Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 10/12/14
Location: 2702 Main St, Dallas TX 75226
Order: 1/2 pound of brisket, 1/2 pound of pork ribs, mac & cheese, fried okra (link to menu)
Bill: $25

Rudy:  I don’t make it up to Dallas very often, so when we planned a trip to the Texas State Fair in October, a visit to Pecan Lodge was an absolute must. Texas Monthly listed it as one of the top 4 barbecue joints in the state, so I had high hopes going in. Spoiler alert for the rest of the review: my expectations were more than met.

Pecan Lodge began in the Dallas Farmers Market, but recently opened it’s own brick and mortar location. Having experienced some of the long lines for top places in Austin, I didn’t want to run the risk of getting a place too far back in line, so I got there at 8:20 in the morning.  Sometime after that, many of the employees showed up. The next person in line showed up at 9:30, and at 10:30 the line was only 20 deep. So yeah, I was a little over-zealous, but at 11:00, the line was around the block.

The atmosphere, while waiting for Pecan Lodge to open, was the most unique and the least enjoyable aspect of my visit, but something I wouldn’t hold against the restaurant. The second guy that showed up came dressed like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, all the way down to the hat and probably the metal plate in his head, which made for great conversation. At one point he had to grab something from his car, and as a way to thank me for holding his spot, he brought me a warm homemade beer in a plastic water bottle. I politely declined.

Monk: Aw man, you should have tried the “beer.” At the very least, it would have made for a good story.

Rudy: Then about 45 minutes before opening, the store owner across the street (who is a vegetarian) began blasting cow mooing sounds. If it was an attempt to run off business, it didn’t have the intended effect. Pecan Lodge had a line all around it’s building, and this guy had nobody enter his antique store.

The best part of arriving early and being first in line, was getting to ring the dinner bell that hangs at the cash register, thus signaling they were open for business. I rung the bell, ordered, and found a seat.

Monk: Awesome! I only wish you had a photo capturing yourself doing this.

Rudy: I know, it would have been cool. When I got to the front I was worried about holding up the line, so I felt in a hurry.

One cool thing that Pecan Lodge offers is an express lane for people ordering in bulk, plus a bar that you can sit at and order as well. This is a great way to get as many people through the lines as possible.

I knew right away that the brisket was going to be amazing. It came in 2 big thick cuts, which kept it moist. There was a great amount of bark and seasoning, but it wasn’t overwhelming. The fat was perfectly rendered and just melted in my mouth. If the line wasn’t so long behind me, I would have gone up and gotten more. It was everything that I had dreamt it would be and more.

Next came the ribs. Normally I skip ribs and go for sausage, but for some reason I decided to try the ribs here, and it was a great decision. Many times they can be dry or not very meaty, but that was definitely not the case here. There was so much meat on these ribs, they were moist and had a slight sweet taste to them. There was plenty of tug on them, so they didn’t fall apart, but the meat was tender and cooked perfectly. They were by far the best ribs that I have had and would be reason enough to go back.

Pecan Lodge offered a bit more than the typical sides of beans and potato salad. I opted for the mac & cheese and fried okra. Both of them were good, but not great. I think it was hard for either of them to stand out when they were being compared next to the brisket and the ribs.

Overall Pecan Lodge lived up to all the hype. The brisket and ribs were unbelievable and it had a great atmosphere. Considering you don’t have to get there 3 hours before opening (even though I came close) to enjoy such incredible barbecue, I think they could take over my top ranking. They are every bit as good as La Barbecue and Franklin’s, I only wish they were closer to me.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance –  5 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge on Urbanspoon
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Ed Mitchell’s Que – Durham (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Ed Mitchell’s Que
Date: 9/4/14
Address: 359 Blackwell St, Durham, NC 27701
Order: Speedy: Carolina Baby Back Ribs platter with fries, collards, and Pork Slap Farmhouse Ale; Monk: Chopped whole hog BBQ platter with collards, mac and cheese, and Mother Earth Weeping Willow (link to menu)
Price: $45

Monk: Ever since Speedy checked out Ed Mitchell’s Que back in May, I’ve been looking for excuses to make it to Durham myself. Our annual trip to the Hopscotch Music Festival afforded a great opportunity to do exactly that on our way into Raleigh (you may recall we had previously checked out Allen & Son, The Pit Raleigh, and Hursey’s during Hopscotches past).

Speedy: As this was my second trip, I knew what to expect when walking in, but I did get a pleasant surprise when the man Ed Mitchell himself was sitting at the bar. Honestly, I was a bit awe struck, so Monk and I let the man be for a bit while we got down to business.

Monk: I knew that I had to try the whole hog barbecue, Ed Mitchell’s speciality, so that was a no brainer. In his lone wolf review of Que, Speedy let it slip out that he actually likes eastern style just as much as Lexington style. At the time I found it to be a little blasphemous, but tasting Ed Mitchell’s whole hog barbecue has definitely changed my thinking that much more. It was perfectly moist and had just a hint of spiciness. Not a ton of bark, which is to be expected in whole hog barbecue, but the pork was really smoked to perfection.

Speedy: I can’t say much about the whole hog that I didn’t say before except to say that it was just as good this time around. Consistency can be difficult to achieve in the barbecue world, but with a pro like Ed Mitchell, it was a non-issue.

Monk: I think the takeaway here is that when you have a master working his craft – be it at Wayne Monk at Lexington Barbecue, Rodney Scott at Scott’s Bar-B-Que, Aaron Franklin at Franklin Barbecue or John Lewis at la Barbecue – regional styles shouldn’t get in the way. Just sit back and enjoy the deliciousness – and I certainly did on this trip.

Speedy: I didn’t have the ribs last time I was at Que and noticed they’ve since been renamed “Throwdown ribs” to pay homage to Ed Mitchell’s smack down of Bobby Flay. The ribs came out with a light glaze of sweet western style sauce and were seriously meaty. They were cooked too well – tender enough to come off the bone easily, but not so tender that you can’t get a good bite. The flavor was quite good. If I had one complaint, it’s that the western style sauce is slightly sweet for my taste, but it didn’t stop my from cleaning off my share of bones.

Monk: Speedy and I went splitsies with our meals since they don’t do combo plates, and these were the largest baby back ribs I’d ever seen at a restaurant. And as Speedy said, they were quite tender. The sides were scratch made in house and I didn’t taste anything wrong with either my collards or my mac and cheese. The collards were fresh and perfectly cooked while the mac and cheese was great. At this point, I haven’t tasted anything wrong with Ed Mitchell’s Que.

Speedy: I agree, Monk. Sometimes, as a world-renowned blogger (we are that, aren’t we?), I feel the need to find something negative to say about any place that I eat, but when treated to an amazing meal, sometimes its best to just sit back and enjoy it.

Monk: On his first visit, Speedy initially toyed with a 5 hog rating before eventually backing off to a 4.5 hog rating. We were having a very similar conversation as we wrapped up our meal this time around too. As we got our check, Ed Mitchell himself came around to check to see how things were and to make sure we enjoyed our food. Naturally, we took the opportunity to snap a quick photo with the legend (posing with his portrait and “The Pitmaster” from the back wall in the background at his insistence). And I must say, Ed was extremely gracious and kind, thanking us for coming in. In the car, Speedy and I discussed more and decided that Ed himself was reason enough to go with a 5 hog rating. Because if that kind of hospitality from the owner and pitmaster (in addition to his amazing food) isn’t reason enough to up the overall rating, I don’t know what is.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Ribs – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4 hogs
Overall – 5 Hogs
Midwood Smokehouse on Urbanspoon
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Lexington Barbecue – Lexington, NC

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Name: Lexington #1 Barbecue
Date: 7/23/14
Address: 100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington NC 27295 (link to menu)
Order: 2 large chop trays, 1 chopped plate, 1 chopped sandwich, side of hushpuppies, 4 Cheerwines
Price: $50 (for 4)

Rudy: Ahhh, reunited and it feels so good. The whole Rudy clan made a summer pilgrimage to North Carolina and got to enjoy some barbecue with Speedy and Monk. Seeing y’all was fine and everything, but being reunited with great Lexington Barbecue was really the best part.

I feel like there was a bit of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ aspect to NC style barbecue. I’d been eating brisket, sausage, and ribs for so long, that I had forgotten about how great a plate of chopped pork can be.

Speedy: And what better place to reunite than consensus Barbecue Bros favorite, Lexington Barbecue aka Lexington #1 aka Monk’s Place aka Honeymonk’s aka heaven. Some of you may be thinking, “Speedy – how can this be the Bros’ favorite when you haven’t been there in the two plus years you’ve had the blog?” Well, loyal readers, the reality of it is that rarely does a month pass by when I don’t figure out a way to get my hands on some of this delicious chopped pork, but we had to have all the Bros reunited for this review.

Monk: That’s true – I can attest that Speedy brings home a pint of chopped pork from Lexington Barbecue regularly (I am usually a beneficiary of such a trip). Even though Speedy and I live but an hour away from Lexington we knew that for the official review we needed to wait until Rudy was back in North Carolina. And yes, it somehow took over two years for us to arrange to all be in Lexington at the same time. When it comes to a plate of chopped pork, Lexington Barbecue is our gold standard.

Rudy: Absolutely it is.  There is so much flavor to the pork.  It is tender and moist.  The thing I liked most about it was that it already came sauced, so it had plenty of flavor and didn’t force you to try and figure out how much you needed to put on it. It is obvious from the flavor (and from the smell outside) that they are using real wood pits as opposed to gas or electric smokers to cook.  This makes a tremendous amount of difference in the flavor.  I was all ready to put Texas brisket above North Carolina Pork, but Lexington #1 is giving me lots to think about.

Speedy: I couldn’t agree more, Rudy. The pork is absolutely perfect. It’s not smoked by man – it’s smoked by God through man. There’s no other way to put it. It has the perfect amount of bark mixed in with the smoky, savory pork. It’s all shoulder, so there is consistency from bite to bite (which you don’t always get with whole hog), and it’s just damn good. Lexington does keep a spicy dip and Texas Pete on the table, which can be added for a little heat, but it’s certainly not necessary. The tang, the hint of sweetness, the tenderness – it could not be any better. And probably my favorite thing about Lexington barbecue is the consistency. These guys have been doing their thing for 50+ years, and it shows. I’ve never had a single bite of chopped pork there that wasn’t absolutely divine, and this trip was no different.

Monk: The barbecue slaw at Lexington is what Speedy and I always compare slaw to when we go to a NC joint. It is a perfect mix of tangy and crunchy. The hush puppies are darn near perfect, and to top it off, we each ordered a Cheerwine with our meal. Rudy, how good was it to have a Cheerwine with barbecue once again?

Rudy: Don’t even get me started on how great it was. Texas has a red soda too, called Big Red, and it is terrible. People say it tastes like a red creme soda or even bubble gum, but either way I say it is not good. When you have Cheerwine and sweet tea (also rarely served in Texas) on the menu, I’m going to give you a big bump in rating. That and being able to walk around back and see the wood burning into the smokers were the coolest parts of Lexington #1’s atmosphere.  Other than that it seems like a basic barbecue joint. So if there is going to be any knock on Lexington #1, it would be the atmosphere. That’s not really the most important part of a restaurant, the food is, and they nailed the food.

Speedy: We went in expecting this to be a slam dunk 5 hog experience, but we’ve been disappointed before. Not this time. The meal at Lexington #1 was absolutely perfect. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – if you want barbecue, be it eastern, western, Lexington, Memphis or Texas, this is the gold standard, top of the mart meal. Everything else is just trying to play catch-up.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides – 5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Lexington Barbecue on Urbanspoon
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Stamey’s Barbecue – Greensboro, NC

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Name: Stamey’s Barbecue
Date: 7/12/13
Address: 2206 High Point Road, Greensboro, NC 27403
Order: Chopped pork plate with red slaw, hush puppies, and Cheerwine (link to menu)
Bill: $6.84

Monk: Guys, I think I am in love. Despite growing up in High Point not 20 minutes from Stamey’s, I’m a little ashamed to admit that this past Friday was my first visit to the joint. I mean, Carter Brother’s was fine at the time but why didn’t someone drag me by the ear to Stamey’s?

Rudy: It’s funny that you had never been there, because I practically grew up on Stamey’s. It is located about 2 blocks from my Dad’s business, so I ate there all the time. It is pretty much the barometer for how I view all barbecue. It is also directly across the street from the Greensboro Coliseum, so during the ACC Basketball Tournament, it is packed all day long.

Monk: There really is no good explanation as to why it took so long but in any case, after finishing my latest reading material and getting a better understanding of Warner Stamey’s legacy and influence on Lexington style barbecue in NC, I knew I had to get here asap. And visiting my parents for the weekend while my wife went out of town presented the perfect opportunity.

My dad and I were already going to be in Greensboro so we planned to stop in at Stamey’s that day. We walked into the large wooden building, sat ourselves in a booth and did the usual barbecue joint drill – order a drink, order food when the waitress returns with our drink 2 minutes later, and then receive the food another 2-3 minutes after that (if not sooner).

Soon a perfect plate was presented before me with chopped pork barbecue, red slaw, and oblong hush puppies. After snapping a few photos, I took my first bite and wow. Just wow. Immediately I knew an overall 5 whole hog ratings was in play. Nice chop, perfect smokiness that can’t be faked with gas, and the right ratio of sweetness to tang in the sauce. I ordered the regular plate but immediately wished I had ordered the large.

Rudy: With so many places moving towards gas, it is refreshing to see a big stack of wood piled in the corner of the parking lot; a clear sign that they are sticking with the traditional smoking, which makes the whole difference.

Monk: In case you weren’t aware (I wasn’t until recently), Warner Stamey is actually credited with introducing hush puppies into barbecue meals in the 50’s (it had previously only been a seafood side). As stated in this space numerous times, I like a sweeter hush puppy and while these weren’t quite as sweet as I’d have liked they were pretty good. The red slaw was above average and a Cheerwine rounded out the meal nicely. My Dad and I also split a blueberry cobbler bro-style (separate plates, thank you very much) for dessert, which was quite good. I’m usually too full to order dessert at a barbecue restaurant, but I’m glad I did on this day.

Rudy: One of my biggest complaints about barbecue in Texas is the lack of effort with sides. Most of the time it is just some beans as an option. Stamey’s has brunswick stew as a side option…and it is amazing. Next time anyone goes there, it is an absolute must.

Monk: I wish I had seen your tweet and had ordered the brunswick stew, but next time. When the bill came out I did a double take since the entire meal was under $14. Total. I have come to expect to pay that much for just myself. So you’re telling me not only is this probably at least as good as the best barbecue I’ve ever had (Lexington #1), but the prices are ridiculously reasonable too (a sandwich is $2.99 and a regular plate is $5.29)?

I can’t say enough good things about Stamey’s and I hope to make it back very soon. It is the definition of a 5 whole hog plate of chopped pork barbecue and to me, also the definition of a 5 whole hog joint.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sides/Dessert – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs

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Stamey's Barbecue on Urbanspoon