Monday, February 24, 2014

Ruby’s BBQ

I have been trying to think of my first experience of Texas barbecue. It has to be eating at Ruby's BBQ freshman year of college. I was definitely a late bloomer when it comes to barbecue. I have been trying to make up for lost time of late. I have only eaten at Ruby's twice and both times, I did not like it. I cannot remember why to save my life. This was over 10 years ago mind you.

When it is cold outside, barbecue sounds fantastic. It was still below freezing when I headed out to lunch. I ordered the three meat plate with moist brisket, pork spareribs, and sausage. It came with creamy coleslaw and macaroni and cheese as sides. The brisket was good and tender. Although the oak smoke did do a good job, I wish the brisket had more flavor though. There was not enough salt, and too much fat was trimmed away. The spareribs were on special so I was able to get them right then. If not, you have to wait 20 minutes for them. I guess they normally serve baby back ribs. The ribs were smoky and had a deep red hue like Chinese barbecue. I have noticed that brick pits sometimes do that. The ribs could have use more flavor and were little dry. The sausage was from Elgin which was good of course. The creamy coleslaw was really good. It tasted fresh and was crisp. The macaroni and cheese was different from what you normally get from other places. They use a spiral pasta and was not as cheesy as I would like it to be.

Ruby's BBQ is solid. You get in and out pretty fast. It is no fuss barbecue. I might have to go back and try the baby back ribs and/or pulled pork. I definitely enjoyed Ruby's more now than I did 10 years ago. Ruby's BBQ just celebrated their 25th anniversary. That is a testament to their product especially when they are located by campus. The "Drag" has evolved over the years. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 512 W 29th St, Austin, TX 78705
Phone: (512) 477-1651

Monday, February 17, 2014

Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew

The movie Dazed and Confused was filmed around the Austin area back in the early 90's. The pool hall where Matthew McConaughey's character hangs out at is where Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew is located. The first time I went to Stiles Switch I wore a Franklin Barbecue. The owner saw me and said he had to change that so he hooked me up with a free shirt. The pitmaster, Lance Kirkpatrick, used to work at Louie Mueller Barbecue. With that kind of expertise, you would think Stiles Switch would have decent to good barbecue. Let's find out.

Today I ordered a slice of moist brisket, one pork and beef rib, and a link of sausage. I thought the brisket was kind of dry. The flavor was good, but I felt like something was missing. The pork rib was decent. It was tender but not falling off the bone. It could have used a little bit more smoke. The beef rib was good. Coming from someone who used to work at Louie Mueller, I did not expect anything less. It had a peppery bark going for it. There were three different sausages, and I went with the Switch Original. They had an all-beef one and also a jalapeƱo cheese one. The Switch Original had a good grit, snap, and fat content. It was good, but it was spicy! You have now been warned. I have also tried the macaroni and cheese, potato salad, coleslaw, and beans in prior visits. They were all good.

At Stiles Switch BBQ & Brew, all the meats were solid. I tried the chicken before, and it was tasty. Poultry is one thing I do not order often. Stiles Switch is open for dinner and has a lot of local beers on draft. It is a great place to meet friends for dinner. They are one of very few joints open all day serving up some good 'cue. They are also have a spot on the Texas Monthly's Top 50 List.  "All right, all right, all right" Grade: B

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 6610 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78757
Phone: (512) 380-9199

Monday, February 10, 2014

Pecan Lodge

At this point, I have made it to all but one of the BBQ joints in the top four of the Texas Monthly Top 50. Pecan Lodge has been the elusive one. Amber and I rarely go to Dallas, but this time we had plans to see our friends. This obviously works out for me because I can try Pecan Lodge and maybe another barbecue restaurant in the area or on the way. We were supposed to leave Friday morning, but we ended up leaving Thursday to avoid the winter weather conditions.

I imagine the lines on Friday are not as long as Saturdays which is why we got a jump start on the weekend. I got to Pecan Lodge an hour and ten minutes before opening. They are moving from shed two in the Farmers Market to a new location in Deep Ellum later this year. I was first in line which meant I got to ring the bell when they open. Texas Monthly BBQ editor, Daniel Vaughn, was going to meet up with me for lunch. His agent, David Hale Smith, photographer, Nicholas McWhirter, and his out of town guests also were present.

I ordered the "trough" and two orders of fried chicken to try to feed us. The trough came with one beef rib, a pound of brisket, a pound of pork ribs, a pound of pulled pork, and three links of sausage. The brisket was really good. How good? One of the best I have ever had if not the best. It was smoky, tender, and luscious. The mesquite wood worked well here. Sometimes if not done right, mesquite can make the meat taste bitter. The brisket was very moist and had a great bark. It was on point today. The ribs were good. They were one of the smokiest ribs I have ever had. The sausage was great too. They had a nice pop from the casing and nice flavor. The texture and fat was what I was looking for in a sausage. In Texas, brisket is king so you do not see a lot of pulled pork. The pork here was superb. It was juicy and tasty. I could have eat them all day every day. The beef rib was decent, but it did not do anything for me today. It needed to stay on the smoker a little bit longer to render the fat better. Parts of it were tough and/or chewy. Although the fried chicken did not factor in my review, it was really good. It was juicy and crispy. While we were eating, Justin Fourton, owner and pitmaster, hooked us up with some deep fried ribs. They were very unique. The sauce and breading took away from the ribs though. I am sad I forgot to eat any of the sides of macaroni and cheese and fried okra. I was overwhelmed by the amount of food in front of us. There were a lot of leftovers.

I have read a lot of positive reviews of Pecan Lodge so I was worried that I was in store for a major letdown. There was no letdown here. I was blown away by the brisket and pleasantly surprised by the pulled pork. I only ended up eating at one barbecue joint this trip. It probably worked out because wherever I went might have not lived up to this meal. I want to jump back into the car and drive to Dallas right now. The line was not as bad this day because it was a colder day and a Friday. You might face a long line on the weekends, but this place is worth the trip and wait. You can always play hooky during the week? Grade: A

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Phone: (214) 748-8900

Monday, February 3, 2014

TMBBQ 'Cue Court

Another double post week! I am doing a little tidying up around the blog. I should have posted this months ago. The Peached Tortilla is getting a brick and mortar restaurant soon. I stopped by Miller's Smokehouse on the way back from Dallas recently, but they are closed on Sundays. Bummed.

Texas Monthly is a source to go to when it comes to Texas barbecue. Hiring Daniel Vaughn definitely help further their case. They have their own brand now, TMBBQ. They put on festivals, road trips, dinners, and etc. I was helping out the "BBQ Snob" at the Texas Book Festival. I had no idea that the book festival existed. Obviously I am in no way shape or form a bookworm. TMBBQ was hosting their first 'Cue Court at the festival. Daniel handpicked a few restaurants to serve barbecue for it. They were also giving away a pair of tickets to the sold out TMBBQ Fest.

Blue Ox BBQ was there with their pits. They were not using it for whatever reason. I guess it was just for show. I did not get anything from them this day because what they were offering items off their regular menu.

Two Bros. BBQ Market is from San Antonio. I actually tried to go there recently, but they had run out of meat. It sucked because I ended up at the original Rudy's, and we know how that turned out. They brought a Frito pie with chopped brisket topped with tomatoes and sour cream. It was quite tasty.

Miller's Smokehouse (Belton) and The Peached Tortilla paired up together to serve new twists on barbecue. Miller's brought the smoked meats, and The Peached Tortilla turned them into culinary delights. I ordered the loaded sweet potato fries. It had brisket, bacon jam, cheese, fried egg, and green onions and then drizzled with Sriracha mayo. I am still dreaming about it.

The event seemed like a success. All of the vendors ran out of food late afternoon. I think this event is a great idea. It lets people try different places in one stop and pushes pitmasters to think outside of the box. There is more to barbecue then smoking meat, right? It is a win-win for all of us.

Until next time, happy smoking...

Smoking Pork Ribs

I am going to start a blog series on my adventures in smoking. This week, pork ribs are on the menu.

For my past smoking experiences, I have been using an electric smoker. I felt like I was cheating. I would set the smoker and forget about it. Our gas grill of seven years finally met its grave. My wife and I replaced it with a 3 in 1 grill combo. It has a propane side and a charcoal side. The charcoal side also has an offset smoker box attached it. I was not ready to get a standalone smoker. I was not sure how often I would use. I know we would cook with charcoal quite often. I have never smoked with wood before so this could end up being a challenge.

I wanted to start with something with a shorter cook time. We bought some pork spareribs. We have done ribs before in the electric smoker.

The rub I used contained salt, pepper, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and brown sugar.

Controlling the heat is not very easy. I should have started the fire before I put the ribs on. The temperature was pretty high in the beginning. After that, the fire was a lot easier to manage. You live and learn. The type of wood I used was oak. I sprayed apple juice on the ribs very so often to prevent it from drying out. After a couple of hours, I wrapped up the ribs in foil and added some barbecue sauce.

The ribs ended up turning out okay. They were falling off the bone. They were tender and had nice smoke to it. I used way too much brown sugar. Some of the meat candied. Not a good thing. I also used more barbecue sauce than I should have. The high heat in the beginning charred some of the ribs. If it did not get so hot in the beginning, the time it spent in the smoker would have probably been just right. I made a ton of rookie mistakes. I feel embarassed. There is always next time. There is a lot of trial and error in barbecue. I think smoking a pork butt is next. It is a more forgiving meat.

Amber did make some homemade potato salad. It was really good. It is very comparable to the one you find at The Salt Lick. I definitely was impressed with her "creation."

Until next time, happy smoking...