Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Amber and I were going to New York City for our fifth wedding anniversary and also to see my sister who lives there. The only time I have been to NYC was when I was eight or so with my family. My wife and I went on a "diet" before the trip so I was limited to how much barbecue I can eat. When we travel, I put a lot of focus on food so we knew our waistline was going to increase. Traveling out of town with me is not easy. I try to hit up as many BBQ joints as I can. I know my wife gets annoyed with how much barbecue we eat so we decided on one stop on this trip. Hometown Bar-B-Que located in the Brooklyn was my choice.

Lately, it seems like New York City is a hotbed for barbecue. You would think the two would not go together. A Yankee smoking meat? Where would the smokers go? Texas Monthly BBQ editor Daniel Vaughn caused a stir when he said "The brisket I've had in NYC lately is better than a lot of places Texas" in this article. I find some truth in that statement. Some of the places I have been to in Texas do not put their heart and passion into the 'cue and it shows. Hometown Bar-B-Que is owned by Billy Durney. Check out an interview of him here. Hometown just celebrated its one year anniversary. It would have been opened for business earlier, but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas.

The first thing you will notice on the menu is the price of the meats. This is New York so it is definitely not cheap. Brisket is 28 bucks per pound. Franklin is charging $20 per pound right now which is the most I have paid. We ordered a quarter pound of moist brisket and pork belly, a link of jalapeño-cheddar sausage, and a half rack of jerk baby back pork ribs. I wanted a beef rib too, but I did not want to break the bank. We also got a side of Texas-style queso macaroni and cheese. The brisket was outstanding. It was very comparable with the stuff you would find at good places in Texas. There was a nice smoke flavor, and the meat was tender. The influence of Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller showed with the peppery bark. I wish I had ordered more. When I bit into the brisket, I regretted not getting the beef rib. I knew it would have been great.

The flavor of the pork belly was superb. The sweet rub played well with the smoke. I have seen pork belly sliced but not pulled before. Every bite was rich and savory. I was disappointed in the house-made jalapeño-cheddar sausage. The grit and pop were on point, but I did not like anything else about it. There was something off about the flavor profile. I expected more heat and to taste more cheese. I gave up after a few bites. Hometown also serves a beef link but was not available today. I normally go with spareribs but went with the baby back ribs instead. It was recommended to me so I could not pass it up. The half rack of the jerk baby back ribs was delicious. The unique Caribbean inspired jerk rub packed a ton of flavor. The spices were not overwhelming and made a great duo with the sweet undertones. The meat was juicy and smoky. We ate every single one. The macaroni and cheese was very cheesy but good. It was essentially macaroni and cheese with queso poured over it.

It was worth the hour long subway and bus ride. Daniel Vaughn might be on to something. If Hometown Bar-B-Que was located in Texas, it would absolutely do well. Brisket is king here in Texas, and Billy can smoke a mean one. The highlights of the noteworthy menu included Sriracha hot wings, pork belly tacos, and lamb belly banh mi. I want it all. Maybe next time when I go back. I am thinking of hitting up Delaney Barbecue too. Maybe I should start a crowdfunding so I can do a NYC BBQ tour? Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 454 Van Brunt St, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Phone: (347) 294-4644
Website: http://www.hometownbarbque.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hometownbarbque
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HometownBarBQue

Monday, December 8, 2014

Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill

I was back in Cleveland. Progressive's headquarter is located here. Too bad my work's headquarter is not located in one of the better BBQ regions. I sampled Famous Dave's last time, and you know how that turned out. When I was leaving Famous Dave's, I saw Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill. I told myself I was going to hit it up when I am in town again. I saw one on the way to the hotel so I stopped in. Did I make the right decision? When I walked through the doors, I did not smell the wood smoke you expect at a BBQ joint. That is not a good sign. Smokey Bones apparently smoke their meats on-site with 18" hickory logs.

I created my own combo. I ordered Texas-style beef brisket, baby back ribs, slow-smoked spiced sausage, and hand-pulled pork. The plate also came with coleslaw and broccoli with garlic toast. I had to get some vegetables somehow. The brisket is only available after 4 PM and is smoked for 14+ hours. It was actually not terrible. I have had worse. The brisket was tender with the right amount of fat. It was cut into huge chunks covered with sauce. There was not a whole lot of flavor by itself. It needed more smoke and a better defined bark/crust. The ribs were tender but dry. The saucy exterior hid a lot of the impurities. It did have a decent amount of smoke. The sausage was not good. It was like eating a bratwurst. It was not what I was expecting. It did have a good texture and snap/pop. The pulled pork was average. It had a good flavor but was dry and missing the smoky tones I am looking for. The broccoli was well broccoli. The coleslaw was creamy. The garlic toast was my highlight of the meal. Sad.

So I went to a chain BBQ restaurant in Cleveland. That is probably not the best idea. I did not hate Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill, but I for sure did not love it. The food tasted better than it looked. The artificial lightning above the plate did not help. They have a pretty extensive menu. There are plenty of options for everyone. So far, it has my best out of state review. Hopefully that will not stand up. I wonder if I should keep trying barbecue every time I go to Cleveland. I know Food Network chef Michael Symon is opening a barbecue restaurant downtown. Maybe one more time? Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 7725 Reynolds Rd, Mentor, OH 44060
Phone: (440) 942-0993
Website: http://smokeybones.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SmokeyBones
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SmokeyBonesBar

Monday, December 1, 2014

Franklin Barbecue (Updated)

When people ask me what my favorite BBQ joint is, I am always reluctant to answer that. I have to preface my answer. Franklin Barbecue is my answer, but I am hesitant because of the long wait/line. My first review on my blog was on Franklin, and you can find it here. It has been a long time since I stood in line at Franklin. It has been over two years. I have had it at festivals and through pre-orders since then. Pre-ordering is the way to go. You sign up online about a month ahead; order over five pounds of meat, and walk up and pick up your delicious meat without waiting in line. You cannot eat the food there though.

Line when we got there
Line right before opening

Amber and I took the day off so we can wait in line at Franklin. We got there around 9:15 AM and were about 50 people back. I was surprised the line was so long on a Tuesday. When the staff came around gauging how much food everyone was ordering, they informed us there will probably not be any pork ribs left for us. I was bummed. They came back later and said there will be some because a pre-order had cancelled. Yes! We had some friends meat us at various points while we are waiting. The time moved a lot quicker than the last time I waited. We got to the door around 12:15. We finally arrived at the counter at 12:45 PM. 

There were five of us so I wanted to make sure no one was hungry after we left Franklin. I ordered three pounds of moist brisket, a pound of pork ribs, half pound of pulled pork and turkey, and three links of sausage. I got carried away and might have ordered too much. Is that possible at Franklin? The only meat that was missing was beef ribs. It is only a Saturday special, and you will not catch me in the longest line of the week. Five hours or more? Nope.

One bite into the brisket and I was transported to that magical place. It has to be one of the best things I have ever bought into my mouth. The explosion of flavor that came from the bark was delightful. The meat was so tender and smoky. The rendering of the fat was on point. I could live solely off this brisket. I could not stop eating it. The pork ribs were delicious. The meat could barely stay on the bone. The rub and smoke meddle together forming a deep flavor with every bite. We typically forget about pork butt in Texas. Aaron however did a great job with the pulled pork. It had a nice balance of moisture, rub, and smoke. I am not a fan of turkey normally, but the slice I had was fantastic. It was juicy and flavorful. I did wish for a little bit more smoke. I enjoy their sausage, but I wish they made it in-house. Besides the line, this is their only other flaw. Not bad flaws to have if you can call them flaws. The sausage is made to their specification by Texas Sausage Co. The grit and snap were ideal. It had a great taste from the pepper and garlic blend. Everything was excellent that I forgot about their three sauces. You can even buy their sauces from HEB now.

We got a tour of the new smokehouse. Franklin Barbecue was closed for a couple of weeks this summer to build it. With the new smokehouse, the weather elements will not affect the smoking process as much which allows for shorter and better cook times. The added on structure now houses fives offset smokers and a rotisserie smoker for ribs.

Brisket 3 hours in

Sometimes it is hard to put your opinions into words or on paper. My friend Rob that night said it best, "I did not eat dinner because I didn't want the taste of Franklin Barbecue to leave my mouth." True. What I do not get is how some people think Franklin is overhyped. Have they tried their meat? They like their BBQ covered in sauce? Sure there is wait, but the prize at the end of the tunnel is superb 'cue. If they do not think this is good barbecue, they might want to get their taste buds checked out. This visit affirmed everything I know. It is my favorite and the best barbecue I have ever had. Grade: A+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 900 E 11th St, Austin, TX 78702
Phone: (512) 653-1187
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/franklinbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FranklinBbq

Monday, November 24, 2014

Famous Dave's

My last barbecue experience outside of the state of Texas was not so good. I was in Colorado Springs for work, and none of the barbecue was noteworthy. This time, work had me going to Cleveland, OH. I was born and raised in the Cleveland area. When I was a kid, I remember eating ribs and liking it. That was my extent of Cleveland "barbecue." I had trouble finding a barbecue restaurant that served brisket. I made a mistake to stop by the "best" barbecue restaurant in the area. They only served ribs, wings, and fried chicken. Crud. Any other day that would have sounded good, but I was on a mission. I ended up going to Famous Dave's. They are a national chain and even have a location in Texas.

I ordered the St Louis spareribs and Texas brisket combo plate with two sides. The sides were fresh steamed broccoli and Dave's Cheesy Mac & Cheese. I also got a link of hot sausage. The brisket was just terrible. I ordered moist and got lean. I think? It tasted like a dry pot roast with barbecue sauce on it. I am not sure why the brisket was served on top of a slice of bread. I might have tasted some smoke, but I was not sure. I only had a few bites of it. That was not definitely Texas brisket. The ribs were a little better. They were tough and I thought they were grilled because I tasted no smoke. Although the sauce was sweet, it did hide the deficiency of the ribs. I only ate one and half ribs. The sausage was awful for smoked sausage. It was gray inside instead of a red color throughout. It was not smoked long enough. I had two bites of the sausage. Even the macaroni and cheese was not good. How do you screw that up? It had bits of corn and jalapeno in it. I did enjoy the steamed broccoli and cornbread though.

I asked the waiter at Famous Dave's what the cooking process was. The meats are smoked and then reheated on the grill when someone orders it. I had a lot of leftovers. I took the food to go because I felt bad. I thought I might see a homeless person and give them the food. I saw a picture of Ruby's B-B-Q when the owner visited Texas. I wished it was good as Ruby's B-B-Q. I would have been ecstatic if that was the case. After my visit, Famous Dave's was voted best in Cleveland. Most of us already feel sorry for the people of Cleveland, but this has to be the icing on the cake. When I was leaving, I saw another barbecue chain down the street. Smokey Bones. I might try it the next time I am in town for work. Maybe. Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 26410 Great Northern Shop Center, North Olmsted, OH 44070
Phone: (440) 777-0200
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FamousDavesNorthOlmsted
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Famous_Daves

Monday, November 17, 2014

Killen's Barbecue Pop-up (Austin)

When Killen's Barbecue announced they were doing a pop-up, I was excited. I did not have to drive to Pearland to get their phenomenal 'cue. You can check out my original review of them here. There has been a BBQ feud on Twitter between Killen's and John Mueller Meat Co. Ronnie Killen has decided to show up on John's home turf and show who's boss. I think the situation is funny, but the general public will benefit from it. They will have an opportunity to sample Ronnie's work without driving as far.

Free Beer!
Louie Mueller Pit

The event was held at Foreign & Domestic. FND is a locally owned restaurant that serves seasonal American-European fare. Ronnie and his crew were up all night smoking the 1500 pound of meat they brought in. It was a cold night and was below freezing. Props to them because I am sure they are not used to these kinds of temperatures. They did not bring their huge Klose smoker because they had trouble getting it to Austin. Instead they brought the smaller Lang, and Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue was nice to lend them his huge Klose. I arrived at Foreign & Domestic just before 10 AM, and there were only a few people waiting around. There was free beer provided by Saint Arnold. I was on my lunch break so I had to pass. The line was about 50 people or so deep when the food was starting to be served.

I got excited last time I went to Killen's and probably ordered too much. I was a little overwhelmed with the seven different types of meat in front of me. This time they had brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, and jalapeño sausage to choose from. I went with the usual moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. The brisket was great again. It had a crunchy bark from the pepper and smoke. It was tender and moist. The pork ribs were soft and juicy. The meat was coming off the bone and had a nice sweet finish from the rub. I liked the jalapeño sausage more than the original sausage. It had a little bit more heat and flavor. The coarse grit and fat were on point. The casing could barely hold the meat in.

It was another great showing by Killen's Barbecue in spite of the weather. It makes me want to drive back to Pearland. What we need to think about is will Ronnie move into the Austin barbecue scene? I actually talked to my wife about this before he announced the pop-up. He has done a few festivals here already. Austin has not yet reached a BBQ saturation especially of good BBQ. There are still long lines at Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue. I like what he did with the Pearland location. I wish the land in Austin was more affordable to pull it off. The suburbs might be his best bet. Kyle, Buda, Pflugerville, or Round Rock? Anything along Interstate 35 would be a big hit.

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 3613 E Broadway St, Pearland, TX 77581
Phone: (281) 485-2272
Website: http://killensbarbecue.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KillensBbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/killensbbq

Monday, November 10, 2014

Front Range Barbeque

I was in Colorado Springs for a few days for work. I had gone to Bird Dog BBQ the day before. I was going to give Colorado barbecue another shot. According to others, Front Range Barbeque seemed like a good place to go. You cannot always trust reviews though. Most places have good and bad days. You just never know. That is why I tell everyone to use my reviews as a guide. Front Range Barbeque uses mesquite pellets in their smoker. I have not had meat smoked by wood pellets before.

I ordered the Frontier Combo which consisted of ribs plus two meats and two sides. I got moist brisket, sausage, and sides of coleslaw and red beans and rice. The brisket was terrible. It tasted like it was a pot roast cooked in beer. I could not eat more than one slice. It was dry, and if I would venture to say, it was probably smoked a day or two ago. This is probably the first time I have been served reheated brisket. The ribs came naked which meant no sauce on it. They were tender and falling of the bone, but there was not a lot of rub or flavor. They were also dry. The sausage was another commercial sausage made for them in Denver. It was just okay. If I would guess, the sausage was smoked and then reheated on a grill when it was ready to be served. The sides were bland. I did not finish all of the meat or sides. I just could not enjoy the meal. The cornbread was the best thing of the meal if that tells you something.

Front Range Barbeque does serve other meats on the menu. I am pretty sure I would not be stopping by again. I just do not agree with how they do their barbecue at Front Range. Just say no to reheated barbecue and yes to fresh smoked meat. I felt bad for the waitress. She knew I did not like it, but there was nothing she could have done. There is a Rudy's Country Store And Bar-B-Q in Colorado Springs if anyone wanted to know. I have yet to try it though, but I would imagine it is the best choice in Colorado Springs. Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2330 W Colorado Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Phone: (719) 632-2596
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/frbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FRBBQ

Monday, November 3, 2014

CorkScrew Barbecue

On this particular Saturday, Amber and I were going to Spring to attend a friend's party. I only slept only an hour or so Thursday night because I participated in a relay race from Austin to Corpus Christi. Trying to wake up early this morning was not easy at all. I wanted to stop by CorkScrew Barbecue before the party. I knew there was going to be a line, but we could not wake up/leave early enough. We had to deal with traffic as we made our way through the northern parts of Houston. When we got there, it was around 11 am, and we had to wait in line for an hour and a half to order. Although it was located in a trailer, there was an awning and fans to combat the Texas heat. That is an added plus for the customer's experience. This was the only Houston area BBQ joint that I had not been to off the Texas Monthly Top 50 list.

When I got to the counter, they had just run out of beef ribs. Oh well, next time. I went with the three-meat plate with the usual moist brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. I got macaroni and cheese and coleslaw on the side. I enjoyed the brisket. It was simply delicious. The smoky meat just fell apart in your mouth. It had a silky soft bark with a ton of flavor. The meaty pork rib was good. It had a nice amount of smoke, and the meat gave very little resistance as you bite into it. It tasted fine, but I wanted something more from the rub though. The sausage they used was tasty. I got a nice snap from the casing, and the texture was fine. I ate everything off of my tray including the sides. The mac and cheese was cheesy enough, and the coleslaw was crisp and fresh.

After Austin, I think Houston is my second favorite barbecue town in Texas. I might have to move here soon. Add CorkScrew Barbecue to Killen's and Gatlin's and you have a great trio. When I am in the area again, I will give the pulled pork, beef rib, and spicy sausage a try. The loaded baked potatoes were huge and looked awesome. When we were leaving, I noticed another BBQ restaurant in the same shopping center. Pit Master BBQ recently won best barbecue in The Woodlands. I wonder if those that voted for Pit Master had also been to CorkScrew before. Grade: B+

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 24930 Budde Rd, Spring, TX 77380
Phone: (832) 592-1184
Website: http://www.corkscrewbbq.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Corkscrew-BBQ/106714476033357
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CorkscrewBBQ

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bird Dog BBQ

I have only tried barbecue outside of the state of Texas once at this point. We had some pulled pork while we were in South Carolina. I remember it being pretty good. Colorado Springs, Colorado was the destination for a work trip. After I landed, I head straight for Bird Dog BBQ. They had good reviews on Yelp and Google. I went to the original location in Stetson Hills. The owner had worked at a County Line and wanted to open a restaurant that served Oklahoma style barbecue. I did not even know that was a style. The guy there said Oklahoma style is where you order from a counter, have the oak smoked meat cut in front of you, and barbecue sauce is served on the side. That sounds like most places I go to in Texas...

I ordered the three meat plate that came with moist brisket, ribs, hot links and sides of baked bean and coleslaw. When they were cutting the brisket, I saw that the brisket had no bark. I was confused by the whole thing. I know they were using an Old Hickory smoker, but I cannot explain it. Not enough rub or seasoning? Over-trimmed? The brisket was roast beef like, dry and falling apart. You can see the smoke ring, but it had nothing else going on for it. The pork ribs were tender and juicy. They had smoke, but it was light on the rub. The ribs were not bad but were bland and boring. The sausage was the best meat I had, and of course, it is a commercial sausage out of Denver. That is not a good thing. The baked beans with brisket were really good. The coleslaw tasted crisp and fresh.

I knew I was not in Texas anymore when I went to Bird Dog BBQ. It was not terrible, but it was not good either. They had a wasabi style barbecue sauce on the table. It was good and spicy. I am the type that thinks if you need barbecue sauce on your meat, you are probably doing something wrong. But then again, I am only an "expert" on Texas barbecue. Grade: N/A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 5984 Stetson Hills Blvd #200 Colorado Springs, CO 80923
Phone: (719) 596-4900
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bird-Dog-BBQ

Monday, October 20, 2014

Smokey Denmark's Smoked Meats Co.

Smokey Denmark's Smoked Meats Co. is a sausage making and wild game processing facility on the east side of Austin. They have been around for over 50 years and also sells their sausage to the public on-site. I only found out that they existed a few months ago. Shameful. Now they have a BBQ truck to serve smoked meats from. Pitmaster Bill Dumas is on a mission to stake out a piece of the Austin barbecue pie. I stopped by once on a Friday, but they were out of pork ribs. I was not going be foiled again!

This day I ordered my usual Texas trinity of moist brisket, pork rib, and sausage. I also added a link of boudin sausage. The brisket was respectable. Other than the flat being a little chewy, it was cooked well and had decent smoke and bark. I would have like to see a little more rub especially on the bottom of the brisket. The brisket was better than the first time I tried it. They also cut the brisket "correctly" this time by cutting it against the grain instead of with the grain. The rib was meaty with a good flavor. It was a little chewy and hard to bite the meat from bone. For now, the pork ribs are only available on Fridays. The smoked sausage was good and flavorful. It had a good snap, but the texture was what you would expect from a mass produce sausage. I have been on a boudin kick of late. I am trying every single one I run across. At Smokey Denmark's, they use pork shoulder instead of pork liver in the filling. The casing could barely keep the pork and rice mixture contained. It was dynamite. It had a ton of flavor, and being smoked instead of boiled, added a nice finish to it.

I am going to go ahead and add Smokey Denmark's to my rotation. I had a good meal and did not have any issues. I have tried the pulled pork before and thought it was alright, and the jalapeño creamed corn was not bad either. I did not get a chance to try the jalapeño and cheese sausage this time. I am interested in their Tuesday special which is a taco with a choice of pulled pork or brisket. Go check them out. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 3505 E 5th St, Austin, TX 78702
Phone: (512) 385-0718
Website: http://smokeydenmark.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SmokeyDenmark
Twitter: https://twitter.com/smokeydenmark