Sunday, December 1, 2013
Wagon Wheel Bar-B-Que (Odessa, TX)
Sundays are always hard on the barbecue lover, particularly in smaller towns. I was heading west in search of mule deer and aoudad sheep, and Wagon Wheel Bar-B-Que in Odessa was one of the only joints open on a 500 mile stretch of road.
Wagon Wheel was a little farther off the interstate than I'd hoped for, but after six hours of driving I was in dire need of sustenance. I hoped the 'que would at least be halfway decent. The interior was surprisingly more inviting than the shoddy exterior would lead you to believe. It had the kind of western decor you might expect from a place called "Wagon Wheel." It also seemed to be a favorite for all of the local oil field workers.
I was hungry, but didn't want to overdo things too much. I ordered a 2 Meat Plate of brisket and pork ribs, with potato salad and pinto beans on the side.
The potato salad had a decent crunch from the veggies, although it could have used more pickles. It was overly mustardy, making all of the black pepper completely unnecessary since I couldn't taste it anyway. As for the pinto beans, they were absolutely disgusting. The broth or whatever the beans were swimming in had a really weird taste. It was like a runny bean dip of sorts. I couldn't stand more than two forkfuls.
Disappointed by the side dishes, I moved on to the meats. The brisket's crust looked decent enough, but there wasn't much of a smoke ring. The meat was pretty tender, though a leaner cut would likely have been too dry to eat. I couldn't taste much other than salt (not that it was overly salty, that was just the only flavor). There was only a slight hint of smoke to be had. This is one of those rare instances where I wish my meat had been pre-sauced.
My pork spare ribs were rather massive. The rib tips hadn't been trimmed off, adding to their enormous size. I saw a slightly better smoke ring here, and there was a good dark crust too. The flavor was better than with the brisket, but was still a pretty basic salt and pepper blend. The underbelly was a little mushy, like the ribs had been sitting in a pan of their own juices. I wish there had been more smoke, and there might have been if Wagon Wheel had bothered to remove the membrane from their ribs.
Considering their roadside marquee only advertises pancakes and catfish, I guess I should have known better. I hoped the stops I had planned for my drive back to Dallas would yield better results.
Wagon Wheel Bar-B-Que
10161 W University Blvd
Odessa, TX 79764