Kevin's BBQ Joints

Kevin's BBQ Joints Blog

Jim Shahin – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 22

I am really excited about this week’s contributor to “My Favorite BBQ Joints”. I’ve been following Jim Shahin’s pieces on barbecue at the Washington Post for a long time now. He’s always insightful, honest, extremely passionate, and above all makes me hungry to visit the locations he writes about. I am honored that he took the time out of his busy schedule to write such a strong piece.

Jim Shahin writes the Smoke Signals barbecue column for the Washington Post. It appears every Tuesday morning on the Post’s website in the Food section’s “All You Can Eat” blog. A monthly article, published in the print version and usually with recipes, is also available online.

My Favorite BBQ Joints
By Jim Shahin

“Choosing a favorite barbecue joint is almost as mysterious as the process of making barbecue. Why does one place become a fave and not another? The food, of course. But often something else, as well.

A joint’s sense of history. Your personal relationship with the place. The joint’s meaning to the community. I have chosen only a few of my favorites, each for its own reason, sometimes having little to do with the food itself.

None of my recommendations are in the Washington, D.C., area. As the barbecue columnist for the Washington Post, I think it’s probably a bad idea to play favorites among locals.

The paradox about determining your favorites is that you start out searching for the best and find that there are many bests. Indeed, one of the greatest moments in a barbecue hound’s quest is when he stumbles upon a fabulous surprise. I happened upon a couple of those on family trips and go back every chance I get.

One is Eli’s Famous Bar-B-Que, a ramshackle take-out joint alongside a winding road on the outskirts of the small, beat-up Rust Belt town of Warren, Ohio (home, by the way, to Nirvana drummer and the Foo Fighters guitarist Dave Grohl, who merits an alleyway mural). Its meaty, flame-charred,charcoal-grilled pork ribs dripping in red sauce could give anyplace in America a run for its money.

The other is Q L Barbecue in Muncie, Indiana, where you call your order into a squawk box at a drive-up window in a decrepit house surrounded by fields across from a river. The weedy ruralness conjures up images of the Old South. So, commendably, do the serious sauce-slathered ribs and the smokey chicken.

Another type of surprise is how a barbecue joint can say something about the place where it resides, even though it is relatively new. Take, for example, Slows Bar B Q in Detroit. In 2005, the owners took a risk and opened Slows in a blighted stretch of road, which helped turn around a rundown neighborhood and, in turn, showed the resilience of a city that keeps finding ways to get back up after being repeatedly knocked down.


Photo of Slow’s BBQ courtesy of Sylvia Rector/DFP

For a different reason but a similar sense-of-placeness, I like Fette Sau in New York City because its impassioned pursuit of excellence honors tradition while at the same time recreates it in the image of that city’s tastes, turning out, for instance, a delicious house-cured pastrami.


Photo of Fette Sau courtesy of Yeah Manh
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Chet Garner – My Favorite BBQ Joints – Volume 21

I finally got a chance to meet Chet Garner from The Daytripper a couple of weeks back. We’ve been friends for a while now, but only through twitter, facebook, and each other’s websites. He came in to JMueller BBQ to have lunch and like most people in the world of BBQ, he was just as nice in person as he is online.

I am honored that he wanted to participate in the first week of’My Favorite BBQ Joints‘ for 2012. Here are his favorite BBQ joints in his words:

“Let me start by saying that I don’t play favorites. I eat BBQ anywhere and everywhere and almost always enjoy it. Sometimes I eat it without sauce. Sometimes I drench it in sauce. Sometimes it’s meat only. Sometimes I order sides. What amazes me more than the meat is the countless hours pit bosses and their crews spend standing over smoldering logs to cook meat this tedious and painstakingly long way. And as long as folks are eating BBQ somewhere in Texas, then my job is done. That being said – if I only had one meal left on earth, it would probably be at one of these places (in alphabetical order nonetheless).

Black’s Barbecue – Lockhart, TX
As cheesy as it sounds, in Texas, BBQ is about more than just meat. It is about heritage, tradition, and family. Black’s has been family owned and operated since 1932, making it the oldest BBQ joint in Texas continuously run by the same family. And whether you see seasoned pit boss Edgar, his son Kent, or his grandson Barrett tending the coals, it always make me feel good to pull up a seat and dig into a big, honking plate of their family recipes, which always includes Norma’s homemade sauce.

Franklin Barbecue – Austin, TX
This little spot started in a trailer a few short years ago but has now rightfully claimed a spot among the best in Texas. The brisket is as good as brisket could ever be, and everything else on the menu is spot on. The only thing stopping me from eating here every day is the 2 hour line to get your food. But that is the consequence of being called “Best BBQ in America” by Bon Appetit Magazine.

Photo of Franklin Barbecue courtesy of Full Custom Gospel BBQ

Luling City Market – Luling, TX
This is the place where I first realized there was more to BBQ than just meat and sauce. Call it my BBQ awakening. I’m a native Texan, so I grew up eating BBQ, and could even tell the difference between good and bad BBQ. However it wasn’t until I tasted Luling City Market for the first time, that I truly began to see BBQ as the craft of passionate people rather than just a tasty meal. This place only makes three kinds of meat (brisket, sausage, and ribs), and they do all three to near perfection. You gotta admire a place that sticks to its guns. And you gotta love the free “meat cologne” that you wear the second you step in the door.

Photo of City Market (Luling) courtesy of Full Custom Gospel BBQ

Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q – Everywhere, TX
Yes, Rudy’s is a chain. But only because they are so good. Somehow Rudy’s has figured out a way to cook hundreds of briskets a day without losing the signature flavor that grew out of its first hole-in-the-wall location in Leon Springs, TX. The Bar-B-Q at Rudy’s is always really good, and sometimes absolutely great. I’ve had brisket at Rudy’s that ranks up there with the best brisket I’ve ever eaten in Texas. When folks come to Texas and want real Texas BBQ, I will inevitably point them to Rudy’s. It is my day-to-day BBQ that never disappoints.

Smitty’s Market – Lockhart, TX
Lockhart owns the title “Bar-B-Q capital of Texas” and that has a lot to do with this place or should I say – this building. For over 75 years, a joint called Kreuz Market inhabited the building, but after a family feud sent Kreuz Market down the street to a new location, the sibling left with the old building opened up “Smitty’s Market” Decades of smoke are crusted onto the walls which only helps flavor the meat. And you can’t beat waiting in line only a foot or two from the open flames cooking your lunch. And no matter how much I eat, I always seem to find room for a $1 cone of Blue Bell Ice Cream.

NOTE: Chet said that “JMueller BBQ isn’t on the list yet because I’ve only eaten it once. But if the second time is as good as the first, then you better believe it will be on the top of my list”.

Watch The Daytripper on your local PBS station. Details at www.thedaytripper.com

Here’s more info on The Daytripper: “It’s no secret that Texas is big. Alright, more than big. Texas is HUGE!! And exploring Texas ain’t no small vacation, it’s a lifetime endeavor. But what if you only have one day? Well that’s where we come in. From the well-known landmarks to the completely obscure dives and hideaways – and all within a day’s reach. We created The Daytripper to inspire folks to get out and explore the Lone Star State. Sure, national travel shows are entertaining, but that’s where they stop. The Daytripper is all about destinations in Texas for Texans, which means you can visit whenever you want. So, I’ll see you on the road.This is THE DAYTRIPPER!”

Follow Chet on facebook HERE
Follow Chet on twitter HERE

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Texas Photo of the Day

Here’s a photo I took during my visit to Lockhart, Texas. These are two of the pits at Smitty’s Market behind the counter and carving block where you place your meat order.

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