Friday, February 5, 2016
Rollin' Smoke Barbeque (Las Vegas, NV)
Even though the primary goal of my Vegas trip was to find a black bear hunt at the Safari Club International convention, I also couldn't resist hunting down some delicious barbecue while I was in town. When we visited last year's convention, we ventured far into North Las Vegas on a barbecue expedition, but this year I decided that something a little closer to the Strip would be more logical. At a mere mile away from our hotel, Rollin' Smoke made perfect sense. It also had the highest ratings of any Vegas barbecue joint I researched, which was just icing on the cake.
This joint opens its doors bright and early at 10:00am, although I'd suspect that most of the usual tourists are still in bed at that hour. Vegas is a town built on hospitality, and the guys and gals over at Rollin' Smoke are some of the friendliest you'll find. When you combine that with their Arkansas roots, it's impossible not to feel welcomed here. The pitmaster, who I understood to have had some Le Cordon Bleu training, invited us to tour their smoking operation. If we'd had a little more time to kill, we definitely would have taken him up on that.
In true Las Vegas fashion, Rollin' Smoke offers an all-you-can-eat meal option which encompasses their entire menu! Tempted as I was, my stomach didn't feel quite up to the challenge (partially due to the prior night's "festivities"). I set my sights a little lower and ordered their Pit Special: brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends (instead of the advertised quarter-chicken), spare ribs, and hot links with bacon potato salad, cheesy mac n cheese, and kick'n bbq beans on the side.
The potato salad was, in a word, magnificent. Bacon and green onions give this side a great crunchy texture that brilliantly compliments the creamy mayo base. I'm going to have to steal this recipe and make it at home. The beans were nice and sweet, with a great spicy kick on the black end. They certainly weren't lacking for black pepper, that's for sure. There was also a good amount of shredded meat mixed right in. Large-size pasta noodles allowed the gooey cheese to get embedded in each nook and cranny of the macaroni. The extra layer of cheddar on top was just what it needed, too, adding another degree of cheesiness.
Rollin' Smoke's brisket comes chopped unless otherwise requested. Ordinarily I would have asked for slices, but today I decided to live dangerously and sample my beef the way that the pitmaster intended. Chopped or not, there was a ton of bark to go around. I also found a great smoke level in each bite of the incredibly tender brisket. There was just a hint of sauce drizzled on top, which allowed me to taste both it and the delicious meat at the same time.
The rosy smoke-kissed pulled pork looked exceptionally inviting. Upon closer inspection, it came with a smokiness that mirrored its appearance. The meat was also really juicy, with very flavorful chunks of bark throughout. As a Texan it pains me to say this, but I think that I enjoyed their pork more than the brisket. Shocking, I know.
I'm not sure what the source of their sausage is, but the hotlinks were damn good. They had a great snap to the casing, with a char that added to the crispness as well. The heat of these links catches you a little off guard. It also masks any potential smokiness (at least for those of us with more delicate palates), but that's to be expected.
Burnt ends aren't something that I get to enjoy all too often, so I was happy to find them on Rollin' Smoke's menu today. These were worth every bit of the $3.00 upcharge, and then some. Melt-in-your-mouth tender doesn't quite do them justice as a descriptor, but it's the best that I can muster. Essentially, these are barbecue's answer to pork belly. There was a great smoky flavor, coupled with a somewhat spicy glaze. I could have easily eaten a whole plate of them.
The ribs were cooked perfectly, with only a slight tug needed on each bite. Rollin' Smoke managed to produce tender and juicy ribs without cooking them into "falling off the bone" oblivion, which in my opinion is nothing more than a euphemism for overcooked meat. The crust had a great blend of spices that combined both heat and sweet. Each bite of rib meat also contained a good smoke level that kept bringing me back for more.
In a town known for celebrity chefs and Michelin-star restaurants, Rollin' Smoke offers a blue-collar alternative so indulgent that you'll forget all about the glitz and glamour of the Strip.
Rollin' Smoke Barbeque
3185 S. Highland Dr
Las Vegas, NV 89109