La Barbecue – Austin, TX (Speedy’s take)

IMG_1608Name: La Barbecue
Date: 7/20/17
Address: 1906 E Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX 78702
Order: ½ lb brisket, ¼ lb pork, 1 sausage link (link to menu)
Price: $19

Speedy: After a quick work trip to Dallas, I thought it would be a good idea to pop over to Austin to visit Rudy. We both had to work my first day there, but I was able to get away for lunch and head over to La Barbecue, which Rudy previously raved about.

I got there about 11:30, and there was already a decent line. A guy behind me in line asked how long the wait was from the end – he was told 15, but the reality was 40. After 15 minutes, his order was taken (but no one else’s), so as to not make the worker “a liar.” Also, there was no free beer as there was on Rudy’s visit. Combine this with the hot weather and the business casual attire, and I was a little annoyed. The lack of urgency from the staff to serve people added to my annoyance.

Monk: I know the answer to this question, but you were mad because it was hot in July in Texas and they didn’t offer you free beer, something they aren’t obligated to do? Really?

Rudy: I believe that the free beer is only on Saturdays. You were actually able to visit La Barbecue on one of their last days as a food truck because they have since moved into a brick and mortar location. So while the wait might not be less time, but it could possibly be inside.

Speedy: At long last, I got to the front of the line, ordered ¼ pound brisket, ¼ pork, and a sausage link. Before cutting, the homie cutting the meat handed me a small chunk of brisket, which I popped into my mouth. Every annoyance, and truly every care I had immediately went away. The bit was so peppery and moist and simply divine. I quickly upped my order to ½ pound of brisket, got my food, paid, and went to find a shady spot to sit.

Rudy: They got me with the taste test too. Works every time.

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Speedy: Every bite of brisket was just as the first. This was, without a doubt, the best brisket I had ever tasted. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. It was absolutely perfect. There’s nothing I would change about it. I’m not an eloquent enough write to justly write about this brisket, so I’ll just say if you ever get a chance, get it.

Monk: I had similar thoughts when I tried Lewis Barbecue in Charleston earlier this year, which we all know is the joint that former La Barbecue pitmaster John Lewis opened about a year ago. I’d be curious how Lewis stacks up to La.

Speedy: Being a North Carolina boy, I didn’t have high expectations with the pulled pork, but digging in, I was blown away. It was tender, smoky, and tangy. I don’t know what was on it, but there was vinegar involved. It also came with pickled onions, which was a perfect pairing. Overall, this was in the top echelon of pulled pork I’ve ever had. I was shocked. If you ever get a chance, get it.

The sausage was disappointing. The flavor was fine, but it was a little dry and fell apart pretty easily. It wasn’t by any means bad – in fact, in a vacuum, i’d probably call it good. But compared to the brisket and the pork, it’s not worth ordering.

I didn’t order sides – I didn’t feel the need to.

In thinking about La Barbecue, my biggest regret is not getting a beef rib (in addition to, not instead of the other things). Yes, it’s expensive, and there’s no way I could eat it all, but damn it looked good.

Overall, my meal at La Barbecue was incredible. The next day, Rudy and I had plans to hit up Franklin’s, so I was pumped to be able to compare the two. Leaving La Barbecue, my only thought was that I had a hard time understanding how it would equal or exceed what I had just eaten.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 2.5 hogs (bumped down due to heat, lack of free beer, and slow service)
Brisket – 5 hogs
Pork – 5 hogs
Sausage – 3 hog
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 Hogs (the brisket and pork were good enough that nothing else mattered)
La Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que – Atlanta, GA (Speedy’s take) 

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Name
: Heirloom Market BBQ
Date: 6/14/17
Address: 2243 Akers Mill Rd., Atlanta, GA 30339
Order: Spicy Korean pork, brisket, collards, fries (link to menu)
Price: $16

Speedy: I sent Monk a simple text on Friday evening. It just said, “Wow wow wow. Heirloom market.”

Monk: It’s true; I can confirm this happened. I wondered why it took so long but was glad Speedy finally made it out there before moving.

Speedy: I have lived in Atlanta for almost a year before checking out Heirloom Market. In my defense, I have to get on 285 (aka the busiest road in America) to get there, but shame on me. This place is incredible.

Heirloom Market doesn’t look like much from the outside. It’s connected to a convenience store, is tiny inside, and just has an outside patio with a half dozen tall tables (and no chairs) if you want to dine-in. However, it has a great reputation, which is well deserved.

Monk: Indeed. A few years back when I was coming into Atlanta, Grant from Marie, Let’s Eat! urged me to go here instead of, say, Fox Bros if I was only picking one joint in Atlanta that weekend. And I was so glad I did, especially years later when I finally tried Fox Bros (which was fine). But Heirloom Market is special.

Speedy: I ordered the combo plate, eschewing the traditional pulled pork for the spicy Korean pork, along with the brisket. The pork is served chunked with a spicy sauce and some kimchi (I think) mixed in. Let me tell you, dear reader, it’s absolutely incredible. The pork is smoked perfectly and the sauce adds just the right amount of spice, along with incredible flavor. In addition to my love of barbecue, I’m a huge fan of all Asian food, so this meat was right up my alley. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Monk: My first taste of that spicy, Korean-influenced pork was one of the best bites of barbecue I’ve ever had – definitely top 5.

Speedy: The brisket is also fantastic. It was the right combination of lean and fatty, had lots of bark, and was not dried out at all. The bark was nice and peppery, and no sauce was needed. This was in the upper echelon of briskets that I’ve enjoyed.

Monk: While not Korean-influenced, I agree that Heirloom Market’s is just a damn good brisket.

Speedy: The collards were great – definitely cooked in some sort of meat stock (I’d guess chicken, but not positive) – giving a nice flavor. And the seasoned fries were also excellent.

My meal was too big for one person – I got a second full meal the next day. All this stuff even tasted great re-heated.

Overall, this meal at Heirloom Market Bar-B-Que was perfect. I wouldn’t change a thing. The only thing I regret is not getting there sooner.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Spicy Korean Pork – 5 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Heirloom Market BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Heirloom Market BBQ

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

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