Thursday, May 17, 2012

David's Barbecue

Non-Quest BBQ No 21 – David’s Barbecue
Arlington, Texas
During my occasional travels, I try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I just really, really like that stuff ... 

Since 1910, now in ownership of the forth generation of the family, David’s Barbecue in Arlington, Texas, serves Texas style BBQ. That means no pulled pork, only beef and pork ribs, turkey and sausage.
That’s fine by me, cows or pigs, I don’t care as long as it is good and tasty.

Still full after the big dinner at Bodacious Bar-B-Que the other day, I went for the two meat plate this time – only to find it to be just the same amount of food, only distributed on two instead of three different meats.
In case you need a refresher how Texas style BBQ works – it is like an assembly line. You grab a tray, and at the first station order the meat. Brisket and Links, please.
Then it goes on to the sides. Hmm, the potato salad looked kind of familiar – the also use caraway seeds as spice, so I passed on that and took the baked beans and the slaw instead. Last station, drinks and cash register. The sauce, which comes in classy glass carafes, stands on a little cart in the dining room, where you also find onions, pickles, jalapenos and the like.

The dining room is separated in two areas, which actually comes from the fact that at some time the original restaurant, which is located in an old, rather decrepit strip mall, was extended into the shop space next to it. Nevertheless, the atmosphere there is very authentic, a lovely mixture of country style and 1950s urban chic.
So, after finding a nice secluded corner to sit down, I dug into my meal.
The Brisket, although lean and very tender, did not have any discernable smoke flavor whatsoever. Same goes for the sausage links, which were not spicy but had at least a faint smoky aftertaste.
Clearly, here was some serious sauce action needed – and good Heavens, this action was provided by a delightfully sour reddish-brown concoction with just a hint of spiciness. That really rescued my mood from the unfolding disaster of turning into a foul and hostile creature.
But what truly really saved this meal were the sides. The slaw was crunchy and fresh, with a bold sourness to it. And the baked beans did not arrive in the sweet variety one is getting all the time, until all resistance and hope are crushed under the constant onslaught of molasses and cinnamon. This one was different – sour and a bit fruity. A new taste, indeed! Brave David, you have the moxy to liberate us from the death grip of the industrially acquired taste of mainstream baked beans.

You also get a Texas Toast with all that, which for about fifteen bucks including a fountain drink is not the cheapest deal, but the value received for that makes it a fair deal, indeed.

And so, after this experience and that with Bodacious Bar-B-Que the day before, I have to admit that, yes, there is decent BBQ in Texas. Just avoid the dreadful chains and trust your car’s navigation system to lead you away to some hidden corners, and you will be able to find the occasional gem. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bodacious Bar-B-Que

Non-Quest BBQ No 20 – Bodacious Bar-B-Que
Arlington, Texas
During my occasional travels, I try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I just really, really like that stuff ... 

The name – Bodacious – is a bit misleading. There are no tassels involved, no pole and no red lights. Just extremely well smoked red meat, spicy sauces and tender butts.
There is no TV, just some good ol’ country music radio station for entertainment, sweet tea that comes in a (plastic) jar, instead of a dispenser, wagon wheels and cow’s horns as decoration, and a not so subtle country style atmosphere in the dining area. Classy and classic, veritably old school.

And when in Rome … or in Texas, for that matter, do as the Texans do. So I decided to go all out and had a three meat plate with Brisket, Links and pulled Pork. A manly sized portion in most parts of the continental US, but here in Texas that’s probably what a ten year old gets for breakfast each day.
The Brisket was just short of heavenly – very tender, lean, with a distinctive but not overwhelming smoky taste. Best brisket ever for me – but also only the third or fourth time I had that, I have to admit. So the measuring stick was not too big in this case. But anyhow, a very delightful experience.
The sausage links had a good spiciness on them, which suppressed the smoke flavor for the most part. There was a hint of it, but only if you really wanted to find it. No matter, they too were absolutely delicious.
The pork was also very tasty, but not due to the faint smoke aroma they sported. Very tender and very lean, you needed the sauce to support the flavor, which was absolutely not necessary with either the Brisket or the Links. 
The sauce, which you got out of a pot at the counter, was red and thick, fruity and deliciously spicy. I am more a fan of the vinegar-pepper sauce variety, but if it has to be a thick red sauce, than this offering from Bodacious would be on my short list.

Too bad that the sides could not hold up to the lofty standards set by the meat and the sauce.
The cole slaw, though crunchy and fresh, tasted a quite bland. And the potato salad came with little dark speckles that could have been mistakenly identified as ants, but in reality it was caraway seeds. Funky tasting, to say the least. Not really bad, but also not what I would classify as “must have”. I took one bite and the affair was already done before it begun.

But all in all, because of the excellent meat and the overachieving sauce, and certainly because of the very homey atmosphere of this place, I wouldn’t mind to dine there again during one of my next trips to the region. With almost sixteen bucks for the whole meal, it sure ain’t cheap – but if the alternative is to spend half the money at one of those chain restaurants, it is a no brainer. Quality beats cheap every time, at least in my BBQ world.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Corner Pit BBQ

Non-Quest BBQ No 19 – Corner Pit BBQ
Dellrose (Bryson), Tennessee
During my occasional travels, I try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I just really, really like that stuff ... 

I fought a hard fight with myself, and then I decided to not incorporate Lincoln County, Tennessee into the Quest Area. One reason against this would be that it is, well, in Tennessee and not in Alabama. On the other hand, it borders on Limestone County and they have a BBQ place there which would be ranked in the Top 5 – if it was in the Quest area (which is the counties of Limestone, Morgan, and Madison in North Alabama).

And so, Corner Pit BBQ in Dellrose, Tennessee hereby receives the honorary title of “Best Alabama BBQ outside of Bama”. And that by a wide margin, too.
The place is located on a small rural highway, which leads you through rolling hills with farms here and there, lots of green trees, grass and bushes, and a population density not much different from the Moon.
Then the highway bends, and in the corner there it is. To the left is a big red shack were the smoker resides, and to the right the very spacious restaurant.
The inside is a mixture of typical country eatery, with the metal and red faux leather chairs, the round laminated wood tables and the fans on the ceiling. There is even a big flat screen TV at the end of the dining room.
But there is also old farm equipment hanging on the walls, old advertising signs and car number plates. An old rusty gasoline pump stands in one corner and another corner is occupied by a rack with T-Shirts, which have the logo of this place on it: a Pig that says “Our pigs are dying for you to eat!”
Of course, I bought one of those.
The whole atmosphere in that spotless clean place is very homey and comfortable. They have eight tables there, but the place would also be spacious enough to hold double that number. But given the somewhat remote location, there is probably no reason to prepare for such a rush anytime soon.

This is also fine by me, because I like the place as it is right now - not only for the atmosphere, but first and foremost for their most excellent food, of course.
As usual, I had the pork plate with potato salad and slaw, which cost me six bucks and was a lot of food.
The pulled pork, although it was maybe a tad more dry then it had to be, was very tender and lean, and it had a very nice smoky flavor. Lots of bark in it, too.
They have three sauces to go with it, but the mild one is really nothing special. It’s a semi-thick reddish concoction with a fruity-sour taste.
But the other two are THE KILLER. The Original Pit Sauce and the Hot Original Pit Sauce are also of the same thick reddish consistency, also resolutely vinegar based and also kind of fruity, but spiced up with pepper. The hot variety is a bit more aggressive then the original one, but both give the pork a kick in the butt that generates a BBQ aroma which is nearly perfect. I even put the hot sauce over my potato salad, so good is it.
Not that the salad would have needed that kind of support – it can very well stand on its own merits. Silky-creamy texture, with white potatoes and mayonnaise, onions and a hint of vinegar – this is how you do it. I just could not decide if it the slaw was even better – I think it is just fair to declare it a tie. I just love it when the cabbage comes in big pieces, and not in those minced to oblivion varieties. It was extremely fresh and crunchy, with just a bit of salt and pepper and vinegar, so that you actually have a chance to taste the veggies in there. Amazing.

My wife opted for the chicken, which was also very tender and although not blessed with a very distinctive smoke aroma, also very tasty.
The predominantly sour and mild white sauce that they have goes perfectly with it, though, and together it makes a very fine dining experience indeed.
Adding to that were what looked like ordinary green beans, but turned out to be green beans with a very robust meat-broth flavor that complemented the chicken and the white sauce perfectly. Her baked beans, on the other hand, although not bad at all, could not muster up to that level of sheer bliss.

With sweet tea (the ice for it came out of a cooler next to the cash register) for both of us, the whole meal was about fifteen bucks. For that kind of quality food, quality atmosphere and quality people (we had a very nice chat with Kristen, the owner), I felt a bit like a thief. They could have charged double and I still would deem it a fair deal. Well, for a little bit of compensation I spent some more money, buying a T-Shirt. Too bad that it says “Tennessee” on the back – this amazing little BBQ place would fit right into Alabama’s BBQ belt.