This seems like an unusual combination of flavors but when prepared in this manner it sounds like it would be rather delicious.
Texas is really overflowing this weekend with the aroma of Bar-B-Q cooking in all sorts of wood fired smokers. Nowhere in the state is there a more colorful and spirited exhibition of the art of cooking a fine “Q” than at the HILL COUNTRY SHOOTOUT & STATE CHAMPIONSHIP BAR-B-QUE COOK-OFF in Leander. The annual event is happening this weekend Oct 5th and 6th and this short movie from last years event offers a glimpse into what attendee can expect this year.
WEBSITE Call: (512) 756-8248
This report filed by iPhone live from Famous Dave’s BBQ in Abilene Texas. I arrived just before 3 PM and found the place spotless after the noon rush, (assuming there was one). There were about 10 customers in the restaurant including the 3 guys at the bar. I was seated promptly and the waitress was courteous and very informative about the menu. I took my time surveying the menu while the waitress kept an eye on me and she returned the instant I appeared to be ready. After ordering, my food was cheerfully delivered within 5 minutes and the presentation was typical BBQ joint style. Meat piled on top of 2 slices of bread on a paper covered platter. I ordered a combo plate of brisket and pork with sides of fries, corn on the cob, and garlic mashed potatoes. There was a choice of 5 flavors of sauce on the table. Trying them all I started with Georgia Mustard and worked through Rich & Sassy, Sweet & Zesty, Texas Pit, and finished up with Devil’s Spit. I settled on Sweet & Zesty as my favorite. I made a quick recon of the perimeter of the premises before entering and I found no stacks of firewood anywhere in sight. The meat appeared to be authentically smoked but was somewhat dry. I decided it didn’t have quite the taste of wood fired meat. The flavor was tolerable but both flavor and dryness were greatly enhanced with generous amounts of Sweet & Zesty. The waitress came around to check on me twice but did not volunteer butter for my cornbread or lemon for my tea. It was decent food but I can only give Famous Dave an OK rating for the Abilene restaurant.
Rated 4 “No Faux-Qs”
The first Rudy’s opened in Leon Springs, Texas as a one-stop gas station, garage, and grocery store. Bar-B-Q was added to the operation in 1989 and was so popular they started opening other locations around Texas. Garages have disappeared from Rudy’s locations but the Country Store and Gas Stations still remain. Today Rudy’s has spread throughout Texas and is now moving into New Mexico, Colorado, and Oklahoma. They all produce true oak fired, pit style Bar-B-Que.
My first experience with Rudy’s Bar-B-Que was as a guest at a wedding rehearsal dinner. We visited the Rudy’s on Ranch Rd. 620 in Austin, near Lake Travis. It was a mildly cool February night and our group opted to gather in the covered part of the outdoor dining area. The “roll down” plastic wall enclosed the dining area and a large wood fired heater with glass doors on 2 sides served as auxiliary heating for the central air. This created a pleasant warmness and added a little more character to the rustically authentic “old west” ambiance. I was not involved with the ordering process so I just enjoyed the food when our host and his assistants brought it to us. I sampled the Bar-B-Que brisket, Ribs, and Turkey, all of which were outstanding. Generous helpings of absolutely wonderful potato salad, Cole slaw, beans and bread were complimented with inordinate amounts of pickles, onions, and 1/2 gallon jugs of Rudy’s sauce. Plates do not exist at Rudy’s but ample supplies of butcher paper and plastic utensils are readily available so everyone is assured of a sanitary place to pile their food in front of them.
On my second visit to Rudy’s, I visited the location on Research Blvd. in Austin. It took just a minute or 2 to get the “lay of the land” and figure out how to actually order. As you approach the ordering station, you enter a serpentine line and you’re greeted by a hand sanitizing machine. A nice touch I thought. Just above the hand sanitizing machine, your eyes are drawn to the “Meat Cam” which gives you a close up view of the guys behind the counter slicing meat with amazing speed and dexterity. A few steps further you start winding around bins of iced down beer and soft drinks. The soft drinks consisted of various IBC colas and a few flavors that I was unfamiliar with. There’s also tea and fountain drinks with all the standard varieties. I picked up some potato salad from the self serve cooler as I approached one of the ordering stations but couldn’t locate beans. I ordered Prime Rib and told the guy I couldn’t find the beans. He yelled “frijoles” and a container of beans flew through the air, from somewhere way in the back and landed in his hands. I’ve always appreciated a good prime rib and I found that Rudy’s served one of the best I’ve had. My server didn’t ask how I liked it so I assume everyone gets it the same way. Mine was cooked just slightly past medium, but not quite medium well, which was perfect for my taste.
On this visit to a Rudy’s Bar-B-Que joint, I took time to smell the flowers (literally). It was a pleasant “spring-like” night and I chose a seat in ” still covered” but just outside the “roll down” wall. I was downwind from a beautiful aromatic flower bed just bursting out with what I’m gonna call “pre-spring flowers”. I use this term because I’m a food critic not a flower critic and I have no idea what they were. Whatever it was produced a pleasing mixture of olfactory indulgences not normally associated with a Bar-B-Que joint. A great prime rib dinner for 20 bucks is a phenomenon not normally associated with any type of restaurant.
All in all, as Bar-B-Que joints go, Rudy’s is a great kid friendly place to visit with completely reasonable prices. This combined with the fact that servers and other personnel at both locations were overly courteous and helpful. and the food is terrific will keep me coming back.
My friends Mike and Laurie Jackson are working with this event Saturday. There will be no Faux Que here, just good food and 12 hours of good country music. Willie Nelson’s daughter will be headlining the event.
Leon Neal is a well known reviewer of Bar-B-Q. He was kind enough to give me permission to post his general opinion of Bar-B-Q through out our great nation. Thanks Leon for the use of your material.
There is plenty of great barbeque in Texas – especially ‘out in the back country’ of Texas (it seems that the ‘city barbeque joints’ tend to ‘go tourist’ very quickly.) I generally find that a family owned/run place with the barbeque cooking done right on site is where I find barbeque that is worth returning to eat again and again. I enjoy talking to the owner/chief cook and having them tell me about how they barbeque and why they enjoy barbeque. It is even better if the owner will give me a personal tour of the pit area. Of course Texas barbeque is dominated by beef while here in North Carolina the term barbeque is a noun and means pork barbeque.
[You can find beef barbeque in some ‘joints’ – typically once a week as a special feature – and in some of the ‘chain’ restaurants usually barbequed beef ribs. We are getting a few of these places that have names like ‘Smoke BBQ’ etc. where they don’t limit their available barbeque sauce to their ‘one and only’ but put several bottles on the table and you must choose the one you like (I don’t trust any so- called barbeque place that ‘gives a choice’ of sauces. If they are not confident of their own sauce why should I trust their cooking? It is ok to have a ‘hot sauce’ on the table – such as Texas Pete – just to ‘add steam’ for those with taste buds already burned off. But a selection of barbeque sauces is just not right – in my opinion. I have stopped to eat in places where there are three or four sauces on the table (Eastern NC vinegar sauce, Memphis style sauce, South Carolina Mustard Barbeque sauce, Kansas City barbeque sauce, etc.). How am I supposed to know what the owner/cook thinks is the proper sauce – I want to judge their performance on the food – not select my ‘preference’. Most of these places have ‘smokers’ in which they place the meat – but typically the meat is not totally cooked with wood – which is my preference.
I have also received an e-mail from folks who have commented on my reviews and indicated that they were not happy with the ribs in the place I reviewed. I do eat barbequed ribs – both pork and beef – and I love them and I have preferences about them [I contend that the very best barbequed ribs (pork – of course) in North Carolina are found at Alston Bridges Barbeque in Shelby, NC – but you need to get there early in the evening because they only barbeque a certain number of ribs each day and when they are gone – they are gone. You order by – 3-rib plate or 5-rib plate. These ribs have wonderful wood smoke flavor and they do not totally ‘fall off the bone’ – you need to be able to gnaw to get the real sense of what you are eating. Be prepared to ‘take a sponge bath – i.e. wash your face and hands with soap – after eating these ribs as they cannot be eaten with only utensils, you need your hands and your teeth.
‘Real’ barbeque in North Carolina is pork. Historically it comes in chopped, minced, and sliced. (Pulled pork barbeque is a term from Memphis – in my experience.)
I have eaten barbeque across the United States – from Castroville, California to Beaufort, NC and from San Antonia, Texas to Vermont. But – there are still thousands of places that I would love to visit and try the barbeque. There have been numerous books written by authors who traveled many months – perhaps ruining their digestive tracts – sampling barbeque across the South. I have one of these books that I trust quite a lot. Many of the best barbeque places have limited hours (for example Thursday – Saturday only and in North Carolina many of the great barbeque owners are religious and do not open on Sundays) so you would do well to have a ‘guide’ that can provide that type of information. My general finding is that there are concentrations of barbeque places in many areas especially across the South but inevitably there is one – family owned and run – barbeque restaurant in each concentration that is superior to the rest. (I’m not certain that I have ever experienced ‘great barbeque’ in a place where the owner(s) was not right there in the restaurant) I love to find those superior places. Unfortunately when the ‘family line’ runs out for this type of barbeque place (i.e. father, son, daughter, or in-law who ‘falls in love with the business’) the quality just seems to go down and down – reputation sustains for a while but that is not barbeque. I would love to spend time in rural Texas eating barbeque. Also Kansas City – I have pretty well eaten through Memphis – I love The Rendevous – also Cincinnati (I have a friend who swears by the ribs there – doesn’t say anything about if they have pork or beef barbeque) and maybe goat barbeque in Kentucky.
What do you drink with barbeque? In North Carolina the only acceptable drink with barbeque is sweet tea – and a good barbeque joint will take pride in their tea. [Perhaps in Texas beer is the beverage of choice – I do not really know – but beer has not yet totally permeated the society in North Carolina – and some of us still consider this a Yankee drink with meals. Beer is more for pool halls and joints where communing with buddies is more important than food. I once asked a fairly famous eastern NC barbeque founder/owner ‘Why do you not serve wine or beer in here?’ Bill’s reply was, “Do you know who that lady was who waited on your table? That was my Mom. My wife, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law also wait tables in here. Do you think that I want my Mom serving wine and beer?”
In my rating of barbeque – I am refering to pork barbeque – sliced, chopped, or minced. In order to have any of the A ratings the barbeque should be cooked with wood – not simply put in to be smoked with wood smoke as an afterthought or a ‘finish’. [I do admit that technology is changing. I have seen in operation – and eaten some very good barbeque from – some ‘smoker/cookers’ that looked like large metal refrigerators or that were large metal rooms with something like a ferris wheel upon which the meat was placed to be cooked and were fired with wood – plus perhaps some automatic gas to maintain a set temperature but to me ‘pit cooked’ is still the gold standard.
So much for philosophy. Below is a ‘review’ of a barbeque joint that I enjoy in Beaufort, NC.
Roland’s Barbeque [Beaufort, NC]
I have eaten Roland’s Barbeque a number of times when I am in the region of Beaufort. My favorite way to enjoy Roland’s Barbeque is to get a take-out barbeque sandwich with slaw and a large tea and to take this lunch down to the area of the Beaufort Town Waterfront and eat lunch watching the boats. I have always found Roland’s Barbeque to be ‘top grade’ [I give it a rating of B+ and it would be an A except that it is apparently cooked with gas and not with wood. I miss the ‘wood flavor’ but this barbeque is about as good as it gets when not cooked over wood.
It has always been easy for me to tell other folks how to located Roland’s Barbeque (take-out) in the ‘old days’ because it was located right at the ‘big corner’ left-hand turn that US Highway 70 makes after you come off the bridge into Beaufort and go ‘straight-through’ most of Beaufort that is the ‘old town’ main tourist area. (You turn to the right at any street to get to the waterfront area.) I was surprised to discover a sign on the front of this building that Roland’s had moved. The sign gave the new address but not being familiar with the streets of Beaufort I went next door and asked for directions. The new location of Roland’s is only about ½ mile from the old location. You proceed on US 70 a short distance ‘toward Cedar Island’ and at the point where Highway 111 turns left (back to Havelock) there is a shopping center on the left side of Highway 70/right side of Highway 111. [The ‘most visible’ shop in this center is a large ACE Hardware store.] Roland’s is now a small restaurant – with a drive-thru on the side near Highway 111. This location now has a few tables and some seats (the old location was ‘take-out’ only.) The barbeque is the same, high quality product. Roland’s has now added about four vegetables and a couple of other meat selections (order at the counter). You can now have barbeque or a ‘meat and two’ lunch and choose to eat at tables in the building (similar to the way you get served at McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Hardee’s.) [Note: I did not try any of the other lunch selections but if I judge by the quality/taste of the barbeque, I would suspect that the food is very good.
Again – I selected a ‘chopped barbeque sandwich with slaw (I had my own Coke in the refrigerator back at the motel where we planned to eat lunch.) I chose to add additional ‘Roland’s sauce’ – generously – to my ‘que. As I stated at the top of this article I rate Roland’s Barbeque ‘as good as it gets when not cooked with wood’. The barbeque is not greasy and does not contain the large chunks of skin that many consider characteristic of Eastern NC barbeque. The slaw is white slaw and it goes well with the barbeque. The sweet tea is good. I strongly recommend that anyone visiting the Beaufort, Morehead City. Atlantic Beach areas consider Roland’s Barbeque.
I noted in some tourist information while in Beaufort that there is a White Swan Barbeque place in Atlantic Beach.(2500 W. Fort Macon. That is about 2 miles toward Salter Path from the causeway between Morehead City and Atlantic Beach.) I have eaten White Swan barbeque many times and it is ‘good’ – probably a B in my rating system. (I was ‘turned off’ when the owner of White Swan in a newspaper article claimed that the ‘smoke from the meat dripping down on the fire’ makes a taste that is equivalent to the flavor of wood-fired cooking. – No way! I still eat at White Swan but no longer drive 30 or more miles to eat there.) If you are in the Morehead City/Beaufort area and choosing between the two restaurants, I would recommend Roland’s.
3506 Carriage Drive
Raleigh, NC 27612
Tel & fax: 919.789.4338
This blog was started to encourage discussions about Bar-B-Q. Through the ages, the term has come to be used for many things that don’t fit our images of what we think Bar-B-Q really is. Those of us that grew up in Texas won’t get what they’re expecting if we order Bar-B-Q in Memphis, Kansas City, or New York City. Then there’s “Chinese Style Bar-B-Q”. ? ? ? ? ? What’s up with that? I myself have been guilty of wrapping a perfectly good brisket in foil, baking it for 8 hours, and calling it Bar-B-Q. So is that “real Q” or “faux Q”? Please feel free to start a new post or comment on an existing one. Posts or comments about anything other than Bar-B-Q will be deleted.
Harold’s is one of the best kept secrets in Abilene. One of those places that you’d never see unless you know where to look. It’s a block off of Pine Street and tucked into the corner of a residential block. That being said, you just haven’t lived until you’ve crumbled a piece of Harold’s “hot water jalapeño cornbread” in to a bowl of his “Home Style Collard Greens” and dug in.
My wife and I have tried all his meats and found all to be excellent. He won Linda’s heart the first time we went by not charging us for her meat. She asked for chicken and Harold took a look in his oven and said he had one piece left (a huge leg/thigh piece) and it wasn’t pretty enough to sell. It was so tender that it fell apart before he layed it on her plate so he said “no charge”.
The sauce is really good but a little different. It’s pretty spicy and tastes like it might have a little molasses in it. The sauce comes in “Hot” and “Damn Hot” varieties. No web site but Click Here for a map to Harold’s Bar-B-Q. He’s not open a whole lot of hours and I think Bar-B-Q chicken is only on Fridays. You might want to give him a call at (325) 672-4451 and check before you drive over.