I'm making it my personal mission to single-handedly eat my way across the nation, one delicious animal at a time.

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que (Kansas City, KS)




It may be touristy, but Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que is one of the big names in smoked meat. In fact, Anthony Bourdain, R.I.P., listed it as one of thirteen places to eat before you die. This famous joint has youthful new rivals on both the KC and MO sides, such as Q39 and Slap's, but I came to Kansas City for Joe's.


Their original "gas station" location actually does still have functional gas pumps, although I'm sure that barbecue is the bigger draw. I anticipated a line for Saturday dinner hours, but not to the degree that I found. At 6:30pm, there were easily sixty people between me and the front door. After twenty minutes, I called Joe's from the outside just to see what the wait time would be on a to-go order. Even that would have been another forty-five minutes, so I figured I might as well stick to the plan and dine in. Around 7:15pm I finally made it indoors, where I waited another forty-five minutes before even ordering. Geez, I hoped this place would live up to the hype.


While in line, I noticed an advertised special called the "Hogamaniac Dinner." Pulled pork, sausage, two ribs, and two sides. I briefly considered this porky combo, but people don't come to Joe's for the sausage. They come for the ribs and The Z-Man sandwich, so that's what I did. I grabbed a half-slab dinner with Kansas caviar and a Z-Man on the side.



If you're like me, you have no idea what "Kansas caviar" is. Well, best I could tell, it's a colorful mix of edamame, corn, shredded carrots, roasted red peppers, and pickled onions with some sort of a sweet, lime vinaigrette. In short, the caviar was crisp and vibrant. I absolutely loved the pickled onion, which is where most of the flavor came from. This side dish would have been perfect served alongside a big bag of tortilla chips.

My ribs looked amazing, to say the least. They had a beautiful dark red crust and a very evident smoke ring. There was also plenty of visible seasoning, so I knew that I was in for a treat. I tasted a great saltiness with hints of pepper, which is what I would describe as "competition-style" seasoning. The ribs were tender, juicy, wonderfully smoky, and excellently cooked. I don't have one single negative thing to say about them.

The Z-Man has a mysterious, nondescript name, but don't let that scare you away. This bad boy is piled high with brisket, melted provolone cheese, and two crispy onion rings on a Kaiser bun. Yum! The super crunchy onion rings were a perfect compliment to the savory, smoky brisket, and the cheese just tied it all together perfectly. The brisket itself was very tender, particularly in its thin-sliced form. I'm not normally a fan of barbecue sauce, especially with my beef, but Joe's semi-sweet sauce worked well here.

Was Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que the best I've ever eaten? No, to be blunt. But it was extremely good and probably worth the hour-and-a-half wait.

UPDATE (September 13, 2018): I found myself perusing Joe's website, and I stumbled across a new sandwich: The Rocket Pig. This hunk of deliciousness comes with pulled pork, bacon, fried jalapenos, pepper jack cheese, and a sweet-hot barbecue sauce. If I'm ever back in Kansas City, I'll definitely have to do a little compare and contrast with The Rocket Pig versus The Z-Man. I can't wait!

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Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que
3002 W 47th Ave
Kansas City, KS 66103
(913) 722-3366
https://www.joeskc.com/

Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

BobbyD's Merchant St. BBQ (Emporia, KS)




BobbyD's Merchant St. BBQ was a last-minute addition to the itinerary for Day Two of my fabulous barbecue roadtrip. I was already passing through Emporia, Kansas, and my next planned stop was open until 10:00pm, so there really wasn't any harm in it.


Inside, it's a much different feel than the diminutive storefront would let on. I expected a cramped deli-type place. Nope. The main dining room is a decent size, with more of a small town diner feel to it. Most of the decor is centered around the Old West and Barney Fife, while the menu and website feature a hip pig in baggy jeans and sunglasses. I'm not sure why, but it is what it is.


This joint has a "Meat Trio +1" menu item that's described as "a healthy sampling of smoked meats." Perfect, just what I wanted. As its name implies, the combo comes with your choice of three meats plus one rib. I picked brisket, burnt ends, and pulled pork as my three, plus cheesy potatoes as my one side dish. After all, it's apparently their house specialty.


I received a large scoop of shredded potatoes. Truth be told, they don't look like much, but they were definitely cheesy and definitely delicious. House specialty, indeed.

The brisket came sliced razor thin, with only a slight smoke ring and no bark. I tasted a mild smokiness, as well as some surprisingly sweet undertones. What fat there was hadn't really been rendered much at all. Nonetheless, the brisket was tasty in its own right, even if it was better suited for a hoagie sandwich.

Next up was the pulled pork, which was tender but had about as much smoke as the brisket. No bark here either, and it could have used more salt. That being said, the pork was nice and juicy, there just wasn't a lot to it.

The burnt ends weren't so much burnt ends as much as they were shredded hunks of the fatty brisket that my slices should have been. I tasted the same sweet sauce here, too. There was some evidence of a smoke ring, and a moderate smoky flavor. At least their smoke level is consistent across the board, so that's something to be proud of I suppose. The meat was decently tasty, but I wasn't too partial to the sugary glaze.

My one rib turned out to be two, which I was able to completely pull apart by hand. They were tough, sort of dry, and definitely overcooked. Weirdly enough, the charred crust left a burned taste in my mouth, rather than the normal pit flavor that I know and love. I think somebody needs to clean the smoker better.

BobbyD's Merchant St. BBQ was ok, and they certainly do some things well, just not enough of them to be more than average. This place is probably closer to a two and a half, but since I don't do half-star ratings, I'll call it a three and move on. After all, I did show up mid-afternoon, and at its peak freshness the barbecue there might be better anyway.

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BobbyD's Merchant St. BBQ
607 Merchant St
Emporia, KS 66801
(620) 342-1990
https://www.bobbydsbbq.com

Bobby D's BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pig In! Pig Out! BBQ (Wichita, KS)




My original plan for Wichita was to stop at Bite Me BBQ, which was supposed to have some of the best 'que in that part of Kansas. But then I pulled up their website and was aghast at the prominent "fine print" rules:

  - All kids must stay seated with an adult at all times.
  - No unattended kids at the condiment table.
  - If you ask for extra of something you'll be charged extra.
  - No ordering off of the catering menu for dine-in customers.
  - If you get a catering order you can't eat any of it inside the restaurant.
  - $2.00 upcharge to share a plate with someone.
  - Menu prices may be changed without notice.

All of these strict, librarian-esque rules were a real turnoff, even though none of them applied to me today. Barbecue is supposed to embody a relaxed "low and slow" attitude, and relaxed this place is not. So forget that crap, I decided to try my luck at the nearby Pig In! Pig Out! BBQ instead.


This joint is a little skimpy in the decor department, unless you count awards, in which case they're loaded up. Pig In! Pig Out! is altogether quiet and unassuming, with few frills of any kind. The lunch run had long since ended, so I pretty much had the place to myself. But I actually appreciated the peacefulness of it after being on the road for a few hours.


I ordered up a 4 Meat Sampler Dinner to try as much of their food as possible. Brisket, pulled pork, hot links, and ribs would do nicely for the meats, and I picked pasta salad and peach cobbler as my two sides. Dessert for a side? Because I could, that's why.


The pasta salad was fairly heavy on the mayo, to the extent that I couldn't really taste much else. Tri-color rotini pasta was a nice choice though, as were the black olives.

My brisket didn't look all that spectacular, with the bark pretty well removed. The thick, lean slices crumbled at each prod, but upon closer inspection they weren't really overcooked, so I'm not sure what the issue was exactly. I found the beef to be pleasantly smoky and rather tender, it just wasn't my style, as I prefer fatty bark-laden brisket.

Conversely, the pork looked much more inviting than the brisket, and it was tastier, too. There were certainly plenty of smoke-colored pieces to go around, although not much bark here either. Most of the pork was tender and juicy, but a few bites were drier than others. I tasted a moderate amount of smoke and little seasoning other than some salt, which was just fine by me.

The hot link's red casing matched its fiery interior perfectly. The casing was crisp with a good snap, and the coarse-ground meat inside had plenty of pepper throughout. I didn't purchase a drink to go with my meal, but the heat level at play here made me wish that I had. To be honest, I couldn't taste much more than heat, though perhaps that's the point of a hot link.

While the rest of my plate ranged from passable to mediocre, the ribs were really, really good. The salt and spices of the crust hit me right away, followed by a lingering smokiness. Juicy and succulent pork came away cleanly from the bone with each bite. The smoke ring didn't extend much below the crust, but I'll take flavor over appearance any day.

The cobbler was a bit doughy and chewy for my liking. On the plus side, the peaches were nice and sweet, and I always love the combination of fruit and brown sugar. I think some more cinnamon would have been nice though, as would a crunchy streusel topping.

Your best bet at Pig In! Pig Out! BBQ is to just get a rack of ribs and be done with it.

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1003 E 13th St N
Wichita, KS 67214
(316) 263-7474
https://www.pipobbq.com

Pig In! Pig Out! Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Burn Co. Barbeque (Tulsa, OK)




Apparently Burn Co. Barbeque is pretty popular amongst Tulsa locals and tourists alike. When I pulled up at 10:00am, a full half-hour before opening time, there were already a handful of hungry people waiting by the door. That line grew to over three dozen by 10:30am. It's not the kind of crowd you'd expect for Franklin's in Austin, but impressive nonetheless. I'd have been closer to the front if six people hadn't cut their way into "saved spots." Grrr!


I absolutely loved the vibe here. Their huge barbecue-themed murals were awesome and appropriate. Smoke filled the air like someone had just shut off a fog machine. Fun music and enthusiastic employees also added to the ambiance. If you're in the mood to cook your own food instead, Burn Co. has a meat counter full of fresh cut steaks, sausages, jerky, and more. In short, this place was entirely excellent.



There was one menu item that I knew would be part of my meal, regardless of what else I ordered: The Fatty. Bacon wrapped around ground sausage wrapped around ground-up hot links wrapped around more ground sausage wrapped around a smoked sausage link. It's like some glorious pork-filled barbecue turducken. As filling as that sounds on its own, you can also get The Fatty as part of an off-menu "Happy Plate." This three-pound plate of deliciousness will run you over $40.00, but you get to sample all of their meats: brisket, pulled pork, smoked bologna, chicken, ribs, several kinds of sausage, and of course The Fatty. How could I possibly resist??? If that isn't enough, you also get two sides, so I snagged a little mac and cheese and grilled potato salad. Their gluttonous platter also comes with two drinks, so clearly it's meant to share, but I just took that as an opportunity to double-fist some strawberry Fanta.


Grilled potato salad sounded pretty unique, and in fact it was. I found hunks of grilled peppers and onions laced throughout the crispy homefry-style potatoes. That alone was good enough, but then lo and behold, bacon! It was more akin to a breakfast hash, but scrumptious either way. The mac and cheese was piled high with big, creamy shell pasta. And what did I find underneath? More bacon. I liked this place a lot.

Burn Co.'s brisket comes chopped, not sliced, and it also comes pre-sauced. But despite my preconceptions, it was super good. There was a slight spiciness and a definite smokiness. Crisp bark was intermixed in each bite of the incredibly tender beef. Even in its chopped form you could still see the smoke ring.

The chicken drumstick was almost black and oozed smoke, a rarity for barbecue chicken. Crisp skin on top and juicy meat beneath was a perfect combination, and each part was seasoned very nicely. I did notice some hints of sweetness on the skin that were particularly enjoyable.

My giant heap of pulled pork was very moist and carried a great smoke level. There was also smoke-kissed bark throughout, which made things extra savory and added a crunchy texture to the tender meat. There was no sauce on the pork, and it definitely didn't need any. I had to force myself to stop eating it.

There were two kinds of sausage on my plate: a regular variety and their spicy "lava link." The plain sausage was a coarse-ground homemade link, full of black pepper and full of flavor. The casings popped with each bite, and that's something I always appreciate. The hot link was good too, although I preferred its companion. My first bite of the spicy sausage wasn't too bad, giving me a false sense of security. The second bite, however, lingered in the back of my throat for several minutes, making me tear up a little.

The meat on my pork ribs went up a solid inch above the bone, if not more. There was a beautiful rosy crust covered in a great peppery rub. The meat was very juicy and packed tons of smoke. Neither under nor overcooked, these Goldilocks ribs were just right.

Bologna, aka Oklahoma prime rib, isn't one of my usual barbecue selections. But when it's done well, it's superb. And this bologna, my friends, was done very well. I found it surprisingly smoky with a crisp, nicely charred skin. Unlike most other meats which mostly retain their own natural flavors, the bologna had soaked up all of the gloriousness that the pit had to offer.

Finally, it was time for the coup de grace: The Fatty. Most of the main flavors at work were similar to a semi-spicy breakfast sausage. There was also a touch of barbecue sauce here and there that jazzed things up nicely, and there was plenty of smoke to go around. The Fatty was definitely an interesting addition to my lunch, though more of a novelty than something I'd order regularly. Either way, I'm glad that I ate it.

In the end, I needed three big to-go containers to house all of my Burn Co. Barbecue leftovers, which I joyfully looked forward to finishing in the coming week.

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Burn Co. Barbeque
1738 S Boston Ave
Tulsa, OK 74119
(918) 574-2777
http://www.burnbbq.com

Burn Co Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sideways (Rockwall, TX)




Dallas was a great home to my wife and I for many years, and while I'm always ready for a nostalgic visit, I don't have the slightest desire to fight its horrendous traffic anymore. A barbecue joint called Sideways opened up shop a few months ago on the East side of Lake Ray Hubbard, and since eating there meant that I could bypass most of the gridlock, it didn't take much convincing to make this my scheduled DFW dinner run.


Sideways has the fun atmosphere that you'd expect from a harbor restaurant. They have a nice bar area, big screen TVs, and a huge outdoor patio. But since it was 100 degrees even with full cloud cover, I took a seat in the air conditioning. There was sort of an upscale rustic motif going on here with a splash of farmhouse sheik, which I liked it, and considering how busy they were, so did everyone else. A small stage area for live music was being set up, but I would likely be gone by the time that got rocking.


I ordered myself a 3 Meat Plate of brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork. Upon selecting brisket, the waitress immediately asked for my preference of fatty or lean. Now that's my kind of place! Naturally I picked the fatty beef, but I'm sure their lean cut is good, too. I also made sure to snag some of their baked hatch chili mac and cheese as my one side dish. Oh, hatch chilies, how I've missed you.


Large shell pasta was a welcome change from basic elbow macaroni. The mac was creamy and cheesy, with a nice bite from the peppers. Cheese and spice complimented each other nicely. This was a really enjoyable side dish, and I made sure to take some leftovers with me so that I could enjoy it again.

The brisket had a deep black crust with a small red smoke ring beneath. Its big fatty layer along the bottom could have stood a wee bit more rendering, but it tasted great and melted in my mouth. A good amount of salt and black pepper in each bite was all the seasoning this needed. The thick slices were very smoky and not the slightest bit dry.

Their pork had the appearance and taste of meat that's been tossed in sauce. At least it was a vinegary one rather than the overly sweet variety. I caught hints of spiciness here and there, as well as a nice smoke level. The pork was sufficiently tender and juicy, though not really the pulled pork I had wanted.

My ribs looked fantastic! Coarse black pepper coated the ruby red crust, which extended deep below the surface. They were super moist, incredibly juicy, and wonderfully smoky. The meat stayed put until each successive bite, but then pulled off the bone with little more than a slight tug. In short, they were cooked perfectly.

If the pulled pork had been up to snuff, and the brisket slightly better, Sideways would certainly be a five-star barbecue joint. But even as is, this place is worth a visit.

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Sideways
2067 Summer Lee Dr
Suite 105
Rockwall, TX 75032
(469) 769-1551
https://sidewaysbbq.com

Sideways Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Scholl Bros. Bar-B-Que (Paris, TX)




My darling wife persuaded me to add another day to my planned barbecue roadtrip, and who am I to turn that down? I think she intended me to spread out my existing itinerary, but instead I just added on more barbecue. So, before venturing into Oklahoma, I decided to first head West toward Paris, Texas to check out Scholl Bros. Bar-B-Que.


The parking lot was a veritable ghost town at 4:00pm. I wasn't even sure that Scholl Bros. was open for business, especially since their neon sign was off. But, needing a break from the road, I checked anyway. Good thing that I did. This joint screams "small town," from the rustic tin ceiling to the deer heads scattered about. More so than many places I've visited, I felt at home here.


Scholl's offers a four-meat/no sides sampler plate for just $18.00. You can get a version of this magnificent platter with three side dishes for a mere $2.00 more, but I was feeling carnivorous today. I took my meaty combo with brisket, ribs, pulled pork, and sausage. The guy generously threw in a free drink since I bought a solid pound of meat.


I received lean slices of brisket, but there was still a good line of fat to be had. There was also a perfect rosy smoke ring, matched by a mild smokiness. Their brisket is seasoned with just the right amount of salt and pepper, which allowed the natural beefiness to shine equally alongside the smoke.

Beautiful smoke-kissed bits and a well-seasoned layer of charred bark stood front and center in my pile of pork. It was tender and nicely smoked. In fact, the pork was noticeably smokier than the brisket. I wouldn't have dreamed of adding sauce, and it certainly didn't need any.

Scholl's sausage didn't strike me as being homemade, which is always a shame, especially from small town barbecue. The crisp casing had a great snap. I could only taste minimal smoke, but that's to be expected with sausage generally, especially the store-bought stuff.

The ribs came out lightly sauced. They also came with the membrane still intact, so I had to work a little bit to avoid that. I easily pulled the meat completely off with my fingers. Either the ribs were cooked too long or they sat under the warming lights too long, I'm not sure which. The sauce was too sweet for my liking, particularly for Texas barbecue.

A few other hungry folks showed up by the time I climbed back into my truck. Scholl Bros. Bar-B-Que probably does very well in Paris, but they need a little work to really hang with the big boys.

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Scholl Bros. Bar-B-Que
1528 Lamar Ave
Paris, TX 75460
(903) 739-8080
http://www.schollbrosbbq.net

Scholl Brothers Bar Bq Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fatboys Killer Bar-B-Q (Little Rock, AR)




Fatboys Killer Bar-B-Q is one of those barbecue joints that pretty much requires an intentional trip. You're not likely to just stop by there on a whim unless you live or work in the general vicinity. The only time I've been out that way before was to pick up some maple and poplar for a woodworking project. But today, I came for the 'que.


I found Fatboys housed in a small retail strip, with an auto parts store seeming to be the main attraction. Peach-colored curtains were fully drawn across the big copper-tinted windows, giving it the appearance of a shady "massage parlor." Despite the "open" sign in the window, I was a little unsure that they were actually open for business, but I tried anyway and found the door unlocked.

Inside, it's a much different ballgame. Fatboys is decorated with more knickknacks than I figured you could squeeze into a small room. They also devote a fair amount of space to their various barbecue competition trophies and awards. Some other reviewers have described the place as having a biker bar feel to it, but if the term "good old boy" means anything to you, that's probably more accurate.


The menu here is a pretty standard array of sandwiches and platters. I'm glad I inquired further, because Fatboys does offer an off-menu combo plate that gets you a couple of ribs and another meat of your choice. Naturally, I took some sliced brisket to go with my ribs, as well as their "tator salad" and "Maxine and cheese" for my two sides.


My potato salad was mayo-based and came with plenty of spud skins. It was rich and creamy, and I enjoyed it more than a lot of other potato salads that I've come across, which tend to be too heavy on the mustard for my liking. The macaroni and cheese, on the other hand, was pretty basic. It was thoroughly cheesed, but lacked anything meaningful.

I could immediately tell that the brisket and I would not be friends. The thick slices crumbled apart with very little effort. They were also really dry and a little tough to chew. I tasted a slight smokiness but barely any salt or other spices. The bark wasn't very bark-ish, although it did contain more smoke than the rest of the slice, so that was a plus I suppose.

The small-bone ribs didn't look all that appetizing either. They were a little juicier than the brisket but still on the dry side. Not much smoke to be found here either, and about as much seasoning. I could see the dry rub sprinkled on the crust, such as it was, but I couldn't taste it.

Fatboys Killer Bar-B-Q ended up disappointing me on several fronts. My suspicion is that their barbecue hangs out in warming trays for quite a while after it comes off of the pit, or possibly even gets reheated. I can't say for certain, but that's my working theory. The staff here was very friendly, and that's when it always pains me to write a negative review, especially for a small business. But sadly, Fatboys just isn't that good.

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Fatboys Killer Bar-B-Q
14611 Arch St
Little Rock, AR 72206
(501) 888-4998

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Moe's Original Bar-B-Que (Destin, FL)

As you might expect, seafood is by far the main draw in and around Destin, Florida. But there is some good barbecue to be found in that area as well, and my favorite spot has been Buck's Smokehouse. Sadly, as we rolled into town for our annual family vacation, my eyes became a little teary at seeing that Buck's was no more. In its place now stands the sixty-second location of Moe's Original Bar-B-Que. I have a general disdain for chain barbecue, and in my experience it's rarely more than mediocre. That said, I haven't tried Moe's before, and I'm always willing to give a barbecue joint a fair shake, no matter how big or how small.


We asked the girl at the counter what happened to Buck's, since this appeared to be a fairly recent change. She looked a little hesitant to answer, and simply said, "Buck decided that he didn't want to have a restaurant anymore. He's been trying to sell it for a while." I'm not sure that I completely buy that explanation, but it is what it is. Everything here is nearly identical to Buck's, except the name and the menu. I took a picture for posterity's sake, although I probably didn't need to.


Moe's has no multi-meat combos to offer, not even on their large family packs. They also don't serve brisket. This wasn't my first rodeo with that sort of menu, and unfortunately it probably won't be my last. I ended up going with a pulled pork platter and adding two a la carte ribs and three wings to the mix, plus potato salad and fried green tomatoes as my two sides.


The potato salad was kind of a mashed potato type, but it did have a nice crunchy texture throughout from all of the veggies. I also liked the red onion. There was plenty of mustard to go around without being overpowering. My two big fried green tomatoes came topped with pickled red onions and some sort of remoulade. The crispy batter and tangy tomatoes were a nice compliment, but truth be told, the pickled onions had much more flavor than the tomatoes.

I had requested sauce on the side of my pulled pork, but that apparently went ignored. I found some pieces with no sauce, and they were fairly bland and a little dry. There also wasn't much smoke that I could pinpoint, and not much seasoning either. The sauce seemed like the main flavor component here, which is just sad. Even though I did enjoy their semi-sweet barbecue sauce, it wasn't enough to salvage things.

My wings had a super crisp skin with a nice char as well. There was a lot of seasoning and a slight spiciness in each bite of the tender, smoky chicken. I really, really liked these, and I wish that I had gotten more than just three, especially given the disappointing pork, most of which stayed put on my plate.

The ribs came with a drizzle of the same sauce as on the pork, and it appeared to be the main source of flavor here as well. The overcooked pork ribs were somewhere between a baby back and a KC spare rib in terms of size. I found them dry and a little chewy, with only a moderate smokiness. There also wasn't any real crust to speak of.

I also snagged a kids smoked turkey plate for my little buddy, with macaroni on the side. His mac was of the basic elbow variety, with cheese that was sort of half melted, half not. As my wife put it, "There are some greasy, crusty parts." Pretty much it in a nutshell. The side of cornbread was really tasty, but why you would put jalapeño cornbread on a kids plate is beyond me. My son couldn't spit it out fast enough. Gee, thanks. His turkey was decently smoky and pretty tender. It was also seasoned well, so I suppose that's some consolation.

This photo perfectly sums up Moe's.


All the same, and very mild. Couldn't put it better myself. Buck's Smokehouse was really spectacular, especially their mouth-watering brisket. Moe's Original Bar-B-Que, in contrast, was just average. I guess when you have sixty-two locations, "just average" is enough to turn a profit, so why waste your energy doing better? And that's why I loathe chain barbecue.

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Moe's Original Bar-B-Que
303 Harbor Blvd
Destin, FL 32541
https://www.moesoriginalbbq.com/destin/

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Casey's Bar-B-Que (Little Rock, AR)




A long-standing Little Rock barbecue institution, Casey's Bar-B-Que, re-opened its doors in a brand-new location just a few weeks ago. Of course, I had to go investigate and see if all of the hype was justified.


Casey's closed up shop in 2005 after twenty-two impressive years in business. I'm not sure of the exact reason for the closure, but, needless to say, many Little Rock residents are plum tickled to see them back in business. I've awaited their opening for a while now, which got delayed because of permit issues and other unfortunate events. With newness comes long lines, and in order to avoid such, I arrived promptly at their 11:00am opening time.

The new location is in the home of the former Arkansas Burger Company, but Casey's doesn't feel like a burger joint whatsoever. It actually has kind of an indoor-outdoor vibe with all of the brick and white shiplap. I liked the exposed beams, too. The place is clean, welcoming, and open, with wall-length windows making the place feel even larger. Casey's has a nice patio space out back, even if it is a tad small. They also made good use of the existing drive-thru on the building, which I'm sure will get a ton of traffic.


At Casey's, just order at the counter and plop yourself down anywhere you like. I got their regular combo plate with sliced brisket and pulled pork, plus potato salad and bbq beans on the side. There is a large combo plate available, but apparently it just comes with an extra side, not an extra meat. So I stuck with the regular size and added on a half-pound of pork ribs to round things out. After all, I wanted to get the full Casey's experience. Service was fairly slow, even though I was only the third table through the door. I had my food in about fifteen minutes. Hopefully that's just some growing pains while the new employees figure out a rhythm.



The potato salad had a pleasant amount of mustard. It was also very tangy, with a good crunch from the veggie mix-ins. I found big hunks of meat scattered throughout my beans. They were very sweet, and only slightly peppery despite all of the visible black pepper.

My requested slices of brisket came out chopped. Maybe the cashier misheard me. The beef was a little chewy, though not dry. Casey's super-vinegary barbecue sauce was definitely front and center here. I could taste some good smoke through the sauce, which surprised me. It was difficult to find things like a crust or a smoke ring in this form, but at least the flavors were on point.

The pulled pork, although a little less smoky than the brisket, was very tender. I received a few pieces of bark in my helping, which were well-seasoned. With all of the sauce, the pork tasted pretty much the same as the beef, just a different texture. I'm not suggesting that this was a bad thing, it just wasn't unique enough to detail further.

Despite placing a dine-in order, the ribs arrived in their own carry-out container because "they're very messy." Yes, I would agree. The ribs were swimming in a literal pool of sauce that rose about halfway up each bone. My half-pound order amounted to four ribs, which was probably more than plenty. I found a deep reddish crust and juicy pork beneath. The meat came off with ease, but did manage to stay put until I was ready for the next bite. A heavy dusting of spices coated the ribs on all sides. The sauce probably paired best with the ribs, since it simply coated them and rolled off instead of soaking in.

If you're going to grab a two-meat combo here, go for the ribs and pulled pork, since the beef/pork combo ended up being a little superfluous. I'm glad that Casey's Bar-B-Que is back in action, and I wish them well. My in-laws want to try out their new 'que as well, so I'll probably be eating there again in a few days!

UPDATE (May 19, 2018): As predicted, we grabbed a Casey's to go order for our family dinner on Saturday. I went with a family pack (of course) with a pound of pulled pork and sides of bbq beans and potato salad. For my kiddo, I also ordered some of their smoked turkey. I had initially wanted an additional side of mac and cheese, but since they were out, a few orders of their spiral cut fries had to suffice. The sauceless pork was even tastier than before, at least to me, since I prefer my meat au naturel. The real winner, however, was the turkey. Our slices had just come off of the smoker, so they were as fresh as could be. It was exceedingly smoky and really, really tender. In my opinion, if you like the smoked turkey from nearby Burge's, this was at least twice as good.

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Casey's Bar-B-Que
7410 Cantrell Rd
Little Rock, AR 72207
(501) 615-8522

Monday, May 7, 2018

Felix's BBQ with Soul (Oceanside, CA)




I managed to take my family on a bit of a wild goose chase out to Oceanside, California for some barbecue. We came to San Diego for a week-long vacation, and I picked Felix's BBQ with Soul as my one customary barbecue indulgence. Our afternoon activity already put us up in Carlsbad, so I figured this would be an easy addition to the itinerary. Not so much, given both the traffic and the distance.


Felix's has more of a casual, bistro-esque interior than I was anticipating. It was comfortable and clean, without much decoration to speak of really. Some cool blues music might have been a better choice for ambiance than the old crooners, but that's a personal opinion. Either way, it was still pleasant.


We ordered an appetizer of fried green tomatoes for no real reason in particular. Barbecue joint aside, this was a little far from the Mason-Dixon line, so I had some reservations about them.


The tomatoes had a well-seasoned batter, and their tartness paired well with the zesty remoulade accompaniment. That said, they were kind of falling apart at the seams, which made them fairly difficult to eat.

I initially had my eye on sharing a four-meat, four-side sampler platter, but the wife was more interested in chicken tenders for some unholy reason. Without her to help eat at least a little of my meat, I settled on a custom two-meat combo of tri-tip and St. Louis ribs with macaroni and sweet potato fries. When eating barbecue in California, tri-tip is pretty much a given.



Our complimentary cornbread was slightly sweet and not the least bit dry. Big elbow pasta was a good choice for the macaroni. The cheese was a little grainy, though still very gooey and tasty. My fries were sufficient, but nothing special at all.

The tri-tip was a little chewy, but not dry. It was an interesting texture. The fattier slices were more tender, and their fat was also nicely rendered. I found a moderate smokiness without the usual smoke ring. The crust, though seasoned well, didn't really add that much to the flavor profile. All in all, I liked it just fine.

Both the tri-tip and the ribs were served over lettuce for some bizarre reason. My ribs were big and meaty, but St. Louis ribs they were not, since the rib tips, etc. were all still attached. I appreciated the deep red crust. The meat came off with zero effort, a touch overcooked. Their honey glaze was fairly sweet, while the peppery rub was a good contrast. A third-rack was as many ribs as I needed today.

Felix's BBQ with Soul was a little hit or miss. It was also pretty expensive. Besides my custom order, we had the tomato appetizer, an order of chicken tenders, and a kids PB&J. All of that, with tax and tip, ran an astonishing $80.00! The food was ok, but certainly not worth that much. While I'm grateful to my wife for indulging my hobby, I wish that I had picked someplace else.

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Felix's BBQ with Soul
3613 Ocean Ranch Blvd
Oceanside, CA 92056
(760) 439-7072
http://www.felixsbbq.com/

Felix's BBQ With Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato