Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace – Pioneertown, CA

Name: Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace
Address: 53688 Pioneertown Rd, Pioneertown, CA 92268
Order: Tri-tip and half rack of baby back ribs, red rice, pinto beans (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Monk: Last month, Mrs. Monk and I found ourselves in southern California spending time in Temecula Wine Country and Palm Springs for our 10th wedding anniversary. This being a big anniversary, my gift to her was going to be not forcing her to go to a barbecue restaurant. I’m kind of a romantic that way.

After spending a few nights in Temecula’s wonderful wineries, we set off to spend a day hiking in Joshua Tree National Park. Looking for a lunch spot nearby, we were recommended Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown by my cousin who lives in the area. I do want to make it clear that I only asked my cousin for a food recommendation and she was the one who brought up barbecue. So I still (technically) kept my promise. Thankfully, Mrs. Monk obliged and we set our GPS coordinates to Pioneertown. She’s a keeper, that one.

Pioneertown has an interesting history since its inception in 1946 as a living old western movie set, with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry being some of they initial investors. During normal times, Pappy & Harriet’s is a live music and dance hall that since its opening in 1982 has hosted the likes of Victoria Williams and Robert Plant to nowadays more indie rock bands such as Vampire Weekend or Jenny Lewis. The original owners sold it in 2003 and it was then taken over by two New Yorkers who seem to have largely kept the original vibe while making it sightly more hipster.

In addition to the live music, P&H also grills their meats over mesquite wood in a Santa Maria-style wood-fired grill. I focused in on the tri-tip and the baby back ribs on the menu, but there was no combo plate listed. Thankfully, the waitress helpfully let me know that it could be done for a price, of course. The tri-tip came cooked medium with a slight pink on the inside for the middle slices but was a little cool to the touch by the time in arrived. It had good flavor, though I could have used a little more pepper. It also came with a ramekin of thin barbecue sauce for dipping.

The ribs were sauced with a savory-and-not-too-sweet sauce but were well cooked. I should note here that neither meat was overly smoky with mesquite smoke, a concern of mine going in.

The sides of rice and beans were bland and a little forgettable but the chili fries we ordered as our appetizer hit the spot after our morning hike.

Pappy & Harriet’s is a fun spot in a cool setting in a historic town. The weather was nice enough (if a bit chilly in the shade) to sit outside and enjoy the food with mesquite smoke wafting in the air. And the food isn’t too bad, either (if not a bit pricey). It was well worth our trip into Pioneertown.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 5 hogs
Tri-tip – 3 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Honeyfire BBQ – Nashville, TN

Name: Honeyfire BBQ
Date: 11/13/20
Address: 8127 Sawyer Brown Rd #304, Nashville, TN 37221
Order: Three meat combo – brisket, pork, ribs, baked apples, fries (link to menu)
Pricing: $$

Speedy: I recently heard about Honeyfire BBQ when talking to a friend about restaurants with good whiskey selections. Honeyfire sits in the Bellevue neighborhood, which is in the western part of the city. I don’t frequent this part of town too often, but I found myself with a leisurely Friday afternoon and decided to bring back one of my favorite work traditions – long lunch Friday.

Honeyfire sits in a pretty sizable shopping center, which is a bit of a red flag for me from a barbecue perspective (where do they do the smoking???), but seeing a sizable woodpile walking in made me feel better.

Monk: But is the wood pile for show or for realsies? If its all the way in the front of the restaurant then surely its not the wood they are using for smoking. My guess is they are probably using a Southern Pride (or similar gasser) and throwing in a stick or two occasionally from a similar wood stack in the back to get a little wood smoke on the meats.

Speedy: The restaurant is sleek and clean, so I walked up to the counter and placed my order. I was asked wet or dry ribs (dry, duh) and fatty, lean, or mixed brisket (mix), which I also consider to be a good sign. 

The food was brought out quickly and it was time to dig in. I’ll start with the ribs. The three bones that came were St. Louis style cut, dry with visible rub sprinkled on. They were meaty and cooked well (maybe slightly overdone), but the rub was a little challenging to me. This will be a theme of the review, but the rub was just very sweet. It seemed to be brown sugar based and mixed decently with the flavor of the ribs, but the sweetness was just too much to handle. The pulled pork was a similar story, as it was finished with a dusting of the same rub. The pork was tender, had some good bark mixed in, but was just too sweet for my liking. There was a sauce provided on the side, so I thought maybe some good vinegar sauce would offset the sweetness. Well one taste and I learned this was no vinegar sauce – it was actually a honey barbecue sauce. So what started as a little too sweet became way too sweet. 

Monk: Wonder if the folks behind Honeyfire have a competition background, where the winning flavor profile tends to be on the sweeter side. Sounds like they could stand to add a vinegar sauce alternative.

Speedy: The brisket was a different story. Rubbed with just salt and peppery, there was (thankfully) no sweetness. The bark on the brisket was tasty and the overall flavor was good. The brisket, like the ribs, was slightly overcooked, so just a touch dry, but overall, it was a pretty nice effort.

As far as sides go, mine were fine. However, one reason I like to get baked apples with barbecue meals is to have a little sweetness to go along with savory meat. In this instance, the meat gave me all the sweetness I could handle, so the apples remained unfinished.

Overall, Honeyfire BBQ is a tough one to rate. I think they actually do a pretty good job hitting the flavor profile that they want to – it’s just not the right profile for me. However, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs (.5 point deduction for the sauce)
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 3 hogs

Shotgun Willie’s – Nashville, TN

Name: Shotgun Willie’s
Date: 10/14/20
Address: 4000 Gallatin Pike Suite B, Nashville, TN 37216
Order: Half rack of ribs, ¼ lb brisket, ¼ lb pulled pork and a Big Red (link to menu)
Pricing: $$$

Speedy: Shotgun Willie’s is a Texas style barbecue joint that opened up early during the quarantine. I had been hearing really good things about it, so was pumped to finally get a chance to sample the goods. 

I walked in early during lunch on a Wednesday (Shotgun Willie’s is only open Wed-Sun, 11-3) and was greeted by a Texas style meat-counter, which included a meat warmer, meat scale, and kept-warm sides. There were no tables inside however there were a few picnic tables outside; I’m not sure if that’s the long term plan or specific to Covid. 

I walked up to the slicer and placed my order – trying to sample as much meat as possible. The staff at Shotgun Willie’s couldn’t have been nicer (I think it was owner Bill slicing for me). Other than a lack of trays and butcher paper, it definitely felt like a Texas joint. 

Being a Texas joint, of course I started with the brisket. My quarter pound included three small slices of fatty brisket (I wasn’t asked), which had a nice bark and visible pepper seasoning. I’m on record as generally either loving or hating brisket, with rarely in-between, but this brisket defied that a little bit. The brisket was well cooked and moist, but the seasoning was not quite on point for me. Overall, it was good but not in the same league of some of the best. Still, I would order it again, though I would ask for a leaner cut next time.

Monk: I can’t believe we’ve found a “meh” brisket for Speedy! I’m also a bit surprised that they didn’t ask you for a preference of fatty, lean, or both based on your description of the place as a Texas joint. At least you know for next time.

Speedy: The pulled pork was also cooked well and moist with a nice bark. After pulling, a little finishing powder was sprinkled on, which enhanced the flavor. However, I have noticed one thing with Texas style pulled pork. Generally, the pork is pulled right in front of you. While that ensures freshness, I think it also increases the amount of grease in the pulled pork. Pulling (or preferably, chopping) the pork in advance of the order allows some of the grease to drain out. I also have a theory that cooking pork on the Texas style offset smokers does not render all the fat out quite as well. So while this pork had really good flavor, it was a little greasier than I would like. 

Monk: Hmm, I think that could make sense. Chopping ahead of time certainly allows juices/grease to flow out onto the board. If you are pulling or chopping fresh, those juices have simply been circulating within the cut of meat.

As far as the offset smokers, I’m not sure but perhaps you are onto something. Classic NC joints smoke the pork over direct heat (albeit a few feet above the coals) so the fat renders out and then drizzles onto the coals and enhances the flavor. The indirect heat from the offset may not allow for this. And while not an offset, I’ve noticed that the pork from certain joints with rotisserie wood smokers can be greasy sometimes, particularly in takeout. Again, not direct heat, but perhaps a similar principle applies. Maybe a reader more versed in thermodynamics can correct us here.

Speedy: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the ribs were cooked nearly perfectly and had good smoke, but to me, needed some additional seasoning beyond salt and pepper. Still, they were above average and enjoyable.

Monk: But what about the Big Red, Speedy!?!?!

Rudy: …Big Red is THE WORST!!!!

Monk: Remind me, was this your first? And, much like Rudy, did it make you wish you were drinking a Cheerwine instead?

Speedy: Calm down, Monk. This is a barbecue blog, not an obscure soft drink blog. 

Overall, Shotgun Willie’s is a good addition to the Nashville barbecue scene. It’s definitely got a different look and feel, and shows off Texas style barbecue nicely. It is not an elite Texas style joint, but it’s very solid, and I’ll definitely be back.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 3 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs

Rudy’s Smokehouse – Springfield, OH

Name: Rudy’s Smokehouse
Date: 10/3/20
Address: 2222 S Limestone St, Springfield, OH 45505
Order: Monk: 3-meat combo with pork, ribs, and brisket; hush puppies, mac and cheese, and fries; Speedy: 3-meat combo with pork, ribs, and brisket; hush puppies, collards, and fries; Rudy: 2-meat combo with brisket and pork (link to menu)
Pricing: $

Speedy: After our terrible experience at Ray Ray’s Hog Pit, all it took was a billboard advertising “award-winning BBQ” for us to give Ohio one more chance. So in the town of Springfield, we found Rudy’s Smokehouse (unrelated to the Texas Rudy’s). Rudy’s looks very much like a small town restaurant – think a Shoney’s or Cracker Barrel (minus the country store), which did not leave me with high hopes. Still, we marched up to the counter to place our order.

Monk: What Speedy has yet to mention is the reason we were in the Springfield area: I dragged the other bros (plus friend of the blog Boomsauce) an hour west of Columbus in the middle of western Ohio to hike and check out the town of Yellow Springs. I was actually very much against going to Rudy’s and wanted to check out Yellow Springs although I didn’t voice my opinion in time so before I knew it we were headed to Rudy’s. 

Nevertheless, getting out of the car I did smell some smoke from the parking lot at least, which was a promising sign. The interior reeked of kitschy barbecue restaurant decor but the prices weren’t bad and we went into barbecue review mode, each ordering multiple meat combo platters. 

Turns out, the pork was much better here than at Ray Ray’s while not being amazing. “Not being amazing” is probably as good as you’re going to find in Ohio based on this trip.

Rudy: The pulled pork was pretty plain and needed a decent amount of sweet sauce to make it something to eat. But it was not dry, so just because it wasn’t the pulled pork that we are used to in North Carolina, doesn’t mean it was bad, it was just ok.

Speedy: After our rib experience yesterday, I was nervous. Rudy’s ribs certainly exceeded the low bar previously set. While they were way overdone, they had a nice flavor and smoke taste, and were sauced nicely. Were they the world’s best ribs? No – far from it, but they were passable. The sides were fine as well, rounding out a perfectly average meal. 

Rudy: I agree, I thought the ribs were pretty good, but that may have been because of the jerky that I had experienced the day before.  We were given an order of the turkey due to them adding it in the order by mistake.  I tend to stay clear of turkey at barbecue restaurants because at best they can be ok, at worst they can be dry.  Rudy’s was very good, probably as good as you can do with turkey, moist and flavorful, but still just turkey.  

Speedy: The brisket was another meat that exceeded the extremely low bar from the previous day, but wasn’t really that good. So while I have repealed my “never order brisket outside of Texas” rule, on this weekend, a new rule was born: “Never order brisket in Ohio!”

Monk: I always love new rules from Speedy. We didn’t expect a ton out of our Ohio barbecue experiences, but Rudy’s Smokehouse partially made up for our poor experience the day before at Ray Ray’s Hog Pit. Though I would still like to know what award it won…perhaps this is a Pabst Blue Ribbon-type situation. 

Oh, and here’s proof we actually did that aforementioned hike.

(L-R) Monk, Speedy, Rudy, Boomsauce

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs
Pork – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 2.5 hogs
Brisket – 1.5 hogs
Turkey – 3 hogs 
Sides – 2.5 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs

Rudy's Smokehouse BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato