Monday, October 17, 2011

Ted's Bar-B-Q

Quest Log No22 – Ted’s Bar-B-Q
Huntsville, Madison County

Do you like the outdoors? Do you crave fresh air all the time, don’t mind the elements, and the occasional insect crawling over you? Or are you one of them pathetic sissies who absolutely positively need air conditioning, bug repellent and hand sanitizer to not get the creeps?
If the latter is true, then you better use the drive through at Ted’s Bar-B-Q in Huntsville, or take your meal as carry-out. But if you at least drive a big hunkin’ truck and pride yourself in being a robust country man, you may decide to battle the elements and sit on one of the half dozen tables that are located curbside in front of Ted’s joint. And if you are real lucky, you’ll get one of the two tables that are actually situated under the arcade of the building.
Those tables, though, are recognizably out of place there – they have stickers from some Mexican place on it, and the arrangement of putting them on the curb smells like improvisation. Originally, Ted’s Bar-B-Q was supposed to be a drive-through/carry-out kind of place only. But since they opened a few weeks ago, the need for sit-down places seems to have arisen. Alas, there is no space for that inside, with the kitchen taking up most of the square footage, and the rest being occupied by the counter where you order.
So, on a sunny October day with temperatures in the low eighties, sitting outside is just a fabulous idea. But I do not dare to imagine doing that on a three digit August day, or in miserable winter weather in January. Basically, that puts this place into the drive-by-BBQ category, with a sit-down option, weather permitting.

That of course means that the atmosphere is greatly dependent on, for instance, how much diesel fumes the trucks that drive by will blast into your face. On the plus side, the staff will bring your meal to the table, although in the same plastic bag, with Styrofoam containers and plastic utensils, as the carry-out customers get. But the folks there are very friendly and accommodating, and the place is also very clean inside. Outside might be a different story, see above.

So then to the food they serve.
I had potato salad and slaw with my pork plate, which also came with a piece of corn bread. When ordering, you will be asked if you want mild or hot sauce with your pork. Well, can’t I have both? No, not really – they pour it over the pork already in the kitchen, which I do not really like. It’s a freedom of choice thing, you know. A cup of the hot sauce, which I chose this time, came with the plate, but the damage was already done – the pork was drenched in sauce. If you don’t like it that way, tough luck Dude.
Because of this, it was real hard to discern the taste of the pork alone, but I managed to find an uncovered piece and, well, it was not too bad. Acceptable, really, but not real great. And the pork was very tender, too, but that came with a trade-off – it was kind of mushy, wet, moist. Hard to tell which exactly, because of the sauce, but the moist softness of the meat lead to my thinking that it was not really smoked all the way, but somehow boiled in between.
Well, with the sauce all over the meat, it really did not make that big of a difference, I guess. Although I must say that this hot sauce actually is quite tasty, with a fruity body with just the right amount of spiciness.
Also, the potato salad was real good, with a very well rounded taste that had just a hint of sourness and made out of “al dente” red potatoes. The slaw, although a bit too much on the neutral tasting side, was a very good match with the hot sauce.
All in all, certainly not the best pork plate in town, but definitely acceptable.

My wife had ordered the Beef brisket and she got … pulled beef. Maybe the order was bungled, or maybe they just call it brisket and it really is just pulled beef. Anyway, it was not a taste-revelation at all. The flavor was okay, but if you expect brisket and get ordinary pulled beef, your judgment might also be a bit biased.
As sides, she had BBQ beans, which seemed to come directly out of a can, and green beans, which were actually not bad at all. But still, she told me that the “brisket” was no reason for her to consider Ted’s Bar-B-Q the “place to go” for this kind of meat.

One rather odd item you find on Ted’s menu are Tamale. Wikipedia says that “Tamale is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa (a starchy dough, usually corn-based), which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can themselves be filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned”.
Why this should be on the menu of a southern BBQ place beats me. But I tried it anyway.
Well, it actually came in corn-leaf wrapper, and it had the same pork with hot sauce in it that I already knew. Quite frankly, the corn-dough absorbed much of the spiciness of the sauce, and the taste of the pork, and that resulted in a rather uninspiring and characterless overall flavor. And for almost two and a half bucks with tax, this thing was not even adequately sized.

So, would I go there again? Not for the brisket, and not for the tamale, but actually, yes, you might find me there once in a while. Because Ted’s Bar-B-Q is only about five minutes away from my office, it is a convenient way to get some BBQ for lunch. Kind of like going to one of those burger places – you don’t expect much, but it is okay food. The addition of the tables, and the tamale on the menu  show that they are quite adaptive and innovative at Ted’s, and maybe at some time, they will also introduce a kid’s meal with a toy there. 

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