Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rudy's Country Store And Bar-B-Q (Austin on 360)

I have not been to a Rudy's Country Store And Bar-B-Q in a long time. The last time I went, I had a bad experience. The four Rudy's located in Austin are owned by K&N Management. They also own Mighty Fine Burgers Fries & Shakes. A favorites of mine. The Rudy's off of 360 was one of the first barbecue joints I have eaten at. I remember the food being awesome, but I also had nothing better to compare it to back then. It was also all about the sauce at the time. I could drink that stuff. I really wanted barbecue this day and decided to give the Rudy's name a chance to redeem themselves.

Although it was lunch time and they were busy, the line moved at a brisk pace. I ordered a slice of moist brisket, one pork sparerib, a link of sausage, and a side of creamed corn. Before I sat down, I cleaned my hands in the automatic hand washer. It is a Jacuzzi for your hands and a perk for going to one of the Austin locations. The brisket looked sad but tasted better than it looked. I could not find a smoke ring, but you could taste the smoke in the crusty exterior. The meat was tender but bordering on dry. There was not a whole lot of flavor and could have used more fat. Perfect time to use their sauce. The pork rib had decent smoke and was soft and juicy. The meat gave little resistance to my teeth. The rub was tasty and complemented the meat well. The rib saved this meal. The sausage was solid. There was a nice pop from the casing, and the blend tasted fine. It was a little too greasy. The creamed corn was good as usual. The pickles and onions were free here.

Rudy's Country Store And Bar-B-Q is a good stop if you are in a hurry or need something to eat for dinner. The barbecue is just okay, but there are days it could surprise you. I have had better brisket from here before. Everything on the menu is pretty decent. My wife loves the chopped beef and chicken. The breakfast tacos are pretty good, and they smoke turkeys for the holidays. I have never had the baby back ribs, but you have to order them by the half rack. Someday. Grade: Other

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 2451 S. Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 329-5554
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rudysbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rudysbbq

Monday, December 22, 2014

Kent Black's Barbecue

Black's Barbecue is our favorite BBQ spot in Lockhart. We have had consistently good barbecue every time we go. Manager/Pitmaster Kent Black of the Lockhart location recently opened a place with his namesake in San Marcos. Kent is a third generation pitmaster, and his sons Barret and Eric are also helping him in San Marcos. I have been patiently waiting a couple of months to check them out because I wanted to give them some time to find their stride. My wife and I met up with friends here one evening. It is probably not the best time of the day to go judge the quality of barbecue though. Kent Black's is a huge space with a lot of indoor/outdoor seating to accommodate big parties. There is even a bar area.

Amber and I shared a sliced of moist brisket, a pork rib, a ring of sausage, and a little bit of turkey. We got smoked cabbage, macaroni and cheese, and green beans on the side. I had some Franklin Barbecue for lunch at work on this day so I was not hungry. The smoke on the brisket was nice, and the meat was tender. The brisket was dry, and I thought it also could use a lit bit more flavor. More pepper? I thought the pork rib was good. It was juicy, delicious, and smoky. The sausage was the same one they used in Lockhart. The sausage was good and tasty. The texture of the sausage and the snap from the casing were on point. I have yet to run across a German-style sausage that I do not like. The turkey was mostly for Amber, but I had to sample some. It was a smidgen dry, but it was not bad at all. I would not mind putting that between two slices of bread. The smoked cabbage was different but tasted good. I felt healthy while eating it. The macaroni and cheese hit the spot. I dislike green beans so it was all my wife's.

I try to be as transparent as possible with the blog. I am not getting paid so there is no reason for me to not to be. I could not get good pictures of the outside so I stopped by again during the day. I arrived to Kent Black's shortly after they had opened for the day. I could not pass on getting some brisket. The brisket was less dry than the first time. Besides the salty crust, there was not a lot of flavor after that. There was not a lot of fat left on it.

I would go back to Kent Black's Barbecue. I might have gone there on their off days. The prices are very affordable. I would go back and try the baby back ribs or the huge beef ribs. The first time I ever got beef short ribs was at Black's. I had no idea how big they were and ordered three. My wallet was 80 bucks lighter that day. Hays County BBQ remains as my go-to in San Marcos. Grade: B-

Until next time, happy smoking...

Address: 500 Hull St, San Marcos, TX 78666
Phone: (512) 878-0795
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kentblacksbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KentBlacksBBQ

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hometown Bar-B-Que

Revisited in 2016

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 (Update)

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
(512) 653-1187
Website: https://franklinbarbecue.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/franklinbbq
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FranklinBbq