Thursday, April 30, 2009

Cripple Creek B-B-Q

ATHENS: Cripple Creek B-B-Q
500 S. Palestine

Athens, TX 75751


Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9

This little joint in Athens is known for "Hog Wings", and they are incredible. Petite pork shanks cut to resemble chicken legs are rubbed and smoked to a perfect tenderness and served with a sweet and spicy asian mae poy dipping sauce. The smoky meat didn't need the additional sauce, but they did work well together.

Other meats are offered including the standard brisket and ribs. The gray ribs failed to impress. A hint of smoke could be found in these tender ribs, but a well formed crust was lacking as was any complex flavor. The tender brisket was better with a nice smoke line, and a good smoky flavor. The crust had been nearly removed, so the robust flavor was lacking, but these were solidly good slices. Besides the standards, a great version of hot links that are available. These links have no resemblance to the hot dog like versions found so often elsewhere. The coarsely ground meat had a deep red line below the casing, and a good black pepper kick contributed well to the flavor of these great links.

The sides here all seemed to start right out of the can, but they had all been doctored up a bit to make them Cripple Creek's own. The baked beans had flecks of dried onions, and the potato salad had a good mustardy kick. Service at the tables was also friendly. I was offered a free hog wing as a starter just for asking what they were.

While the brisket and ribs didn't exactly wow us, the hog wings and the hot links were so good we just had to bump up the rating.

Rating ****

And here is the rest of it.
Cripple Creek BBQ on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blowin' Smoke 009: Beef and Pork

I just wanted to share a few great articles that I've come across recently where are friends the pig and the cow are the main subject. The first article is about the science behind butchering a cow, and how those in the butchering biz are trying to find new cuts of beef that may be hidden gems. The article, by Kim Severson, is entitled "Same Cow, No Matter How You Slice it?".

The next article is about a tasty breed of hog that is quickly regaining popularity, not because of its cuddly features, but because of it well marbled meat. Mangalitsa meat is not yet available in stores, but a few chefs are highlighting it on their menus. I can't wait to smoke some.

The final article is from NPR about a class on whole hog butchering. I think I'm going to need a bigger kitchen.

- BBQ Snob

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Monday, April 27, 2009


PLANO: Jasper's
7161 Bishop Rd

Plano, TX 75024


Open M-Thur 11-10, F-Sat 11-11, Sun 11-9

This not an official review, because Jasper's is not a BBQ joint. What they can claim is that they serve one of Bon Appetit Magazine's three best ribs in America along with 17th Street Barbecue in Illinois and the Rendezvous in Memphis. With accolades like that (even if they were from 2007), I just had to go try 'em.

My wife was nice enough to join me for a nice dinner in north Plano on Saturday night. Even in this economy, expensive "backyard" grub is popular with a 1-hour wait required for a table inside. We sat outside, and enjoyed the weather. A full rack of ribs arrived stacked three bones high with a side of baked potato salad. Like any true backyard food, these ribs had been grilled and absolutely drenched in sauce. Scraping some of the sauce away, I inspected the cross-section of the meat for any evidence of smoking, but no smoke line was to be found.

The tell-tale "falling off the bone" tenderness tells me that these ribs had either been parboiled or baked before being thrown on the grill. The resulting flavor was satisfying in the same way that grilled cheese sandwich is satisfying. You can't deny that it tastes good, but it's not complex nor a great example of a food genre. My proclivity to the deeply smoky ribs that emerge from Central Texas smokers may make me a poor judge of this style, but I could hardly say that these are the best ribs in the Metroplex, let alone the nation. With that said, I will certainly make a point to finish the leftovers.

- BBQ Snob
Jasper's on Urbanspoon

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Cowboys Barbeque & Rib Co.

COLLEYVILLE: Cowboys Barbeque & Rib Co.
5220 State Hwy 121
Colleyville, TX 76034


Open M-Thur 11-10, F-Sat 11-11, Sun 11-9

Update 04/2009: This joint is CLOSED. After many trying times and a heap of controversy, Mark Gabrick sold this joint to his new partner Andy Caster, who has a name change in the works. Cowboys will soon become Daddy Joe's, and you can bet that I'll be there to give it a try.

Update 04/2009: I stopped in to try this joint about 6 weeks after their original opening. I was less than impressed on my first visit, but they were just getting started back then and showed some potential. This visit started pleasantly with an offering of some steaming jalapeno cornbread and butter which I enjoyed while waiting for my plate of brisket and ribs.

The pile of brisket was neither sliced nor chopped. The tender moist meat had fallen apart into chunks. Bites with crust were flavorful and smoky, but bites without the crust were a bit roast-beefy. The ribs were the winner here. The meat was deeply red with a substantial crust. A sweet glaze had been applied while smoking, and it added a nice dimension to the overall smoky flavor. The fat was perfectly rendered creating a near silky texture with just enough tooth to it to keep it from being mushy. They were nearly perfect. As with my previous visit, all of the side items were done well. Onion rings and cole slaw were flavorful and fresh. At $14.50, the two-meat plate here is not cheap, but the helpings are large, and I was able to come away with lunch for tomorrow.

One glaring omission on this visit were the words "Great food by Dallas Green" on the sign. The first photo is from February and the second is from April.

It seems Mr. Green is no longer associated with the business, and the food seems to be better for it.

Rating ***

02/2009: Owner Mark Gabrick brought in local BBQ legend Dallas Green, winner of countless national BBQ competitions, to start a brand new (we're talking three days old) BBQ joint in the former Colleyville location of Railhead Smokehouse. Because this joint just opened, I'll cut it a little slack since they need some time to work out the kinks. One of these kinks includes having to haul in a portable smoker to sit in the parking lot until their second smoker arrives in a few weeks. On this busy Sunday afternoon, they were understaffed due to some employee call-ins, but the remaining staff kept up their pace to serve the many customers. I sat at the bar which is designed more for standing than sitting. There's little leg room so my knees bumped against the rough-hewn Austin stone beneath the bar. The beer taps along the bar sat tauntingly as this joint waits for their liquor license, so I ordered an iced tea which wanted for some filtered water.

The menu here gives surprisingly little attention to the traditional BBQ items. Appetizers, salads and steaks seem to be the focus, but as expected, I ordered a plate of brisket, ribs and the waiter recommended sausage. The tender meat of the St. Louis ribs were covered by a dark crust that also hid the layers of fat remaining on the ribs. The meat had a deep red color, and good smokiness with good flavor once the fat was scraped away. The sausage had a medium grind, mild spiciness and a slight snap to the casing. The flavor was pleasing, but lacked complexity. The brisket on the other hand was complexing. The plate arrived with slices so laden with unrendered fat it resembled medium rare bacon. I took a bite for journalistic integrity, then, for the first time in my reviewing career, I sent an item back. The obliging waiter quickly returned with a plate of lean brisket with a delicate crust and moderate smokeline. The slices were moist and tender to the point of falling apart. Outside the crust, the smoky flavor receded into roast beefyness, but the overall flavor was satisfactory. I look forward to a return trip to see if the meat reaches its competition winning potential once this joint's staff and smoker settle in. I also can't wait for a few more of those onion rings.

Cowboys Barbeque & Rib Co. on Urbanspoon

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

BBQ Book Review - Cornbread Nation 2

Title: Cornbread Nation 2: The United States of Barbecue
Author: Various; Introduction by Lolis Eric Elie
Published: 2004 UNC Press

Cornbread Nation is a publication for the Southern Foodways Alliance which is the authority on all things related to southern cooking. In this second installment (they're now up to 4 editions) they've made barbecue their focus. The bold claim on their website is that this book is "the most complete barbecue anthology ever assembled". I think that's quite a stretch for a book with nary a mention of barbecue after page 142 of this 276 page book. The final 22 chapters of this book barely give you a whiff of smoke with stories about waitstaff controversy at Galatoire's in New Orleans, homicide with a frying pan, and a great tribute to one of my favorite foods, boudin, by one of my favorite food writers, Calvin Trillin. Unfortunately, boudin is about as close as you get to BBQ in this final half of the book, unless you count a few mentions of New Orleans barbecued shrimp.

What the second half lacks, the first half more than makes up for with writing sure to make your mouth water, as well as forcing you to consider barbecue in a far deeper context than before. Barbecue from all parts of the south is discussed with articles from traditions as disparite as barbacoa, whole hog cooking, Georgia barbecue, and Memphis Jews trying to overcome the tempation of fragrant smoked ribs. Much of the writing moves beyond just the food like when Robb Walsh delves deep into the role of race in barbecue tradition and competitions in his article "Texas Barbecue in Black and White", while Max Brantley keeps it lighter with his tales of proprietors incensed by his bbq joint reviews in "The Ribs Hit the Fan". I can certainly empathize. John Shelton Reed's article, "Barbecue Sociology" might best exhibit the theme of this collection with his discussion about barbecue traditions and habits all across this country.

A great collection of 'cue articles, stories and poems in the first half of this book is unfortunately sullied with a wholly different collection of southern food writing in the second half. The editor here seems to have either lost their way, or simply run out of material, but any true barbecue fan can no doubt enjoy those first 142 pages of pure 'cue.

- BBQ Snob

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bone Daddy's House of Smoke

DALLAS: Bone Daddy's House of Smoke
8856 Spring Valley
Dallas, TX 75240
Open Sun-Thur 11-11, F-Sat 11-12am

This local chain is known for two things, and they can both be found in a meat market. Hot pants and crop tops hugged tightly to the friendly jail-bait staff, but we had Mrs. Smokemasterone in attendance to keep us in line. She even let Mr. Smokemasterone enjoy a supervised photo-op with our waitress.

The menu at this joint includes a wide variety of barbecue including pulled pork and peppered turkey in addition to the Texas basics. Our table ordered a little bit of everything, so I got to try most every protein offered.

In addition to huge chilled mugs of Shiner Bock, my plate also contained some shiners. That's the term for ribs that are so wanting for meat, you can see the top of the bone shining through. Although they lacked a generous amount of meat, they did have a good amount of flavor. Unfortunately the flavor came mainly from being finished on the grill while being basted with the sweet sauce rather than getting flavor from the smoker. In fact, we couldn't locate a smoker anywhere on site. But then, we may have just been blinded by all the neon.

The rest of the meats were just average with the slightly tough brisket containing a hint of smoke below a decent crust and meager smoke line. The sausage was just above grocery store grade with flecks of red pepper. The turkey was tender and juicy, but that's not hard to do when you start with deli turkey.

A week earlier, I stopped by to grab a "Flying Pig Sandwich" to go. It includes a layer of pulled pork, ham, sausage and bacon all topped by BBQ sauce. The first bite was delicious, with all of the flavors working well together. The bacon was definitely the strongest flavor, but not too strong to cancel out the other meats. After dissecting the sandwich, I sampled each meat seperately. The pulled pork was tender, smoky and the best meat on the sandwich. I described the mediocre sausage earlier, and the flavorless ham wasn't any better.

After trying every smoked meat offered here I felt like I had a good handle on their capabilities, and although the meal was tasty and satisfying, it simply cannot be qualified as high quality 'cue. With a full house nearly every night, there are certainly enough customers who are just here for the view anyway.


Bone Daddy's on Urbanspoon

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Germanfest Barbeque Cook-Off

Michael filled me in on a relevant Texas BBQ cook-off taking place this weekend in the tiny hamlet of Muenster, Texas. The Germanfest Barbeque Cook-Off on April 24th and 25th is open to all comers. As described on the website, the cook-off is "being brought back as a sanctioned event under the Lone Star Barbecue Society. Chicken, Pork Spare Ribs, Brisket and Sausage - $65 one or all. Sausage provided. All entry fees back to cookers. Jackpot Beans - $10 - back to Cookers. For additional information contact Margie Starke at 940.759.2227 or email "

Be sure to stop by either Dieter Brothers or Smokehouse Barbecue as you pass through Lindsay, Texas on your way to Muenster.

-BBQ Snob

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BBQ Shootout Series

A nice lady from the BBQ Shootout Series asked me to promote their event. Unfortunatley for Texas BBQ lovers, the event has already come and gone from the Lone Star State, but all you NASCAR followers have a few more chances.

National Champion Pit Master Mike Davis of Lotta Bull Barbeque in Oklahoma, who is participating in the Shootout Series, is sharing some of his secrets to keep your grill in high demand no matter where you fire-up:
- When cooking larger cuts of meat, always use an indirect heat as a source. Using the direct heat method will char the outside of the meat without allowing the inside to cook properly.
- When grilling, use a "smoker" box of aromatic hardwoods such as mesquite, hickory or pecan to give that distinctive wood smoked flavor.
- Use olive oil or any other cooking oil to coat the surface of vegetables to add crispness and to hold on spices and seasonings.
- Using a spray or baste during cooking will help keep the meat moist and flavorful and will help to keep the meat from drying out during the cooking process.
- A mustard slather can be used to thoroughly coat the meat to help hold spices and seasonings in place during preparation.
- Pay careful attention to pork and poultry when grilling, you must make sure both meats are properly cooked through.
- Always grill in a well ventilated area, away from eaves and overhangs that can trap toxic fumes.

Prilosec OTC BBQ Shootout Series events will take place in the following cities:
Texas Motor Speedway - April 2-5
Richmond International Raceway – April 30-May 2
Lowe’s Motor Speedway - May 21-24
Indianapolis Motor Speedway - July 23-July 26
Bristol Motor Speedway - August 20-22
Atlanta Motor Speedway - September 3 – 6
-BBQ Snob

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dallas Green Arrested!

UPDATE: Dallas Green speaks! Well, not to the BBQ Snob, but there's a new story in Saturday's Star Telegram where Mr. Green tells his side of the Cowboys BBQ saga. It seems that Mr. Green is the one who feels wronged in the situation, and claims that he is owed a pile of money by the Gabricks. More interesting is the possible beginnings of a North Texas BBQ fued not seen since Lockhart in 1998. Dallas Green plans to open his very own joint on the other side of Ft. Worth in tiny Hudson Oaks by June 1. While these two joints are in existence, they will no doubt be linked, and you can bet the BBQ Snob will be headed to Hudson Oaks in June.

DEVELOPING STORY: From a local news website - "DALLAS GREEN, Colleyville PD - Unlawful Carrying Weapon on Alcohol Premises. Charged at 8:13 PM on 4/03/09 by Officer Amy Van Zandt. Tarrant County Appearance Bond; released at 11:35 AM on 4/04/09."

You might be wondering how exactly the snippet above applies to a blog about Texas BBQ. Two months ago I wouldn't have paid any attention to this, but the oddities that have ensued since then have peaked my interest significantly.

Six short weeks ago, I read about a new BBQ joint that had just opened in Colleyville called Cowboys BBQ & Rib Co. From reading the preview articles, it seemed that a competition winning Texas BBQ legend named Dallas Green had offered his name and barbecue expertise to a local proprietor named Mark Gabrick. As part of my 'cue eating duties I decided to go try it out and get a preliminary review. Just one day after reporting my mediocre findings, a mysterious comment from "Anonymous" was posted on the review that read "I am sure this Dallas Green is the same Dallas Green that was convicted of Fraud in Sangamon County, Illinois. He did the same thing there to a family, said he would help a person open a new business and then did not do what he said he would do and did not have the necessary experience to help the owner. The owner had to go to court and there is over a $400,000 judgment for Fraud against him in Sangamon County." However intriguing the claim, I didn't pay much attention to what I thought was some fool trying to cause trouble by using my blog as a vehicle for his far away grudge.

Later that week, the court records of the case referenced above were forwarded to me by the jilted party in Springfield, Illinois. A summary of these court documents shows that Dallas Green entered into a business relationship with ZAM Enterprises in Springfield, Illinois in November of 1998. This relationship quickly soured, and Dallas Green was sued by ZAM for fraud. He was essentially sued for breach of contract. More specifically, the "Defendant misrepresented to Plaintiff and concealed from Plaintiff material facts relating to Defendant's prior experience and ability to perform the promises made in the contract entered into between the Parties." He was then found guilty in 2003, and Mr. Green was asked to pay the defendant more than $400,000 for his troubles.

Fast-forward six weeks from my initial visit, and I was reading the review of Cowboys in the Star Telegram which reminded me that I needed to head back out to Colleyville for a second try now that the kinks had probably been worked out. Considering that reviews as late as March 26th mentioned Dallas Green's involvement with the restaurant, I didn't expect to see Dallas Green's name now missing from the signage when I arrived at Cowboys on April 5th.

February 2009 photo with "Great Food by Dallas Green"

April 2009 photo sans Dallas Green's name

Also gone were all of the newspaper clippings of Dallas Green's BBQ conquests that had previously decorated the walls. I wrote an update to my previous report but remained confused about Dallas Green's recent departure. As I perused a local website, I found that Cowboys had not only had the unfortunate occurrence of a recent theft, but I also found a brief police report about Mr. Green's arrest (quoted above) that showed him being arrested at Cowboys BBQ on April 3rd, just two days before my most recent visit. The Colleyville Police Department provided that a call was placed to the police on April 3rd where a complainant stated that Dallas Green was on his way to Cowboys to cause some trouble. A squad car was sent, and Mr. Green was arrested for carrying a weapon into a bar.

The current owner of Cowboys BBQ wishes not to comment on the subject, and Dallas Green is also mum, but there can no doubt be a connection to his recent arrest and the removal of his name and associated paraphernalia. It is unknown if the there will be a name change to the establishment considering the current owner's affinity for the name Hogfather, but I do know that a less pricey lunch menu has already been implemented. If you'd like to help fill those newly empty walls, you can answer Mr. Gabrick's call to interested artists on Craigslist.

- BBQ Snob

A few more details can be found in today's article in the Star Telegram.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Eddie Deen's Ranch

DALLAS: Eddie Deen's Ranch
944 South Lamar
Dallas, TX 75202
Open for Events Only

The only way to try this joint just south of the Dallas Convention Center is to attend and event at the Ranch, or go to an Eddie Deen catered event. Deen boasts presidential clients, so I was excited when I was invited to a political event at the ranch. My first impression of the decor was Texas kitch. Sadly, the fake old west main street facades inside must be what defines "Texas" to too many out-of-town conventioneers. The line snaked around to buffet tables full of cole slaw, potato salad, brisket, sausage and chicken. I sampled a bit of each meat, and none were a standout. The chicken was moist and tender, but had just a touch of smoke flavor, and not much else. The sausage was straight grocery store grade, and barely deserves a mention. Brisket wasn't terrible and requires a caveat. Brisket is best sliced just before it reaches your plate, but in a catering environment, brisket needs to be sliced ahead of time for quick serving. This creates dry slices, but this can be overcome with superior flavor. These dry slices were missing that superior flavor, along with any smokiness, even in the crust. The texture was a bit tough, and the slices just weren't very enjoyable. My guess is that the fanfare is due to the fact that Eddie Deen can cook up decent, if not great BBQ for a huge crowd, and not many folks can do that. Just don't expect exceptional 'cue if you're invited to the Ranch.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Smokey John's Bar-B-Que

DALLAS: Smokey John's Bar-B-Que
3909 Gaston Ave.
Dallas, TX 75246

Open M-F 10:30-3:30

Smokey John's location on Gaston is hopping these days. There was a line 6 people deep (many in scrubs from nearby Baylor Hospital) when I arrived at 12:45, and a line nearly to the door when I left at 1:15. No worries from the staff, the service was friendly as always. The brisket, however, was a bit disappointing. I asked for some good crusty pieces, and the few that I received were tender, smoky, and flavorful. The slices I got from the fat end of the brisket were moist, but they were tough to chew and lacked smokiness.

The sausage had no unique flavors, but a bold black pepper flavor and good smokiness made them very enjoyable. What I savored here were the ribs. They have a slightly sweet rub, a well formed crust, and a deep red color that ran all the way to the bone. The smokiness went through the tender meat that required just a tug to release from the bone. I licked those bones clean. The sides were satisfying if a bit pedestrian, but a 3-meat plate for $9.95 means they're really keeping prices low.

Rating ***
Smokey John's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Texas Best Smokehouse

ITALY: Texas Best Smokehouse
1022 Dale Evans Dr

Italy, TX 76651

M-Thur 10-9, F-Sun 10-10

This roadside oasis along I-35E just 45 minutes south of Dallas advertises their beef jerky on billboards for miles along the interstate, but I had heard that they offer up some decent 'cue as well. After maneuvering the packed parking lot, we walked in to find a mini mart of ironically mega proportions. They sell everything from sodas and snacks to t-shirts and belt buckles, along with the aforementioned bevy of dried meats and BBQ at a small counter marked by a large red arrow. I ordered a two meat plate of brisket and ribs with mac & cheese and sauteed squash. The sides were both very good for a gussied up gas station, but the meats were just so-so. The brisket was tender but dry with little smoky flavor, and it was a bit chilly. The buttery tender ribs were better with a decent red crust and a hint of smokiness, but the unrendered fat needed to be picked through.

After dining, we perused the huge jerky counter trying samples of exotic dried meats. We settled on a chewy peppered buffalo jerky with a robust spice and meaty flavor. After trying both, I'd highly recommend you make this stop for jerky, but skip the BBQ unless you're really hankerin' for some ribs.

Rating **

Shell Texas Best Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Gonzales Food Market

GONZALES: The Gonzales Food Market
311 Saint Lawrence St
Gonzales, TX 78629
Open M-F 8-6, Sat 7-6

The Food Market on the historic square of Gonzales, Texas is part BBQ joint and part convenience store. Pass through the glass door and you'll hear a hum of activity as you walk towards the large glass faced cases that display the plethora of smoked meats available. Behind the counter to take your order will most likely be Richard Lopez, the third generation owner. (A great oral history of the joint from Mr. Lopez himself can be found here.) This joint was our eighth stop of the day, so we were doing well to fit any more meat in our stomachs. I'd heard from so many sources that this joint was good, but it's never made it into the heralded Texas Monthly Top 50, so I was skeptical.

I swore to my companions that I would order the minimum required to get a taste, but the prominently displayed meats and the delightful aromas changed all that. I ordered a plate of sliced brisket, spare ribs and sausage. I finally got to snap a shot of the brisket after we'd polished off most of the other was that good.

A crispy, almost candy crust coated the brisket. The texture was as if the meat had dried out, but these slices were perfectly moist and tender with perfectly rendered fat. The crust's flavor was also smoky, as was each slice from top to bottom. We later learned from a clipping on the wall that the crust was formed by smoking the briskets in a pan that captures the rendered fat and juices. The brisket is then seared in this pan during the cooking process to get that wonderful crust. The ribs were equally as good, if not as complex. There was little rub, but the wonderfully smoky flavor ran through the moist, if not incredibly tender meat. Each bite just made me want another despite the lack of gastric real estate. The sausage was run-down-your-chin juicy (fatty) with lingering heat not reminiscent of anything else in the area. The meat had a fine grind, and the casings had good snap. Of the joints tried on this day, Gonzales Food Market was the only place that nailed every meat. This joint should be considered a must try for anyone traveling the Central Texas BBQ trail, and how it has never cracked the Top 50, I can't begin to know.

Rating *****
Gonzales Food Market on Urbanspoon

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Novosad's Market

HALLETTSVILLE: Novosad’s Market
105 La Grange St.

Hallettville, TX 77964


Open Tues-W & Sat 8-3, Thur 8-5, F 8-6

Novosad's is a family run joint with a husband and wife team working the store. They've been in the Texas Monthly Top 50, and they want you to know it by way of a painted mural that runs the length of the building. Inside mounted deer heads watch over chile pepper covered table cloths and a Texas tile floor pattern. A small stereo sits in the corner on the freezer and plays country music.

I placed an order for spare ribs, mutton ribs and sliced brisket. Mutton ribs are a rare menu item, so I had to give them a try. These are not to be confused with lamb, as lamb is a young sheep (less than a year old) and mutton is an older sheep. The ribs were smoky, very fatty and tender, but the age gave it a much gamier flavor than I was expecting. I'm sure they would have tasted fine to a connoisseur, but the flavor wasn't exactly addictive to this reviewer. A dark crust and a deep red smoke line encircled the slices of brisket, but these smoky morsels were sliced with the grain leaving them a bit chewy. The fat also needed more time in the smoker to properly render. If you're looking for something addictive, head straight towards the spare ribs. They had a scant rub, but a great red crust, and rosy meat throughout. The bites of juicy pork were tender, smoky and spectacular.

I've been told the sides here are worth writing home about, but on this day, we were on a meat only mission. I'm just glad I have an excuse to return and sink my teeth into another rib...pork rib, that is.

Rating ***
Novosad BBQ & Sausage Market on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Red Hot & Blue

DALLAS: Red Hot & Blue
9810 N Central Expy
Dallas, TX 75231


Open S-Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-10

Beauty is only skin deep, and the meat at Red Hot & Blue proves that cliche. The Dallas location of this popular national chain was busy on a Thursday night. This is technically Memphis style 'cue (and ironically founded in Virginia), but it's a BBQ joint in Dallas, so I tried it. It felt like they were expecting me when I found a 5 meat sampler plate with no sides for only $11.49. The friendly waitress brought out a plate heaping with sliced brisket, dry rubbed Memphis style ribs, pulled pork, turkey breast, and sausage. The finely ground sausage was bursting with flavor. Specks of black pepper complimented the lean links, and the casings had a decent snap. The turkey was the best item on the plate. A deeply smoky flavor permeated the crusty slices of real turkey breast. The rest of the meats personified the skin deep beauty mentioned earlier. The ribs had a good looking dark crust with a generous powder rub. Unfortunately the ribs were dry with little flavor outside of the crust. The picture perfect brisket had a similar problem. Though it was nicely moist and tender, and bites without crust were simply lacking flavor of any sort. The dry, tasteless pulled pork was by far the worst offering. Even the flecks of dark and rosy crust added nothing. I needed to resort to dunking it in the smoky sweet sauce that came on the side. I'm not sure which of the four sauce offerings it was, but it was tasty enough. I would definitely come back here for the sausage and turkey, but the key to good Texas 'cue is the brisket and ribs, and in those categories this joint is just average.

Rating **
Red Hot & Blue on Urbanspoon

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Pit Stop BBQ

Corner of Hwy 95 & NW 4th
Smithville, TX 78957
Open Sat 11-?

Caddy corner from Zimmerhanzel's is a large portable smoker and a trailer decorated with a giant Texas flag. Inside the trailer, Ralph was trying to get things squared away for what he hoped would be a busy day. He officially opens at 11:00, but we were persistent enough to get three large sliced brisket sandwiches at 10:30. Meat was piled high on a bun and covered with a thick, sweet, and spicy sauce. The thick slices were moist, but not incredibly tender. My guess is that it was supposed to rest for another half hour before being served so I'll let that slide. The few additional moments of mastication required by the smoky protein was anything but unpleasant. The flavors were intense and unique from a mixture of oak and mesquite smoke, and the crust added to the robust smokiness found throughout the meat. Ralph suggested that he and Zimmerhanzel's were friendly, but at its peak, this meat may be able to give their more established neighbors a run for their money.

Rating ***

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Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que

SMITHVILLE: Zimmerhanzel’s Bar-B-Que
307 Royston (Hwy 95)

Smithville, TX 78957


Open M-Sat 8:30-5

December 23, 2008 to February 5, 2009 were the longest six weeks in the history of Smithville, Texas. This setting for the movie "Hope Floats", was full of folks hankering for Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que, but their purveyors, Bert and Dee Dee Bunte, had called it quits after years of working the pits. After countless kinds words of sadness about their closing, they decided to reopen to the relief of many. When we visited the restaurant was nearly empty minus the furry creatures keeping us company. As we ate we realized that nearly everyone got their meat to go, and most of them were ordering heaps of meat that required large cardboard boxes to carry out the door. By the time we left, there as a line nearly to the door.

Brisket, ribs and sausage were once again on the menu for us. Fat dripped from the moist all-beef sausage. Flecks of pepper added a kick to the smokiness, and the texture of this coarsly ground meat and hearty casing was satisfying. The tender moist ribs were huge and meaty. A deep red color ran throughout the smoky meat which was covered by a dark red crust and a heavy salt and pepper rub. The brisket was also moist and tender with a substantial smoke line and deep smokiness despite a measly crust. This wasn't a bad bite on the plate.

After our meal, I took a look around back at the smokers. Bert then came out and offered to show me around inside where the smaller everyday pits are kept. He refers to the pits outside as his weekend pits as they're only required on their busiest day, which is Saturday.

At the end of our experience at Zimmerhanzel's we realized why everyone had missed it so much and were grateful that it was still around for us to enjoy.

Rating *****

Zimmerhanzel's Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

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Best BBQ in Dallas

Given my immense barbecue knowledge, I'm often asked by family, friends and strangers "where is the best BBQ in Dallas?" The short answer is that the third largest city in Texas (remember San Antonio just jumped us) we are short on great 'cue. The long answer points to some of the hidden gems of Dallas BBQ. None of these joints would hold their own with the best that the state has to offer, but they might hold a candle in their individual categories.

Best Ribs - Big Al's Smokehouse
Best Brisket - Back Country BBQ
Best Sausage - Any place that serves Rudolph's sausage
Best Meat Overall - Smokey John's
Best Sides and Atmosphere - Baby Back Shak
Best Chain - Pappas BBQ (Sorry you Rudy's lackeys)
Most Consistent Quality - Baker's Ribs
Favorite Overall for no particular reason - Mac's Barbecue

Please discuss...

- BBQ Snob

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Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.