Lewis Barbecue – Charleston, SC (Speedy’s take)

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Name
: Lewis Barbecue
Date: 8/1/18
Address: 464 N Nassau St, Charleston, SC 29403
Order: 1 pound brisket, 2 hot gut links, 6 bones pork ribs, corn pudding, collards (link to menu)

Speedy: Later in the day after my trip to Rodney Scott’s BBQ (and after visiting a brewery of course), some of my fam and I decided to visit another new-ish Charleston joint I was pumped about – Lewis Barbecue. After superb visits to both Franklin Barbecue and La Barbecue (where John Lewis did stints), my expectations were super high. Finding a true Texas joint in South Carolina is definitely a treat.

The atmosphere at Lewis Barbecue is awesome. There’s an order counter, a bar, a fair amount of indoor seating and ample outdoor seating. Upon arriving, you order and just like in Texas, the meat is cut and weighed right in front of you. Even though we were still full from our earlier lunch, for our second lunch we made sure to order the brisket, pork ribs, and hot guts.

Monk: I was quite jealous when I heard Speedy and crew were doing Rodney Scott’s and then Lewis back-to-back. You may notice that most of my comments below are just agreeing with how good the food is at Lewis, and I hope I get a chance to get back there again soon (Labor Day weekend, perhaps?).

Rudy: I’m jealous too that you were able to visit Lewis Barbecue.  When he was the pitmaster at La Barbecue, that was the best brisket and maybe best ribs I’ve had, so I’ve missed him in Austin and have been wanting to try his place in Charleston.

Monk: Just throwing this out there…Barbecue Bros company retreat in Charleston next year?

Speedy: I’ll start with the brisket, as that’s the flagship meat. In short, it’s the best brisket I’ve had outside of Texas. We got a mix of fatty and lean, and both cuts were smoked to perfection, seasoned perfectly. I liked the fatty better than the lean, as I felt the lean was a bit dry. Unfortunately, this brisket did not enter into the holy quadrumvirate with Franklin, La Barbecue, Killen’s, and Pecan Lodge, but it’s certainly in the next tier down. A must order.

Rudy: Like I said before, his brisket in Texas is the best I’ve ever had (although Franklin and Pecan Lodge are very very close) so I am not surprised that it was great, but am surprised that it did not break into that group.

Speedy: I was a little surprised too, Rudy. It was still darn good and very close, but maybe it was just a slightly sub-par day or that I usually don’t order lean at all, but it just lacked that extra something special.

Monk: While I have a few more Texas joints (notably, Louie Mueller) under my belt from my trip earlier this year, Lewis Barbecue is still the best brisket I’ve personally had at a restaurant. Note that I have yet to visit any of the spots mentioned in Speedy’s quadrumvirate. Also, based on the lack of spell check squigglies, “quadrumvirate” is apparently a real word and not something made up by Speedy.

Speedy: The hot guts took things to the next level. I like smoked sausage, but have always considered it a second tier barbecue meat. Well, John Lewis is challenging that. The sausage had a perfect snap and great flavor, with just  a bit of a kick. I’m not sure the sausage could have been better.

Monk: I didn’t know that you were biased against sausage, Speedy. Six-plus years into this barbecue blog and you still manage to surprise me.

In any case, I too loved the hot guts.

Rudy: I’ve had the hot guts two times and really didn’t like it all that much.  I think they are all beef and I am not a huge fan of that because I think it can sometimes dry out or crumble.  It could have also been because I had heard so much about them and went in with huge expectations. But most people rave about it and you guys are no different.

Speedy: The ribs were also enjoyable – served with just a light glaze, these spare ribs were big and meaty, rich and tender. There was a hint of sweetness associated with the glaze, and you could clearly taste the smoke, but I would have liked a little more rub under the glaze to add a little spice and seasoning. Still quite good, but if you’re going to skip a meat at Lewis, this is the one.

The sides at Lewis Barbecue are worth more than a casual mention – they are really really good. Particularly the corn pudding was amazing, so don’t skip it.

Monk: The corn pudding was both mine and Mrs. Monk’s favorite side from Lewis as well. Jon G’s Barbecue has their own version of a corn pudding inspired by Lewis and it’s nearly as good. The takeaway here is that more joints should add corn pudding to menus.

Speedy: The meal at Lewis Barbecue was really great. Eating it in the same day as Rodney Scott’s was a real treat (as well as a challenge in terms of stomach room). Both joints are must-visit if you’re in the Charleston area and offer great insights into different styles of ‘cue.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4.5 hogs
Ribs – 4 hogs
Hot guts – 5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 4.5 hogs

Pecan Lodge – Dallas, TX (Speedy’s Take)

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Name
: Pecan Lodge
Date: 7/21/18
Address: 2702 Main St, Dallas, TX 75226
Order: The Trough (1 beef rib, 1lb of pork ribs, 1lb brisket, 1/2 lb of pulled pork & 3 sausage links), ½ pound burnt ends, fried okra, collard greens (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish (for 3)

Speedy: On a recent work trip to Dallas, I experienced Divine Intervention. In town for only two days with full calendars both days, I was resigned to having to miss Pecan Lodge once again, and based on Rudy’s review, it’s a joint not to miss. I must have done something right over the past week, because a cancelled meeting left me a block of time between 10 and 2, enough time to head to Deep Ellum to try the ‘cue. I brought two co-workers in tow, which turned out to be a great decision.

Monk: The barbecue gods certainly work in mysterious ways…

Speedy: We arrived right at 11, which is right when Pecan Lodge opens. The line was already out the door, which is when coming with friends comes in handy. We went straight to the bulk order counter (minimum 5 pounds), which had no line (hence the great decision to bring back-ups), and we were on our way.

Our number was called after a short wait, and it was time to dig in. Obviously, we had more food than the three of us could eat, and everything looked and smelled incredible. I have a hard time knowing where to begin with this meal, so let’s just jump right in.

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The brisket was heavenly. Rich, flavorful, moist, peppery, and perfectly cooked. It is easily in the top 4 briskets I’ve ever had, joining La Barbecue, Franklin, and Killen’s, and frankly, nothing else even comes close. The brisket seemed to melt in your mouth.

Personally, my other top meat was the beef rib. It was incredibly tender, had an amazing bark, and pulled, but didn’t fall, right off the bone. Honestly, I’d take these two cuts of beef over even the finest steaks. Beef like this just doesn’t come around often.

The other beef dish we had was the burnt ends, which was a special of the day. My two co-workers rated this as their favorite meat, and I agree it was very good, but I thought it could have been slightly more tender and could have used a little heat on the sauce. This is nit-picking to the extreme, but it was a tier below the brisket and beef rib for me.

The pork was also a pleasant surprise. I have had very hit or miss experiences with pork in Texas, but you could have told me the Pecan Lodge pork was from Tennessee or North Carolina and I would have believed you and demanded to know where from. It was tender and had nice bark, and overall was really great.

Monk: Funny you should mention that. I recalled hearing at one point at there was a connection between Pecan Lodge and NC and lo and behold, Justin and Diane Fourton (the couple behind Pecan Lodge) both used to live in Charlotte and met at Selwyn Pub in 2000. So while they both are originally from Texas, they may have gotten some pork knowledge through osmosis during their time in NC.

Speedy: On Rudy’s trip to Pecan Lodge, he raved about the ribs. This was my least favorite meat by a wide margin. The ribs were still good, but I felt like they could have been a little meatier and the outside got a little charred to me. I’m not sure if it was just a sub-standard batch, but the ribs were forgettable, especially when compared to the rest of the meal.

Rudy: Maybe you got a bad batch or I got an overly great batch. You may have also had the benefit of having several different meat to compare it to, and I only had the brisket. I’m sorry that I missed out on the beef rib.

Speedy: Generally, I don’t pay too much attention to the sides when I have five pounds of barbecue in front of me, but it was a different story here. The fried okra was really, really good. Perfectly seasoned and fried. The collards were also amazing and very unique. While I’m used to having bacon bits or pieces or pulled pork (or at least chicken stock) in the collards, these were very sweet – my guess is brown sugar. The collards are not to be missed.

The next paragraph is going to be a little hard to write. As a North Carolinian, I will go to my grave saying that Lexington barbecue is the best single food item that one can eat and that it was bestowed upon man by God himself. All that said, the top four all around barbecue meals of my life all happened in Texas, and this was in that group. It’s just that good. If you get a chance to visit Pecan Lodge – just do it.

Monk: Who in the? What in the? How in the?

Rudy: I have always said that the ceiling on Texas barbecue is higher but so is the floor.  When it is done well, it is great, but it can also be done poorly. North Carolina barbecue is more consistent. I agree that Pecan Lodge is a must visit and if you have to order from the bulk window to avoid the lines, you will never be disappointed.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Beef rib – 5 hogs
Burnt Ends – 4.5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 4.5 hogs
Overall – 5 hogs
Pecan Lodge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Louie Mueller Barbecue – Taylor, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Louie Mueller Barbecue
Date: 4/7/18
Address: 206 W. Second Street, Taylor, TX 76574
Order: Monk: ¼ lb mixed brisket, 2 original sausage links,1 pork rib, potato salad, pinto beans, Big Red; Rudy: 1 beef rib, ½ lb brisket, 1 sausages, 2 slices of turkey, potato salad, 2 waters
Price: Monk: $33.15 (for two); Rudy: $70.32 (for two)

Monk: Since the last time I visited Austin (in 2012, about a month before we started this blog), Speedy has made at least two trips there to visit Rudy and rubbed it in my face each time. Well now, it was my turn…suck it, Speedy!

Rudy: Speedy and I had explored some Lockhart and also some of the better places within Austin, so I decided to take you north and to the Granddaddy of Central Texas Barbecue. Louie Mueller is always ranked as one of the best places in the state (#5 in the latest Texas Monthly Top 50) and has been the inspiration for all of the other best barbecue places throughout the state. It’s one of my favorites, so I figured it was a no-brainer destination.  It is 45 minutes outside of Austin, but when you consider there usually is not much of a line, the time to drive there and back is still shorter than the wait at some of the elite places within Austin.

Monk: Louie Mueller is just the type of joint you don’t often see in North Carolina. The open kitchen smoker has built up a layer of soot on the walls over the past 59 or so years at the current location, which is housed in an old gymnasium. The walls are lined with neon beer lights even though they don’t serve alcohol (but don’t frown if you bring in a cooler of beer). And the air is filled with the smell of smoked wood.

In a way, the one NC joint that it does remind me of is Buxton Hall Barbecue in Asheville which is much younger (by about 55 years) but itself is in an old skating rink with the smoker sitting in the open kitchen with little separation from the dining room.

Rudy: Louie Mueller’s is best known for their beef ribs. While I usually shy away from these because of the cost and the amount of meat, I couldn’t resist. And I’m super glad that I couldn’t because it was the best thing that I had that day. My rib was an end rib, so 3 of 4 sides was covered in pepper and had a great crust. There was a good amount of fat on the rib (not too much) that was perfectly rendered and provided the rich moistness to compliment the crunch of the outside crust.

Monk: I had a taste of Rudy’s rib and while I am definitely a newbie when it comes to beef ribs, it was darn good.

To say I was expecting great things from Louie Mueller’s brisket would be an understatement. I got a mixture of moist and lean so I could try each out and while the peppery bark was exactly as I was hoping the brisket was a little…dry? Could this really be? Rudy and I watched the guy pull out a new brisket and slice it in front of us. This was definitely not expected.

Rudy: I agree, the brisket was at best, average. I ordered the fatty cut and it was as dry as you might expect a piece of lean. I have eaten here two other times and each time been blown away by the brisket, so to say I was underwhelmed and a bit disappointed is also an understatement. I am hoping that this was an anomaly and not a sign that they’ve lost their fast ball. I also got the jalapeno sausage (which has also been a staple of my orders here) and it was just as good as it has been in the past. Great snap to the case and great flavor without too much heat. So maybe the brisket today was just off.

Monk: I agree that the sausage was a highlight and had just the right amount of heat. I also got a single pork rib since Mrs. Monk is not a rib gal – technically I ordered a ¼ lb but that’s just the one rib. It had good flavor but to be honest was a little overdone. The meat slipped right off the bone after the first bite.

Now, I feel like I should address my choice of drink (besides the Shiner we brought in). Rudy is on record multiple times in stating that he is no fan of Big Red, which he considers to be a poor substitute for the Cheerwine we grew up on in the Piedmont of NC. Having my first taste of Big Red here at Louie Mueller, I have to say that I…completely agree. It’s way too sweet and I finished it only out of obligation. Give me Cheerwine any day of the week over Big Red.

Rudy: Give me anything other than Big Red any day of the week! I was hoping that the Big Red was going to be the only disappointing thing of this trip. Unfortunately the brisket did not live up to the hype or the drive. It’s still one of my favorite places because of the atmosphere and history, but I’m not sure I’ll be going out of my way too often, or at least will temper expectations in the future.

Monk: Listen, I’m definitely not mad that Rudy drove us to Louie Mueller Barbecue 45 minutes away in Taylor. It’s a classic Texas joint that I’m glad to have crossed off my list. I may have caught them on an off day but no doubts that they are legit. If I ever make it back, I’m sure they will prove that to be true.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 hogs
Brisket – 3 hogs
Beef Rib – 4.5 hogs
Sausage – 4 hogs
Ribs – 3 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Louie Mueller Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX (RE-REVIEW)

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Name
: Franklin Barbecue
Date: 7/21/17
Address: 900 E 11th, Austin, TX
Order: 2 pounds brisket, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound ribs, 1 pound sausage (link to menu)
Price: $120-ish

Speedy: Less than 24 hours after my excellent visit to La Barbecue, I was ready to get back at it, this time to the legendary Franklin Barbecue. Rudy dropped me off at 6 AM to get in line and went to take care of some things at work, re-joining me about 8. Getting there that early, I expected to be first in line, but in reality, there were three groups and about 12 people in front of me. Fortunately, I was still there in plenty of time to be shaded for my entire wait, which was hugely clutch. I spent most of the time sitting in a tailgate chair and sipping Lone Stars, so all-in-all, it was a pretty good morning.

Rudy: The shade part was the best by far. I don’t know how the people in the 2nd half of the line made it, I guess just more Lone Stars.  

Speedy: Around 9:00, someone came around to ask what we were ordering, in order to get a good idea when food was going to run out. You weren’t bound by the order, but it was a good way to understand how far the food would go.

Around 10:30 am, I went inside to hit the bathroom (which they opened up around 9:30), and I saw the Godfather himself – Aaron Franklin. I was a little bummed he didn’t recognize me as a Barbecue Bro (AARON – ARE YOU EVEN READING??), but it was pretty cool he was there.

Rudy: I’ll chalk it up to him just being intimidated by your presence. I am sure he scampered to the back to make sure everything was up to snuff. In all seriousness, I think it is great that they open the building early to people that need to use the bathroom or want to purchase drinks or merchandise. I feel like many places would keep the doors closed until they open for food. That was a nice touch.

Speedy: Eventually, the restaurant opened, and Rudy and I were to the front of the line pretty quickly. Like at La Barbecue, we were given a bit of brisket to much on, and it was every bit as good as the previous day, only this time I was expecting it. No matter – we placed our order, got our meat, and found a table to sit at and dig in.

I’ll start with the brisket since that’s what it’s known for and my God, it is incredible. The peppery bark was perfect, the meat was tender and flavorful, and it was simply divine. The previous day I had claimed I had eaten the best brisket I’d ever tasted, but this was every bit its equal. Just absolutely phenomenal.

Rudy: I agree, if barbecue places in Texas are judged primarily on brisket, you have to hit it out of the park to be listed as the best, and Franklin’s did. The bark was amazing, but the flavors ran all the way through the meat, so no matter what bite you got, it was great. We got moist brisket, and the fat was perfectly rendered as opposed to many other places where you end up with a huge glob of fat with drier meat around it.

Speedy: Rudy had been raving about the ribs, so they were what I tried next. I’ve eaten lots of awesome ribs in my day, but these ribs stacked right up there with the best of them. They were perfectly cooked – giving a clean bite every time. The flavor was amazing – with just the right amount of rub that had a touch of sweetness. The ribs were glazed, so neither wet nor dry, which worked perfectly. These may not have been the best ribs I’ve ever had, but I’d say they’re in the top 5. Overall, you’d be remiss to skip out on these at Franklin.

Rudy: Top 5?!?! I need to eat some of the places you’ve been eating! I love them because of the flavor, the fact that they are tender and moist without being wet ribs. They are my favorite by far.

Speedy: The pork was also a great showing. Tender and a little vinegary, it was everything you’d expect from a good pulled pork. In a normal setting, I’d write more to rave about the pork, but it was a distant third in this offering. Not to say it wasn’t very good, but brisket and ribs were the co-headliners.

The sausage was good – considerably better than La Barbecue, but I wouldn’t order it again. Stomach room at Franklin is too precious to waste on just an above average meat. At many barbecue places this would be the top offering, but at Franklin, the brisket and ribs rose to the top.

Rudy: The pork was a pleasant surprise for me because I had not had it before. What I’ve had other places is usually a peppery pulled pork (which this included) but the difference here was the slight taste of vinegar that you don’t get with most other Texas pulled pork. That gave it a distinct flavor compared to the other meats and also made it closer to NC pulled pork, which was a welcome bit of home for me. As far as the sausage, I agree, it was good but I could have done without it in lieu of more of the other 3 meats.

Speedy: The question that came up often after the trip was whether Franklin Barbecue was worth the 5 hour wait. It’s not something I’d do every weekend, but I think it was absolutely worth it. Overall, the wait was a rather enjoyable experience, and if I wasn’t already obsessed with barbecue, I’d call the meat life-changing. I can’t wait for my next trip to Franklin’s!

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 5 hogs
Ribs – 5 hogs
Pork – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Sides – N/A
Overall – 5 hogs
Franklin Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Das BBQ – Atlanta, GA (Rudy’s take)

IMG_6561Name: Das BBQ
Date: 7/15/17
Location: 1203 Collier Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318
Order: 2 Meat Plate with Brisket and Sausage, Side of collard greens and Mac & Cheese. Separate order of ½ pound of pulled pork.  (link to menu)
Bill: $25

Rudy:  I knew that Monk had already reviewed Das BBQ on a trip to Atlanta, but when I went to visit family they told me they wanted to take me to their new favorite barbecue restaurant. Who was I to complain? I didn’t recall how the place had rated, so it was good to go in without any preconceived ideas of what to expect.

Like Monk said, they have a Texas-style feel to them. That’s evident from the menu and also from the decor around the place. I noticed some photos of some of Lockhart’s most famous joints. It is also has a Texas-style menu (meats by the pound), however when I asked them for a single piece of chicken or quarter pound of pork (feeding Rudy Jr) they looked at me like I had two heads. Most places in Texas you can order almost any increment of weight (even ask for a single slice of brisket, turkey, etc.). From what I heard, the owners spent some time in Texas learning the tricks to the trade before opening their venture in Atlanta.

The time that they spent learning about Texas-style barbecue, specifically in relation to the brisket, was time well spent. I got a piece of moist brisket and it was fantastic. The smoke was not too overwhelming and it had a great mixture of salt and pepper in the bark. I tend to have low expectations for brisket outside of Texas because of my past experiences, but I was pleasantly pleased with the offering from Das.

Monk: Couldn’t agree more about the brisket. They are putting those Franklin-spec offset smokers to good use.

Rudy: I opted for the spicy sausage, which I thought was fine but not one that I was in love with. I didn’t notice that much of a spice from it, more just pepper flavor. The other thing, and this is purely a personal preference, I tend to like jalapeno and cheddar sausage over just jalapeno sausage. I feel like the creaminess from the cheese compliments the spice. I know I shouldn’t count off for that because they weren’t even offering that type of sausage, but these are my arbitrary rankings, so I’m counting off.

Monk: Loyal readers may recall that the sausage is imported from Meyer’s Smokehouse in Elgin, TX so its legit authentic. Although come to think of it, I don’t know that I’ve had a jalapeno cheddar sausage before (we know Speedy definitely hasn’t) but that’s now officially on my list to try.

Rudy: The pork was moist and flavorful. Nothing too special about it, but still very good. I liked it more than the sausage and Rudy Jr definitely did. He opted to eat a decent amount of it before turning his attention to the mac & cheese (priorities).

As far as the sides, they were serviceable. Mac & cheese was standard offering. The collard greens were good, but definitely on the spicy side. I did not mind that, but others with my group were not expecting that and were not fans. One side that I did not order, but tried from another person’s order, was the cream corn. I thought it was by far the best tasting side and also the most unique. It was not just a standard side, but had lots of flavor and spice to it.  That would be my recommendation for someone getting a side.

Monk: While you hadn’t checked out my review before checking it out, turns out we ended with pretty close ratings both overall and by meat. I’d say that’s a continued good sign for the quality of Das on two independent visits over 3 months apart.

Rudy: Overall, I was very pleased with Das BBQ and enjoyed getting some barbecue that tasted very similar to back home while I was out of town. I can definitely tell that they have done lots of studying to make sure that their barbecue tastes as close to genuine Texas standards, which is something that many places don’t do when they are that far from the state. Next time I am looking for barbecue in Atlanta, I definitely will head back to Das BBQ.

Ratings:
Atmosphere/Ambiance – 4 hogs
Brisket – 4 hogs
Sausage – 3.5 hogs
Pulled Pork – 4 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 4 hogs

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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Black’s Barbecue – Austin, TX

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Name: Black’s Barbecue (Austin)
Date: 5/23/16
Address: 3110 Guadalupe St., Austin, TX 78705
Order: 2 Meat Sandwich, Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes, Tea  (Link To Menu)
Price: $14.19

Rudy: It had been a long time since I had done a review and I had been wanting to try the Black’s Austin location. Speedy and I had visited the original Lockhart location a couple of years ago but since then they had opened a new place near the University of Texas campus. I thought lunch would be a great chance to check it out. It is located in a strip-mall type building, but does have a parking lot next door, which allowed for easy access. The Austin location is much smaller than the Lockhart one, but I thought it was much nicer and had gotten rid of the cafeteria-style set up that they have in Lockhart.  They also have a small patio outside for dining.

Monk: Was getting rid of the cafeteria-style set up a good thing or nah?

Rudy: I like it much better without the sides sitting out in the open. It also looks more like a restaurant and not a cafeteria. In the past I had always gotten larger plates with a few sides and couple different meats in order to complete a full review. This time I wasn’t as hungry, so I opted for just a sandwich and side. I selected their two-meat sandwich with moist brisket and Jalapeno-Cheddar sausage and a side of their mashed sweet potatoes. This was a great choice because it allowed me to try two different meats, but wasn’t overkill.  

Monk: Let me just remind you that I’ve previously gotten flack for only getting a sandwich but I’m with you – don’t go crazy if you aren’t looking for a full platter (particularly in the middle of the day).

Rudy: Normally when you get a brisket sandwich, it is chopped brisket mixed with sauce (which Black’s does offer) but that was not the case this time. Instead, it was a couple of full slices of brisket on the bun with the sausage ring on top. And it was amazing, because the fat from the brisket was soaked up by the bun, giving it a rich moist taste. The spice from the jalapenos also gave the sandwich some great flavor.  The brisket was the same great brisket you are accustomed to getting from Black’s, as was the sausage.  

Monk: This sandwich sounds like the turducken of barbecue, and I correct me if I am wrong but this is the first time something like this has been reviewed for the blog.

Rudy: I think it is, but if other places offer it instead of the chopped brisket, it may be the way to go in the future. Though if I had it to do again, I would not have ordered the sausage on the sandwich because the casing of the sausage was too much of a change in texture from the brisket. Don’t get me wrong, the flavor was great, I just didn’t like the softness of the fatty brisket set against the snap of the casing in each bite.  

The sweet potatoes were amazing. Very creamy and sweet with the marshmallow on top of them. They looked to have a many other good options for sides for future trips to Black’s Barbecue, which I will be making.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 4 Hogs
Brisket – 4 Hogs
Sausage – 4 Hogs
Side – 4 Hogs
Overall – 4 Hogs
Black's Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Black's BBQ

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Troutman’s Bar-B-Que – Denton, NC

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Name
: Troutman’s Barbecue
Date: 11/28/15
Address: 18466 NC-109, Denton, NC 27239
Order: Medium chopped pork plate with bbq slaw, fries, hush puppies, and Cheerwine
Price: $8.65

Monk: Much like Rudy I am a father of a toddler and similar to how Mrs. Rudy lured him to a pumpkin patch with the promise of barbecue, Mrs. Monk promised me barbecue if we went to a Christmas Train (yes, this is actually a thing). Located in a modest brick building off highway 109 in the small town of Denton, Troutman’s Barbecue is a 40+ year old joint that is True Cue certified, which means that it smokes pork shoulders over wood (unlike the disappointing but similarly named Troutman’s in Concord).

Denton is a little over 20 miles southeast of Lexington #1 and Troutman’s styles its barbecue accordingly. Beverage options include Cheerwine from the fountain and barbecue is served in either a tray (with slaw and hush puppies) or a plate (with slaw, hush puppies, and fries) – both keeping in line with the Lexington way of doing things.

Even at the dinner hour, Troutman’s served a pork that was moist and not at all dried out. I found it to be a decent version of Lexington-style barbecue, and it paired nicely with the excellent red slaw as well as the Texas Pete found on the table. The hush puppies were perfectly cooked orbs served in a basket hot out of the fryer with just the right amount of sweetness.

Rudy: I’ve eaten at Troutman’s several times going to Badin Lake outside of Denton. I’ve always had a good meal there. The most important thing is that I have found consistency with them. Every time I go, I know it’s going to be a good meal. It may not be the best barbecue you’ll ever eat, but I’ve never been disappointed.

Monk: So Troutman’s Barbecue turned out to be a nice find, and all in all I was pretty satisfied with the meal which was solid but not spectacular. And based on Rudy’s account, if I were to head there again I would likely find it to be of similar quality which is kind of a nice, reassuring thought. While I was appreciative that Mrs. Monk threw me a bone by getting barbecue after the Christmas Train, thankfully after this we should be good for a few months until Spring and strawberry picking season.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 3.5 hogs
Sides – 3.5 hogs
Overall – 3.5 hogs
Troutmans Barbecue Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Southside Market & Barbeque – Elgin, TX

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Name
: Southside Market & Barbeque
Date: 10/24/15
Address: 1212 Hwy 290 E, Elgin, TX 78621
Order: Southside Combo Plate (Brisket & Sausage with Slaw and Mac & Cheese), 1 Slammer, Drink (link to menu)
Price: $17.00

The calendar said it was October and the car seat in the back said I was a dad, so I was required to take the obligatory trip to a pumpkin patch. Mrs. Rudy said buying a pumpkin at the grocery store was completely out of the question and that we must drive out to the country to get one. However she sold me with the idea of being able to go to Southside Market & Barbeque in Elgin, which is right outside of Austin.  

Southside markets themselves as the oldest barbecue joint in Texas. It has a tremendous amount of history and has a great reputation. They ship sausages and other meats all over the country, so I was excited to try their barbecue. In my opinion, the reputation far exceeded what I actually experienced.

When you walk in, it feels very much like they are trying to get as many people through as possible. While that may mean more profit and more people eat their food, it also probably means that they do not have a huge focus on quality. There are two lines for barbecue and two enormous dining rooms for eating.  Southside also feels very commercialized, with lots of options to buy their shirts, hats, sauces, rubs, and really anything you want with “Southside Market & Barbeque” printed on it. The two positives for their atmosphere, and why I rated it highly, was because of pallets of wood outside (showing that they are cooking over wood) and they have a very nice meat market/butcher there where you can go and get your own meat to cook at home. If I were wanting to cook my own brisket, ribs, or sausage, this is absolutely the place that I would go.

I ordered the Southside Combo Plate, which came with brisket and sausage, plus 2 sides. The brisket had almost no seasoning, there was a little bit of a smoke ring, but no bark and no flavor. The fat was not well rendered, which led me to believe it had been cooked much earlier and had just been sitting there staying warm for a while. Very disappointing. The sausage was better, but not by much. I believe they make their sausage in house, so there are some points for that. It had flavor from the meat, but was nothing great.  

As far as sides, I got the slaw (non-mayo based for Speedy) and mac and cheese. They were probably the best part of the meal, but it was an easy hurdle to cover. I thought the mac and cheese was the best, but it’s hard to mess that up.  

The last thing I tried was a special that they were advertising on the menu called “the Slammer”. It was a sausage, stuffed with cheese and a jalapeno, wrapped in bacon and smoked. They clearly had my attention. When it came, it was much like the brisket – room temperature and uninspiring. The cheese was hard and not melted while the bacon was not crisp at all, as if it had been cooked many hours earlier and left to sit. I am shocked that someone could mess up something that’s only ingredients are bacon, sausage, cheese, and jalapeno, but Southside Market managed to do just that.  

I was completely looking forward to getting out to Elgin and trying Southside Market & Barbeque, however when you eat barbecue and the pumpkin patch is the highlight of the day, that’s not a good sign for the barbecue joint. Overall I’m glad I tried it and can mark it off the list, but I’m more happy that I didn’t make a special trip out just for it.

Rudy

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Brisket – 2 hogs
Sausage – 3 hogs
Slammer – 2 hogs
Sides – 3 hogs
Overall – 2.5 hogs
Southside Market & Barbeque Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bitterroot BBQ – Seattle, WA

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Name: Bitterroot BBQ
Date: 8/21/15
Address: 5239 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107
Order: The Cowboy Killer platter with pork, brisket, chicken, baby back ribs, 2 links of sausage, couple of beers, flight of whiskey (link to menu)
Price: $125

Monk: So for the first time in over a year, all three bros were reunited. Last July, we gathered at Lexington Barbecue (our collective favorite joint) and gave it a 5 hog review. This time around we were all in Seattle for our high school friend Boomsauce’s bachelor party, dubbed the #legionofboomsauce. And, spoiler alert, the barbecue was not anywhere near as good. Not even close.

Speedy: Yeah – I guess I wasn’t expecting much from ‘cue in Seattle, but with all three bros together, we had to at least give it a shot.

Rudy: I was a bit apprehensive, however it seems as though there has been a big migration of good barbecue places across the country recently. Good barbecue is not just reserved for the traditional locations, which gave me some hope.

Speedy: Walking in, I was a bit encouraged. The smoker was a big gasser inside the restaurant, but there was a fair amount of wood lying around (and one guy working stated they went through quite a bit of wood daily) so I was hoping for some nice smoky flavor. I also was glad to see a large combo meal on the menu, especially one with a name like the “Cowboy Killer.” And we ended up spending a little more because we were not allowed to sub out the chicken for sausage, so our solution was to add on two links.  

Monk: The other great thing about the “Cowboy Killer” platter was that it got the song “Psycho Killer” stuck in Speedy’s head for the rest of the afternoon. On to the meat…the pork was unanimously decided to be the worst of the meats we tried at Bitterroot. Zero smoke and no flavor. I’m wasting no more words on it.

Rudy: I agree about the pork. I was really craving some good pulled pork, so to say I was let down is an understatement. I’ve had crockpot-cooked pulled pork that was 10 times better and more flavorful than what they served.

Upon first sight I had reservations about the brisket. The biggest red flag for me was that there was NO smoke ring.  If they have a smoker and go through all that wood each day, as they stated, they would at least stumble onto a smoke ring. The pieces that I had were slightly dry, however they did have a decent bark and most importantly it was really well seasoned, giving the meat a good flavor. It may not have looked the part, but it tasted close to the part. It was the best of the meats, but it also wasn’t having to clear a high hurdle with that.

Speedy: The ribs were better than the pork, but a step down from the brisket. They were cooked decently, but I couldn’t taste a rub at all, so I was left wanting more flavor. I understand the idea of letting the meat do the talking, but sometimes you need some salt and pepper to give the meat a bigger voice. Overall the ribs are a pass.

Rudy: We ordered the sausage separately because there were no substitutions.  It was basically alright. I thought it was a bit dry and crumbly. I prefer sausage where the casing has a snap to it, which this one didn’t have. It was also a little bit spicy for my taste. I like spice, but I thought it the sausage was too overpowering and distracted from any flavor that it might have had otherwise. They could have taken some of the seasoning from the sausage and added it to other meats and improved them all. Speaking of which…

Monk: I’m not the biggest fan of chicken at a barbecue joint, but I think I tolerate it more than these other guys. Also, there were no substitutions for the cowboy killer. I found the chicken to be tender and juicy but – stop me if we’re starting to sound like a broken record – there just was no seasoning and I found the meat to be bland.

Rudy: Bitterroot offered several traditional and nontraditional sides.  We tried the greens, cauliflower, cornbread, and hushpuppies. The greens and hushpuppies were pretty good and the cornbread wasn’t bad. The cauliflower wasn’t anything to write home about.  I liked the selection but everything was just ok to a little above average.

Speedy: By far the best thing about Bitterroot was the Whiskey menu. They had an EXCELLENT selection, including some very hard to find stuff, at very reasonable prices. We took part in a flight from High West (one of my favs), but I would’ve liked to have gone back to sample some more. And the beer list was not shabby either. It was also nice that they were able to seat our group of ten easily.

Monk: Beyond the whiskey and beer selection, that huge farmhouse table that sat our party of 10 was another highlight of the meal. Notice what we are highlighting here…nothing about any of the meats or actual food.

Rudy: I think the biggest indictment of the barbecue at Bitterroot BBQ was that we had plans of trying another Seattle barbecue place the next day, and based on what was claimed to be good Seattle barbecue, we changed our plans and ate at a French restaurant instead.  That’s when you know the terrorists have won.

Ratings:
Atmosphere – 3.5 hogs
Pork – 0 hogs
Brisket – 2.5 hogs
Ribs – 2 hogs
Sausage – 2 hogs
Chicken – 1.5 hogs
Sides – 2 hogs
Overall – 2 hogs
Bitterroot BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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