Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Today my job brought me to Clyde, Texas, which for those of you who are unaware (I'm guessing that's just about everyone), Clyde lies just outside of Abilene. I thought I'd make the most of my travels, so I headed into Abilene to sample the local 'que. It was a tough decision, but I settled on Sharon's Barbeque for lunch.
As soon as you step through the door to Sharon's, you're greeted by a great smoky aroma and a display case showing off their different meat options.
Surprisingly, Sharon's offers wifi and a drive-thru window. I didn't need either today, but I was at least intrigued. The interior is set up with cozy frontier-style decor plastered across the walls: chairs, old photographs, and other assorted wooden nick-nacks. The frontier motif seems to fit well with their boot-and-hat clientele.
As pleasant as the dining room was, the restrooms were pretty gross. I'm assuming they mop the floors once in a while. However, the walls, trashcan, soap dispenser, and fake decorative plants looked like they had never been cleaned or even dusted.
The menu I saw online advertised both jalapeno sausage and German sausage, but when I arrived I noticed that there was no sign or mention of the jalapeno variety. Disappointed, I ordered a Mini Combo plate with German sausage and brisket. Here, you're free to help yourself to the buffet-style side dishes. I selected potato salad, red beans, and jalapeno cornbread.
The potato salad was exceptionally creamy, almost whipped. It could have used more crunch for a texture change, but on the plus side it was full of flavor. There was an interesting degree of sweetness to it too. As for the beans, they certainly didn't look like much sitting on my plate. There were no visible spices, and there wasn't much in terms of taste either. A little salt and black pepper (and maybe a little bacon) would have done wonders here.
At Sharon's, the cornbread comes wrapped in aluminum foil, and sits in a warming drawer for hours on end. I could taste the jalapenos themselves, but I didn't get any heat from them at all. The cornbread was decently moist and spongy, but kind of a letdown overall.
By this point, I wasn't feeling exceptionally optimistic about my meat combo. I crossed my fingers and started with the sausage. Surprisingly, there was a great snap to the casings, and I could definitely taste the pepper and other spices. I tried the sausage with both the regular and vinegar barbecue sauces they had available. I liked the taste of the vinegar sauce, but it was so runny that not much stayed put on my slice of sausage. The regular barbecue sauce was good too, but basically tasted like a slightly thicker version of the vinegar sauce, with maybe just a touch more sugar to it.
I wouldn't really describe the brisket as sliced or chopped, but rather just large chunks. The brisket wasn't inedible, although it was fairly lean and dry. There wasn't much crust on it either, which was equally disappointing. Sauce was definitely needed with this offering, which certainly helped things, but a mediocre barbecue sauce can't make up for dry meat.
When I was planning out my trip to Abilene, I had a hard time choosing between Sharon's Barbeque and Joe Allen's Pit Bar-B-Que, which both had top ratings for the area. At the last minute, I changed my mind and opted for Sharon's, mostly because of the promise of jalapeno sausage. Some after-the-fact internet researching indicated that Sharon is Joe Allen's ex-wife. Apparently she didn't get the barbecue recipe in the divorce.
849 E. Highway 80
Abilene, TX 79601
Friday, February 15, 2013
4 ounces applewood-smoked bacon (in one piece), cut into large chunks
3/4 cup beef stock (or beef broth)
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Combine the bacon, beef stock, cider vinegar, white vinegar, brown sugar, ketchup, red pepper flakes, chile powder, and 1 tablespoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the bacon renders its fat, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside to let the flavors develop, 20 minutes. Remove the bacon. Reheat the sauce before serving.
Courtesy Food Network Magazine
June 2012 - Volume 5, Issue 5
Photograph by Andrew Purcell
Thursday, February 14, 2013
This year for Valentine's Day, my wife and I decided to try out Dish. Neither one of us had heard of it before, but it was featured on OpenTable as having pretty tasty Valentine's Day specials, so we thought we'd give it a shot.
The atmosphere inside Dish wasn't exactly what I would describe as romantic, just kind of uppity and eclectic. It was also fairly loud here, both from the customers and the trance music pumping through their sound system. I didn't really appreciate being seated a solid 18-inches from the loud, brazen couple next to us either. While Dish certainly isn't responsible for their customers, I do hold them responsible for my proximity to them. I also found the alternating pink and purple lighting a tad odd, but I guess it's somewhat the norm for Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs.
One thing to be cautious of is the confusing nature of their restrooms. There is one main door to a unisex lavatory, and then the men's and ladies' rooms split off from there. When you walk in and see three ladies washing their hands, it sort of makes you do a double-take.
There were several tempting options on the menu, but I settled on the BBQ Braised Short Ribs, which came with buttery mashed potatoes and fried onions.
Set before me were three gigantic short ribs, bones already removed. I had asked the waiter to bring me a steak knife, but they were so tender I could have used a plastic spoon. Dish is certainly not a barbecue joint, so I'm guessing the short ribs came out of a pressure cooker rather than a smoker. Regardless, they were full of flavor from both the meat and the sauce. The fried onions also added a pleasant crispiness to each bite, and they paired well with both the short ribs and the mashed potatoes. As a bonus, the onions made up for the lack of garlic in the potatoes.
Uncomfortable atmosphere aside, the food at Dish was really good. I think we would probably go back there for dinner, just not for Valentine's Day.
Dish Restaurant & Lounge
4123 Cedar Springs Rd
Dallas, TX 75219
Friday, February 8, 2013
The Dallas Municipal Court graciously dismissed me from jury duty (bleh!) around 10:45, and I was already downtown, so I decided to make the most of things. My morning thoroughly wasted, I made my way to the Dallas Farmers Market to taste test the famed Pecan Lodge.
I only had an hour and a half on my parking meter, so I hoped that would be enough. I got to Pecan Lodge a little after 11:00, and just as I feared, the line was already around the corner. The long impending wait wasn't very exciting, but I was determined to get some barbecue. Interestingly, I didn't see a single customer approach the tamale shop next door.
After an exhausting 45 minutes in line, it was finally my turn to order. They didn't have any burnt ends today, so I settled for a Two Meat Combo Plate: brisket and sausage with a side of "M-m-mac n' Cheese."
The mac and cheese had delicious bits of bacon crumbled on top that added a great crunch to an otherwise creamy side dish. It looked like there may have been some diced jalapeno mixed in, but I couldn't taste any heat from it, so I'm not entirely sure. It tasted nice and homey, but I didn't wait 45 minutes for macaroni.
My plate came with two big slices of brisket, complete with glorious black edges staring at me. I could see the fat laced throughout, so I knew this would be spectacular meat. The first bite was probably some of the best brisket I've ever had, and I sincerely mean that. It was tender enough that my wimpy plastic knife had no trouble cutting through. There was a good amount of salt, pepper, and other spices caked onto the crust, which made each bite extremely flavorful.
The sausage came as a small link, which I would guess was around 1/4 to 1/3 pound. The casings were a little weak and had almost no snap, but the strong flavor made up for it. I found lots of cracked pepper visible in each slice I cut. On the downside, the sausage was a tad greasy, made all the more evident by the orange-ish puddle it left on my plate.
While I was there, I couldn't resist getting a t-shirt for my precious baby niece, who is definitely my little barbecutie.
The brisket at Pecan Lodge is absolutely worth the wait, but next time I'll try to get there a little earlier.
Dallas Farmers Market, Shed 2
1010 S. Pearl Expressway
Dallas, TX 75201
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
After my disappointing experience at Red, Hot & Blue last month, I was a bit hesitant to try it again. Their Director of Operations sent me an apology, as well as a gift certificate to give them another shot. Armed with $30.00 worth of "Baby I Done Ya Wrong" gift certificates, my wife and I decided to head on over for dinner.
When I checked-in to Red, Hot & Blue on Yelp, I was rewarded with a digital coupon for a free Fried Pickle appetizer. The only problem was, this location apparently doesn't have fried pickles on the menu. Total bust.
The hostess sat us at a booth, and we started perusing the menu. The lighting overhead was made from discarded drum sets, which was something I didn't notice last time sitting at the bar. My wife enjoyed the music-themed decor as much as I did.
This time around, I ordered the Eastern Tennessee Triple: Ribs (I got them wet instead of with the dry rub I had before), Smoked Turkey, and Sausage. For my sides, I substituted hush puppies and potato salad for the bbq beans and coleslaw listed on the menu.
The potato salad was confusing, to say the least. It came warm rather than chilled. Initially, I decided that they had brought me mashed potatoes by mistake, based on the temperature, texture, and overall taste of it. I kept digging, and then found pieces of hard boiled egg mixed in. We stopped our waiter and inquired about the mystery potatoes. He assured me that it was potato salad, and that they just make it differently than everyone else, but I had my doubts. The flavor was pretty good, although I was too skeptical to keep eating it.
Much like my first go round with Red, Hot & Blue, the hush puppies were phenomenal. The batter was just as crisp as it was before. I think they might have been a little spicier this time too, so that's certainly a plus.
The smoked turkey looked a little dry sitting on my plate, but it was actually nice and moist despite being all white meat. Tenderness aside, I didn't really taste much smoke. I decided to forgo their barbecue sauce in favor of the cup of spicy mustard that came with my order. The mustard added a nice kick to the turkey. I do wish there had been somewhat of a crust on the edge of my slices though.
As for the sausage, I think it was even better than last time. The casings had more snap than before, and the smokiness was also more pronounced. I tried the sausage with the spicy mustard, and was pleased to find a nice pairing here as well. It's a little odd that mustard goes better with their meat than the barbecue sauce.
I was wearing a white t-shirt, so I decided to leave my ribs for last. Just as I feared, the rib meat was fairly hard to cut off the bone. The "wet" sauce was pretty sweet, so I'm glad I didn't opt for the "sweet" variety. I definitely don't need more cavities. The bites I had with sauce were pretty good, but the rest was rather flavorless (a sentiment shared by my wife). I think the ribs definitely need a heavy slathering of sauce to have any real zest, which is a little sad.
My wife's catfish and french fries were both lukewarm at best. As she put it, "They have a good concept, just not so good food." Once again, the hush puppies were the best thing on my plate. The fact that they have fancy, pre-printed "Sorry We Screwed Up" gift certificates kind of says a lot. I went back because of the free gift certificate, but I won't make that mistake again.
UPDATE (February 11, 2013): After posting another disappointing review of Red, Hot & Blue on Yelp.com, I was again contacted by their Director of Operations. Just like the first time around, he apologized that my expectations of their food had not been met. I still appreciate the concern, but I doubt Red, Hot & Blue will want me to come back a third time.
Red, Hot & Blue
9810 N. Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75231
Monday, February 4, 2013
I've already eaten my way across much of Dallas, but there is still plenty of great barbecue in Fort Worth that is just calling my name. Today I tried out Angelo's for lunch, and I'm glad I did.
When you step into Angelo's, you're immediately greeted by a large taxidermied bear dawning an Angelo's apron. There are tons of other big game mounts throughout the restaurant: buffalo, elk, moose, caribou, water buffalo, nilgai, and many, many more from various continents. All of the game heads looming overhead made me wish I was back at the deer lease.
I got to Angelo's just after 11:00 when they opened. By 11:30, the line to order stretched halfway to the door. Clearly this is a popular lunch spot, and it's easy to see why. I ordered a Combo Plate with sliced brisket and sausage, which automatically comes with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans.
The potato salad had a very pronounced mustard flavor, and it had a decent amount of pepper to boot. It could have used a little more crunch though, but I'll let that one slide. The beans were both cooked and seasoned quite well; they were soft, but not mushy. They also tasted more homemade than many of the other places I've been. I don't really care for coleslaw in general, but I decided to try it anyway. The coleslaw was pleasantly crunchy, so that was a plus. It started off sweet on my tongue, but the pepper and spices definitely crept up on me while I chewed. I'm still not a coleslaw fan, but this was pretty tasty.
As for the meat duo, I started with the sausage. I was happy to find big link segments rather than the pre-sliced variety. The casings had a lot of snap and a good degree of smoke too. My sausage was pretty heavy on pepper, which I also liked. It might be a little spicy for some, but to me it was a welcome surprise. Both the texture and the taste reminded me of the sausage I get back in my hometown in Central Texas. I tried the accompanying barbecue sauce just for good measure, which was more vinegar based than some of the sugary ones you usually end up with. The sauce also tempered the spiciness of the sausage very nicely.
I got big, meaty slices of brisket, so initially I was worried that it might be too dry. Once slice in particular was almost an inch thick. Despite its massiveness, the brisket was very juicy and tender, and there was a good mix of fatty and lean. There was a great char on the edges and a clearly visible smoke ring, so I could definitely taste the smoke here too. I only had one slice that was a little salty for my liking, but it wasn't enough to ruin the meal. Much like the sausage, the brisket paired well with the barbecue sauce.
The sign out front says "Great Texas Bar-B-Que," and they're not lying. I don't know if I'll ever get a chance to go back to Angelo's, but I certainly hope so.
2533 White Settlement Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Food trucks have been a staple of Klyde Warren Park ever since it opened above Woodall Rodgers Freeway last October. We often drive past them on our way home from church, though today was our first venture to the park itself. There were several food trucks to choose from, but the carnivore in me couldn't resist The Butcher's Son.
I had trouble selecting one particular item off their menu, so I opted for The Butcher's 3-Way, which allowed me to pick three different sliders to try. For my 3-Way, I went with the Mac-N-Beefy (braised beef, a cube of baked mac and cheese, barbecue sauce, and Cheddar cheese), the Southern Hospitality (a fried chicken tender, garlic mashed potatoes, and country gravy), and the Southern Bell (chipotle Monterey-jack chicken sausage, onions, barbecue sauce, and Cheddar cheese). There were several more that I wanted to try, but these three would have to do for now.
I started my slider feast with the Southern Hospitality. From the very first bite, I had gravy and mashed potatoes oozing out all over my hands. The garlic potatoes had good flavor, but they had already gotten cold by the time we found a table. The chicken tender had a nice batter on it, although it was a little too crispy for my liking. I enjoyed the idea of country gravy, but this didn't really add much of anything in terms of taste.
Much like the Southern Hospitality, I found the Mac-N-Beefy a little difficult to eat by hand. After one frustrating attempt, I gave up and started using my fork. Some of the braised beef was very tender, but other bites were really tough and dry. The cube o' macaroni was a little too solidified to be appealing. I also got very little sense that there was barbecue sauce on my slider.
The Southern Bell was probably my favorite slider of the trio, but even it had issues. The chicken sausage had a nice sear and a really great flavor. I could see bits of Monterey-jack cheese embedded in the sausage, but I couldn't taste it at all. There also wasn't much heat for supposedly being "chipotle." Here again, there was very little evidence of barbecue sauce.
The Butcher's Son has a really great concept for their food truck. They have some unique combinations in their sliders that could easily draw large crowds week after week. Although, I think they would be well served by focusing on enhancing their flavors instead of seeing how much food they can pile onto a tiny slider bun.
The Butcher's Son
Klyde Warren Park
2012 Woodall Rodgers Fwy
Dallas, TX 75201
Friday, February 1, 2013
I know what you're thinking, and no, Smashburger is by no means a barbecue joint. But they do have a barbecue burger on the menu, so I thought that was enough to merit a review. My wife and I have also been wanting to give Smashburger a try since this location opened near our apartment a couple of months ago.
Smashburger is a fast-casual restaurant, and they make things pretty simple: order at the counter, get your number, take a seat. It was extremely bright inside, so there's no hope for romantic ambiance here. The decor consists of the word "smash" in giant letters, and two huge prints featuring children stuffing their cute little faces with oversized hamburgers.
Just as planned, I ordered the BBQ, Bacon & Cheddar burger which, in addition to the obvious, comes topped with fried "haystack" onions. I couldn't decide what I wanted on the side, so I got an order of Smashfries (fries tossed with olive oil, rosemary, and garlic), and my wife opted for the Sweet Potato Fries (no explanation needed) so we could share.
The barbecue sauce was really the only thing barbecue about this burger, and the flavor from it wasn't exceptionally pronounced. It had a nice sweetness to it, but there certainly wasn't enough sauce. Of course, adding more might have made the bun soggy, so I'm not sure which way would have been better. The fried onions added a nice crunchy texture, but they also added a little too much unnecessary salt. I did enjoy the eggspun bun, which reminded me of the bread at Baker Bros. I liked my wife's sweet potato fries better than my Smashfries. They had a decent amount of flavor, and I could actually taste the rosemary, but something was off. Despite the menu description, my Smashfries were somewhat lacking in the garlic department.
There was a nice sear on the patty, although I'm not sure what exactly makes a "smashburger" all that much different from any other hamburger. According to the pamphlet on our table, they take a ball of hamburger meat and smash it onto the grill with some kind of unique non-spatula kitchen utensil, "creating a sear that locks in the juices as no other cooking method can." This is supposedly a revolutionary change from the antiquated method of smashing a ball of meat into a patty, and then putting the patty on the grill.
I will probably go back to Smashburger, but next time I might try the Spicy Baja. The food was decent, although I'm certainly glad we had already finished our meal by the time the busboy decided to bend over and show us his plumber's crack.
5319 E. Mockingbird Ln.
Dallas, TX 75206
I really wanted to try out Pecan Lodge today since I had the time, but it was a little too cold to be wandering around down at the Farmers Market. Instead, I decided to hop up the street to Humperdinks.
Humperdinks has a really nice sports bar atmosphere inside. There are nearly two dozen flat screens, and even a huge projection screen broadcasting ESPN. They also have darts if you're so inclined, and gigantic 100 oz. beer dispensers (just in case you weren't bad enough at throwing darts already).
I was feeling extra hungry, so I started with a small plate of their Armadillo Eggs, which despite the name, have absolutely nothing to do with armadillos or eggs. In reality, these are "large jalapenos, stuffed with Cheddar-jack cheese and chicken, then battered and cooked golden." Of course, by "cooked golden," I assumed they meant "deep-fried," at least I hoped so.
The Armadillo Eggs were spectacular! Set before me were three giant stuffed jalapenos, so I'm glad I got the small plate. The batter was fantastic and flaky, but also crispy. Panko breadcrumbs, I think. There was enough gooey cheese that it dribbled out with each bite. I also got a good amount of heat from the jalapenos, so I'm assuming they left the veins completely intact, but it wasn't enough to be unbearable. The chicken inside was also fairly tender, although the main focus of this dish was clearly the cheese and jalapenos. The fried onions that my "eggs" came nestled on were a little tough and chewy, but that's ok because I figure they were mostly there for garnish anyway. This was a great way to kick my palate into high gear before the main course.
For my entree, I ordered a half-rack of their Baby Back Ribs, which came with seasoned fries. The ribs are marinated in Buttface Amber Ale, and topped with a house-made porter beer barbecue sauce, so I was pretty excited to give them a try.
My ribs came with a healthy slathering of barbecue sauce on top, so I'm not quite sure why they felt the need to give me an extra cup of sauce on the side. The "seasoned fries" weren't seasoned with anything other than salt, which means they probably need to either change the name or actually season them. The ribs themselves were moist and very tender, but the meat was almost too soft. I was able to cut each individual rib off the rack with my fork, and the meat kept breaking apart when I tried stabbing a bite. The fat was also rendered so much that it had almost faded away completely. They were definitely overcooked, but at least the flavor was good.
The sauce was slightly sweet, but there was also an interesting aftertaste, which I'm guessing came courtesy of the porter beer. It was potent enough that it precluded any possibility of tasting the smoke (if there was even any there). I caught a whiff of smoke from the kitchen at one point, although it smelled more like burning hamburger grease than a barbecue pit.
The ribs were ok, but they could definitely be improved by being more mindful of their cooking time. If you're craving barbecue, I guess Humperdinks will do in a pinch. Otherwise, just stick with a cheeseburger.
Humperdinks Restaurant & Brewery
6050 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206