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Sunday, January 12, 2014
Up in Smoke BBQ (Abbott, TX)
With its population of only 300 residents, Abbott, Texas is barely a roadside stop. I've passed by Up in Smoke BBQ countless times while driving to my hometown, and I finally decided to give it a try.
The old wooden building looks more like it should house a Cracker Barrel, and the interior isn't much better. Their decor is drab with horribly dusty fake trees and furniture straight out of a small town estate sale. It's not kitschy, it's not antique, it's just old.
I ordered a Combo Plate of ribs and brisket. Side dishes are self-serve here. I couldn't figure out what some of them were, so I played it safe and stuck with the usual beans and potato salad.
The potato salad didn't taste like anything other than mustard. It also could have benefited from more pickles for both crunch and flavor. The beans had a sweet flavor, but were basically canned beans with some onions mixed in for good measure. They were nothing special by any means.
My brisket had a decent black crust and a slight smoke ring. That being said, the crust was a little difficult to cut through and didn't seem to have more than a pinch of salt for seasoning. I found a good amount of smoke, but otherwise the brisket was kind of bland. The meat was nice and tender at least, though some of the leaner cuts were too dry. It wasn't inedible, but it also wasn't worth finishing.
From a presentation standpoint, it probably wasn't the best idea to serve the ribs bone-side up. Just saying. I flipped them over and found a good amount of meat on the bones, though only minimal bark. There was visible evidence of smoke, with a good hit of smoke in each bite. The semi-sweet glaze was nice, but I found myself wanting more flavor. The rib meat was juicy and wasn't overdone to the point of falling off the bone. Although, the fat probably could have used some more time in the smoker to render properly.
They've got the cooking process down fairly well, but frankly taste is more important, and that's mostly where they're lacking. Up in Smoke could have really stellar barbecue with some more work and attention to detail.
UPDATE (June 1, 2014): Apparently Up in Smoke BBQ has moved to downtown Hillsboro, Texas, and can now be found at 103 N. Waco St, Hillsboro, TX 76645. Most places try to keep the same phone number when moving, but Up in Smoke changed that as well. Their new phone number is (254) 582-0105.
Up in Smoke probably wasn't doing enough business out in Abbott (which is basically nowhere) to make ends meet, but I doubt the restaurant's location was their main problem. Customers will drive a long way to eat phenomenal barbecue, but they won't waste even five minutes to eat flavorless, half-hearted food. Regardless, I wish Up in Smoke the best of luck in their new location.
Up in Smoke BBQ
212 South Hickory
Abbott, TX 76621