Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: BBQ (page 2 of 9)

Smoque BBQ – Where there’s smoque, there’s good cue’…

On Smoque BBQ, Daniel Vaughn writes “This is the closest thing to true Texas Style BBQ that I’ve found outside of Texas.”  With time for only one lunch in Chicago, my barbecue destination was quickly settled on his words alone.

Vaughn is a man that knows barbecue. As the proprietor of Full Custom Gospel BBQ, he’s catalogued a compendium of over 500 in person reviews of joints throughout the state of Texas and beyond.  And while I’ve been following his smoky footsteps for quite a few years now, his recent list of accolades, including an appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”, has elevated him to a national authority on the subject.   While he doesn’t travel outside of Texas often (and frankly, I don’t know why any true BBQ fan would) when he does, you better pay attention.  I’ve counted on Daniel’s recommendations for a number of years now, and with this upcoming trip to Chicago in my sights, his website was the first place I checked for some proper cue’.  Once again, Daniels expertise did not disappoint.

Walking into to Smoque, the aroma of a proper BBQ joint tingles the nose.  Smoke wafts through the air, permeating clothes and pores alike, and the sweet smell of pork stirs my appetite.  Taking only an obligatory glance at the chalk menu board, I place my order for the “holy trinity” of traditional Texas barbecue: sausage, pork ribs and brisket.  Through years of experience, these are the three best barometers for evaluating the mettle of a proper pitmaster.  After watching a few plates prepared with sauce, I recoil in my customary fashion, instructing the counter girl not to sauce my order.  Given Smoque’s anti sauce manifesto (read here) I’m surprised this step is required.  Handing me my ticket number, I remind her one more time not to sauce me, just to be safe.

I watch the cook staff while I wait, delicately slicing orders in the open kitchen, Smoque clearly takes pride in their work.  A moment later my order arrives, the three meats arranged neatly on a wax paper lined aluminum tray.  An individual serving of house made mac & cheese and baked beans round out the feast, even the sides are given proper attention here.  As I dig in, the sausage has a familiar flavor profile to it. Imported from Rudy Mikeska’s in Taylor, Texas it has the spice and snap of true Texas sausage.  Sweet smoky ribs pulled from the bone with only the slightest of tugs, the St. Louis cut yielding gobs of porky goodness.  The brisket, however, I hoarded.  Like a child setting dessert aside greedily for the end of the meal, I rationed bites of brisket, savoring each morsel. Without a trip to Texas scheduled this season, it might be my only chance for some proper brisket. Tender fatty cuts from the point end had a crisp jet black bark, giving way to luxurious smoked beefy velvet.

This is, quite simply, the best brisket I have ever had outside of Texas.

There are precious few places anywhere in the country that show mastery over several kinds of protein.  There are even fewer still that exist outside of Texas.  Having visited, I can now add Smoque to that elite, short list of places.  If you’re ever in Chicago craving BBQ, your only question should be where to eat third?  Because the first two places better be Smoque.

Click here for Full Custom Gospel BBQ

Click here for Smoque BBQ

Full clickable gallery of Smoque pictures below.

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Archibalds BBQ – The other Tuscaloosa legend…

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Blue City Cafe – Memphis BBQ on Beale…

On the return trip back through Memphis on Sunday, the exhaustion of a two game Southern road trip weekend was starting to take its toll. After dropping Dad off at the airport for an early morning flight, I had time for one last meal in Memphis before making the final charge back home to Saint Louis. Though tempted to simply pull back into the BBQ Shop after an epic Thursday visit and order up a few slabs of their ribs, there were still a handful of places on my Memphis list to check off.

After exchanging a few texts with my friend Joe, a former Memphis resident and fellow BBQ aficionado, he pointed me in the direction of the Blues City Café on infamous Beale Street. Besides Joe, Blues City has an impressive list of accolades, having been featured on various food shows and magazines.

I found street parking a few steps away from Beale, and casually wandered down the street waiting for the doors to open at 11AM. Beale is one of the main nightlife streets in Memphis, often drawing comparisons to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. On an early Sunday morning the thoroughfare still reeked of the party the night before, garbage lined the sidewalks and shopkeepers were out hosing off their sections of the concrete. Reservations began to creep in about BBQ in such an obvious tourist area.

Once the doors opened, I walked into the empty restaurant and settled into a plush vinyl booth. There were a handful of offerings on the menu, but ribs were the only barbecue option. After my dubious encounters with beef the entire weekend, ribs were the only option I was interested in anyway.

The ribs arrived quickly, with a pile of french fries and a few other sides filling out the plate. Despite my initial reservations, and the touristy location, the ribs had all the hallmarks of some excellent cue’. They had a well developed crust on the outside, sliding easily off the bone to reveal the pink smoky meat beneath. Although there could have been more depth to the smoke profile (given the location I’m guessing its an exclusively gas fired smoker), and they didn’t share quite the same fanfare as the BBQ Shop ribs, this was still skilled BBQ by any measure. Certainly worth a stop if you find yourself wandering down Beale Street in Memphis, just be sure to arrive a bit later in the afternoon once they’ve hosed the place down a bit…

http://www.bluescitycafe.com/

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Dreamland BBQ – The Other Alabama Legend…

Poll anyone wearing khakis and a crimson polo for the one place in Tuscaloosa that you absolutely must try before leaving, and the inevitable answer will be Dreamland BBQ. The original location on Jug Factory Road in Jerusalem Heights, specifically, typifies the kind of ramshackle Southern BBQ joint that lives in American folklore. Dating back to 1958, when John “Big Daddy” Bishop first opened its doors, Dreamland has become an institution in Tuscaloosa, and little has changed in the original location since that time.

Alabama paraphernalia adorns the walls inside, the interior dark and dimly lit, punctuated with a few neon beer signs and flat screen TV’s flashing the current SEC matchup. Hungry patrons draped in shades of crimson and houndstooth huddle around tables with generous slabs of ribs, piles of picked bones and stacks of pristine white bread.

Well aware of its iconic status, I planned our arrival early, strolling through the doors at about 11am on a Saturday morning, and we slid effortlessly into a corner table. Others arriving later would face a daunting line stacked up in the parking lot. The perky waitress recited the elegantly simple menu aloud: “We have ribs and sausage.”

“I guess we’ll have both” I replied, saluting the simplicity of choice at Dreamland.

Risking the wrath of some of my Alabama friends, on an objective level, the actual BBQ here resides somewhere closer to average. The ribs chewed a little hard, and tasted closer to grilled rather than slow smoked. The sausage was fairly standard grocery store fare, but a dip in the spicy sauce actually perked it up a bit. The reality is that given the massive influx of customers during a home game weekend, Dreamland is simply challenged to churn out as much food as possible to feed all those hungry appetites. It simply wouldn’t be possible to turn out that much food, and sustain the highest level of quality.

The real allure of a place like Dreamland, however, lies not in the actual food on the table, but in the tradition and heritage lining the walls. Generations of Alabama fans have eaten here, gathered around a table with friends, family and strangers, and broken white bread and ribs together. There’s a generational and sentimental attachment to a place like Dreamland that transcends regular food, sometimes the magic of barbecue lies in the timeless way it brings people together. Dreamland embodies that amongst the Crimson Tide faithful, and we were fortunate to share a piece of it on a Football Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

http://www.dreamlandbbq.com/Default.aspx

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