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Monday, December 21, 2015
Lindsey's Hospitality House & Barbecue (North Little Rock, AR)
My in-laws generously offered to take me out to eat for a celebratory birthday lunch during our most recent visit to Little Rock. Obviously, I picked barbecue. My mother-in-law spoke highly of Lindsey's Hospitality House up in North Little Rock, and I certainly wasn't going to argue with her recommendation.
Lindsey's feels more like an old-school family restaurant than a true barbecue joint, but the smell of delicious pit smoke alleviated my concerns. Their sweet tea and apple pie-themed artwork was spot on, and I loved the unpretentiousness of it all. Judging by the large lunch crowd, this place must be rather popular amongst the locals.
I really wanted to try their 1/2 Combo Platter, but none of my lunchmates were interested in splitting it and I didn't feel up to eating two-and-a-half pounds of meat all by my lonesome. With no other multi-meat combos on the menu besides their gigantic family packs, I was left to create one of my own. I ordered a half-pound of chopped pork and a half-rack of pork ribs, with a side of potato salad. As soon as we sat down, I realized my mistake in not requesting sauce on the side for my ribs, so I dashed over to the kitchen and rectified that error. I suppose I could have requested the same for my chopped pork, but I decided to live dangerously today.
The potato salad was both creamy and delicious, with a good mustardy tang. It didn't have as much crunch as I would have liked from veggie mix-ins, but still very good.
Lindsey's big, meaty spare ribs were really juicy and awesomely tender. I found a great flavor on the crust, which thankfully wasn't overpowered by salt. The meat beneath was perfectly pink. The ribs had only a moderate smokiness, but it was an acceptable level. Only a slight tug was required to separate meat from bone, precisely as it should be.
The chopped pork was also tender as can be, and the few bites of bark that I found were extra flavorful. I'm not a big sauce fan in general, but Lindsey's vinegary-tomato barbecue sauce was quite tasty. It also added a nice acidity to the dish. Although the sauce did mask any potential smoke flavors, I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I'm glad I listened to my mother-in-law's recommendation (which is probably a good rule of thumb in any circumstance). Lindsey's might be closer to 3.5 stars, but I was full of Christmas spirit and rounded up.
Lindsey's Hospitality House & Barbecue
207 Curtis Sykes Drive
North Little Rock, AR 72114
Saturday, December 19, 2015
Payne's Bar-B-Q (Memphis, TN)
It's nearly impossible for me to drive through Memphis without stopping for some tasty 'que. My wife's sole requirement today was that I pick a spot with a Chik-Fil-A nearby for her. Fair enough. Barbecue sandwiches don't often find their way onto my plate. That being said, I couldn't resist grabbing a pork sandwich from Payne's, which is heralded by many as the best there is.
Their "cash only" business model is a bit behind the times, although it doesn't seem to be deterring any would-be customers. Payne's is a simple counter-order joint with limited seating options. It also has all of the ambiance of a DMV waiting room, but that didn't bother me whatsoever.
I ordered my obligatory jumbo chopped pork sandwich, complete with Payne's famous mustard slaw, no sauce. I really really wanted to tack on a smoked sausage dog, but my mother-in-law had an early family Christmas dinner planned and I promised her that I wouldn't ruin my appetite. That didn't stop me from tempting fate and adding a side of beans though. I got everything to-go and headed for Chik-Fil-A, hoping that they wouldn't mind me eating my outside food in their establishment.
The beans were sweet and flavorful, with chunks of delicious meat mixed right in. I also found hints of what tasted like cilantro, but whatever it was, it was dang good.
Payne's chopped pork sandwich is fairly messy to eat, which actually makes it more satisfying. The pork itself was very tender, though only slightly smoky. A lot of the pieces did have some char on them, and they were even more spectacular. Most of the flavor came from the mustard slaw, which added a sweet acidity and a great crunchy texture. It had an interesting spice blend that I couldn't quite identify. The onions also gave this sandwich a nice bite. I do think that a homemade bun would have elevated things here nicely, but that's really my only major complaint.
I was the envy of every person in Chik-Fil-A, who stared longingly at my barbecue sandwich the entire time. Payne's is definitely a must for any Memphis barbecue bucket list.
1762 Lamar Ave
Memphis, TN 38114
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro (Nashville, TN)
If there are two words that exemplify barbecue, they are most certainly "slow" and "low". With that in mind, it was almost impossible for me to resist a lunchtime excursion to Slow & Low BBQ Bistro, especially since this was one of the first rainless days Nashville has seen in nearly a week.
You'll find Slow & Low in a renovated and converted house in far west Nashville, something that instantly gives the joint a rather cozy feel to it. Couple that with a full-size pig costume (which I sincerely hope they put to use) in the corner, and you've got a very welcoming atmosphere. Parking is a big snug here, and tables, at least the inside ones, are also limited. I guess that's why they call it a bistro.
Hickory appears to be the wood of choice at Slow & Low. I grew up accustomed to oak and pecan, but hickory does a great job, too. In fact, hickory often tends to impart a little saltiness on the meat, which is a good thing despite what my doctor keeps telling me.
For some bizarre and yet undetermined reason, many of the Nashville-area barbecue joints I've investigated don't offer multi-meat combos on their menus. Not Slow & Low. These guys have a glorious Four Meat Feast! Of the five available meats, I selected pulled pork, wings, brisket, and ribs, with Mama's tater salad and beer-battered onion rings as my sides. I could hardly contain my excitement while my meat-tastic meal was being prepared.
Even though Slow & Low had only been open for twenty minutes by the time I arrived, I received their very last portion of potato salad. I was perplexed, but glad to have it nonetheless. The potato salad had a great mustard flavor and plenty of black pepper to go around. All of the onions and pickles also gave it a nice crunch. The onion rings came out crisp and full of flavor. They were also seasoned well, and the onions themselves tasted really fresh. I didn't even dream of ruining them with ketchup.
I wasn't sure where to begin with the meats, so I just picked the pulled pork at random and dug right in. It was tender and had a decent amount of smoke, especially in the fattier pieces. There was also a good seasoning on the bark. I briefly considered sampling their sauces, but it seemed altogether unnecessary, so I passed.
Hot wings were an obvious consideration, but I got mine naked so that I could give the true flavors a fair shake. The skin had a fantastic char and an equally tasty blend of spices. I found only a moderate smoke level, which is fairly typical for barbecue chicken. The meat itself was moist and quite enjoyable.
The fatty layer right on top of the brisket had obviously soaked a ton of smoke, which I was more than happy to eat. There was also a good crispness to the bark that I don't find all too often. The meat was certainly tender, though maybe just a tad dry at times. It was difficult not to inhale all of it at once, but I wanted to leave some leftovers for the next day's lunch.
My ribs were covered in a beautiful black crust and just a light drizzle of sauce. As soon as I bit in, I immediately got a big punch of delicious smokiness, almost as much as I found in the brisket. There was also a slight spiciness in each bite from the sauce. I'm not normally a big fan of sauced ribs, but it really worked well here.
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro may be a bit off the beaten path as far as Nashville barbecue goes, but it's absolutely worth the trip.
Slow & Low BBQ Bistro
333 54th Avenue N
Nashville, TN 37209
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