Sunday, October 12, 2014
Vincek's Smokehouse (East Bernard, TX)
The last time I was in East Bernard was to watch a high school football game nearly two decades ago. If I had known about Vincek's Smokehouse, I wouldn't have waited so long to go back.
This little Czech operation opened in 1985 and has been pouring out delicious barbecue ever since. In fact, their meat is so tasty that Vincek's made Texas Monthly's list of the Top 50 BBQ Joints in both 2003 and 2008. Considering that Texas Monthly has only put out their list four times, I'd say those are pretty good credentials.
One of the things that makes Vincek's so unique is their smoking process. Their ribs and chicken cook over Texas-made B&B oak lump charcoal. B&B is the absolute best, so I brought sixty pounds of the stuff with me when we moved from Texas to Tennessee a few months ago. The sausage and brisket get smoked over pecan wood, and the brisket is then finished on oak lump charcoal as well.
Like any good Czechs, Vincek's also offers kolaches and klobasniky (and no, it's not a "meat kolache"). This time of year you can find pumpkin cream cheese kolaches here. They looked awesome, but we wanted to save our appetites for barbecue.
I got a 3 Meat Plate of brisket, pork ribs, and sausage. There were quite a few options for sides, but I decided on a picnic-ready duo of baked potato salad and macaroni salad.
This was my first run-in with baked potato salad, but it was really tasty. The best way I can describe it is to say that it was a cold, mashed up baked potato. I could really taste the sour cream and bacon. I'm sort of a potato salad aficionado, and this was good enough that I plan on making it at home in the future. The sweet macaroni salad was also a decent side. It was creamy, but not over-mayonnaised. Maybe a little jalapeno for heat and it would be fantastic.
The brisket had an awesome smoke ring and dark black crust. I noticed some fat around the edges that looked a little under-rendered, but when I bit in I found that it had actually soaked up the smoke quite nicely. It was an interesting smoke flavor that was really enjoyable, thanks to the combined pecan and oak lump charcoal. I could definitely taste both heat sources in the meat. My slices, though lean, were also incredibly tender. This was honestly one of the best briskets I've encountered.
A coarse grind on the sausage radiates a sense of homemade gloriousness that you just can't get with the store-bought stuff. It had a nice crisp casing and a mild smokiness. Vincek's sausage also has plenty of pepper and is slightly spicy. Even if you only have a small appetite, make sure to include the sausage on your order.
Last came the big, meaty St. Louis-cut spare ribs. Some ribs are a little skimpy in the meat department, but at Vincek's it went up at least an inch off the bone. The direct-heat charcoal cooking process gave these ribs a great taste, and the flavor goes all the way through. A nice seasoning on the crust enhanced their taste even further. They were also very tender. It only took a slight tug for the meat to come away perfectly.
In my humble opinion, Vincek's Smokehouse should have been on the 2013 Texas Monthly list as well. Their non-traditional cooking style makes each bite taste like heaven.
139 S Dill St
East Bernard, TX 77435