1 Star

From all the BBQ reviews I'd read for joints between Midland/Odessa, KD's had some decent comments. I had tried Sam's in Midland and was thoroughly disappointed (asking if the ribs were St. Louis style cut and being answered West Texas style so I hoped KD's could be that silver lining behind the West TX dust storms.

Located right off I-20 and pulling up to KD' will think you're about to enter a feed store. Due to the abscence of smoke outside and upon entering may just as well be a feed store. The inside is setup very cool and would be a great place to grab a couple beers and a couple ribs but nothing more than that.

The meat is displayed on the pit for you to choose when you walk in. I asked the kid manning the pit what kind of smoker they used...he didn't know. Another employee mentioned a big rotisserie kind. Good to know. I then asked if the sausage is handmade and it's from Ben E. Keith. Oh boy. Insert first note...Dear Ben E. Keith...stick to making crappy beer and not crappy sausage. The pit employee cut off what looked like a promising 1/4 lb. of burnt end brisket. I also ordered two ribs and asked what they used for rub...again, he didn't know. Amazing someone who mans the pit has no knowledge of their product. A bit inexcusable if you ask me and I'm no novice.

I bit into the jalapeno cheese sausage and (insert second note) Schoepf's BBQ (Belton, TX) I think Ben E. Keith stole your recipe...or rather I have a good idea who distributes your sausage too. Taste is too similar with the same overbearing amount of cheese oozing out. One bite and done on this. The brisket was next and it was great...if you prefer the crust to actually taste badly burned and hard. Also if you enjoy your meat being dry with no smoke. Overcooked with too much heat. The ribs were very good minus smoke. Rub was heavy on the pepper corn, salt and a sweet taste as well. I'm guessing maple and honey. There was actually pink in the rib meat, it was moist and did peel off the bone easily. The BBQ sauces, original and spicy delivered but not even these antidotes could make the meat easy to take down. Even their Ben E. Keith bread was dried out. I give up.

I feel sorry from within my deep fried heart for all those Yelp reviews who think KD's is 3,4, and 5 star worthy. I can only imagine the pain of being stuck in West Texas, counting tumbleweeds as they roll by and being stuck with overpriced below mediocre Que. For a BBQ joint who states "Getcha' some of this" thanks, I'd rather not. There's plenty of authentic taquerias down the road. Getcha' some tacos instead.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pizzitola's Pit Style Barbcue

3 Stars

This review is long over due as this experience was the 2nd BBQ spot of the day while on business in Houston back in December. After I hightailed it to visit San Jacinto then shot over to Saint Arnold Brewery for a tour. Nice little day trip in the books.

My first spot of the day was Virgie's (and I'll get to that later) and this was my second. I would've loved to hit up Gatlin's but I made an executive decision based on a couple reasons. First, they've been around since 1935 and have an open pit. Second, it was on my way to San Jacinto. Thirdly, I wanted to try the famous ribs. I'd say that's pretty reasonable thinking.

This place was packed and even though it was I still was given very nice treatment as a customer. I sat down and ordered the three meat sampler plate. Nothing else. Atkin's diet only on this beautiful Houston day. Wanting to see what all the hype was about I immediately grabbed a rib. My Lord this bite was perfect. With a wonderful mix of salt and pepper the rub needed no other seasonings or baste. They may use something else but I was too busy cleaning the meat off the bone. One may have thought I had some bath salts running through my system. It wasn't a pretty sight. Next up to plate...the link. Unfortunately it was served cut therefore I didn't have the ability to snap it. It was spicy and very good though I'd like to have more smoke with it. Next up was the brisket...unfortunately served chopped and non-fatty. This was before I decided that I should always go for fatty because the enhanced juice and flavors. Plus not a fan of chopped style. My mistake. Unfortunately this taste much like pot roast. It was a bit dry too. After having stellar brisket at Virgie's...this was a let down.

All in all...I would love to return in hopes the brisket would be what I want it to be for a fourth star. The atmosphere inside...throw back to Texas and you can't go wrong with that. Anyone making a trip to Houston do yourself a favor and visit a Houston institute since 1935.

The State Line Bar-B-Q

1 Stars

I wish I could start out this review with an audible of my laughter. Or an audible that I should've turned my car around and headed to Rosa's Cantina nearby. Instead I'll just say this mess has made me consider a new rating..."zero stars - cavity search by the Border Patrol would be more enjoyable."

What makes me sad is when I post a picture of BBQ like this and it receives likes on Facebook or Instagram and I have to comment that no, this deserves a "dislike". The best part about The State Line is the parking lot is in Texas but the restaurant is in New Mexico. Oh and it has a killer patio. That's all. Ok...and the liquor store next door and an adult video store as well (if you're into that). Basically it's a perverted BBQ loving alcoholic's dream...minus the good BBQ. Almost stereotyped myself with that line.

I strolled into this place which is in the Austin based County Line family and sat at the bar. I ordered the three meat plate which is served with beans, slaw, potato salad and their homemade bread. When ordering the meat I asked if the sausage was made in house and the answer I received "It's Earl Campbell. He was a good running back so I'm sure it's good." Cue the laughter. Well okay I can buy that at Kroger. I requested the ribs, pulled pork and fatty brisket with as much bark as possible. Exact words. Now what I ordered and what I was served are two different things.

After some research from the menu, I learned the sausage is a special recipe made for them. I spoke to the Manager (who was very friendly and accommodating as well as the other staff) and he hooked me up with their sausage...which actually is Eddy sausage. The ribs were a-ok. The brisket was delivered as pictured above. Not one inkling of bark. And when I pointed it out to the bartender...he said he verbally told the cutter but instead of replacing it or asking if I wanted it replaced...I got nothing. Stuck with nasty, smoke-less and bark-less brisket. The wood used is white oak in a Southern Pride smoker from Tennessee. Maybe they forgot to use the white oak that day. Pulled pork actually showed signs of life. It wasn't bad. 1 star.

When the bartender asked how I would rate their BBQ...I answered 2 maybe 3 stars but probably 2 stars. He replied "that's not bad" and I said "yeah it really is". I can't even finish this review. It's too painful. Although...their bread was awesome! That should be the only star here. Cavity search anyone?

Mike Anderson's BBQ House

4 Stars

Found myself in this neck of the woods one day around 11 am and decided to try it out after being probed by a Yelp follower. Having driven past it a few couple times and noticing the lot usually pretty full, this could be for one of two's location by the hospitals and downtown or it's pretty good. After reading reviews elsewhere I thought it may be a hit or miss but after my experience...I think Mike's doesn't get the credit it deserves. This will be a controversial comment but after my one experience at Pecan Lodge...Mike's was better. Keep in my mind...this is only one visit to Mike's and it was right before the lunch crowd therefore the product was ready to be served.

I chose the three meat plate which cost $12.50...not a bad deal. Double-breaded fried okra and slaw for the sides although all of their sides looked amazing. Also picked up the jalapeno bbq sauce. Using Old Hickory smokers out of Missouri and hickory wood...the brisket had a wonderful tasting bark on it with well rendered fat and a savory smoke flavor. Surprise, surprise. The sausage ordered was their hot, which is specially made for them, and had great taste as well. Two solid products thus far...let's see if they could pull off the Texas BBQ trifecta. Pork ribs were on par with the rest of the meal. Pink coloring from the smoke, texture was moist and soft, and the semi-sweet outer base hit the spot. One thing I enjoy when it comes to ribs is the ability to pull the meat off the bone and these fall into that category. The jalapeno bbq sauce was original and a great companion to the fried okra. I walked away satisfied with this decision. If they're consistent like that everyday...I'm not sure why they aren't getting discussed along with other DFW greats more often.

On the day I ate at Pecan Lodge, I wasn't impressed. It gets another opportunity before a review only because of it's stature. Doesn't seem fair but it was a bit after lunch and they had just ran out of sausage and this is my blog. I know that's not what anyone would expect me to say and I fall outside the massive crowds who drop to their knees for PL meat but from my comparison...I must give credit where credit is due. I'm ready for the tar and feathering but I'm sticking with my taste buds.