Monday, December 29, 2008
So I stopped by my place to get my phone charger. Barn Burner is close by, and when I gave my friend some choices for lunch, barbecue sounded good to him. When we walked in there were only two tables occupied. This seemed strange at 1 PM on a Saturday. After eating our lunch, it did not seem so strange.
We started with an order of onion rings. They were good - beer battered and crispy. It would have been nice to have something other than ranch dressing with them, but they were good enough that they didn't even need sauce.
I got the pulled chicken sandwich. It was one of the driest sandwiches I have ever had. There was no moisture to it at all. I had trouble even swallowing the first bite. I got a side of slaw with the sandwich, which was good, so I added it to the sandwich, along with plenty of their barbecue sauce, which is much too sweet for me, but at least it made the sandwich somewhat edible. (I only ate half of it and left the other half in my friends' refrigerator; I will be interested to see what they say if they ate it.)
My buddy got a sandwich with pulled pork, brisket, and hot links. He sawed off a part of it for me to try. It was better than my sandwich, but it was by no means good. The pulled pork was decent, although there wasn't very much of it. The brisket was dry, just like my chicken, and the hot links were very salty.
This was my last trip to Barn Burner.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I ordered the pulled chicken sandwich (the first picture) and she ordered the pulled pork sandwich. My sandwich was swimming in sauce. You can tell that there is a lot of it in the picture, but what you can't see is that the bottom of the basket is a covered with a pool of their much-too-sweet sauce. Of course, when I took a bite I understood why - the chicken was completely dry and flavorless. I am positive there would have been absolutely no flavor to it without the sauce.
I took a bite of my mom's sandwich and it was much better than mine, similar to how I remember the pulled pork from my last trip. Jake's fries are great, and their slaw is just about perfect: it's got dressing in it but it's not soaked in the dressing to the point that the cabbage is completely limp. I added plenty of slaw to my sandwich with a couple slugs of hot sauce and it made it better.
Despite my sandwich being lousy, I still really like Jake's. The people are nice, the inside is cool, the prices are cheap, and most of the food is decent. Just not the pulled chicken sandwich.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
219 N Main St SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414
A couple of my good friends moved to Minneapolis for businness, and I, always up for a road trip, volunteered to drive with one of them to get her car up there. It was a fanastic trip, through Las Vegas, Denver, Mt. Rushmore, and across the Great Plains into Minnesota. Unfortunately, it was the worst trip I have ever been on in terms of culinary adventures. We ate at a terrible restaurant in Las Vegas that was basically a crappier version of Islands. I ate at Burger King in Denver. I ate at Chili's in Rapid City, South Dakota. The one highlight of the drive there was ordering 10 piece chicken McNuggets at a McDonalds in southern Minnesota and getting 11 pieces. (Actually, I still think about that and smile sometimes.)
The first night in Minneapolis we went out for a sushi meal that was terrible. My friend Dave (or rather my friend Dave's company) paid for the dinner, and I was still upset about it. The next morning was a gorgeous morning so the three of us went for a walk. We crossed over the Mississippi and walked around a bit, then saw a nice outdoor patio and figured we would get some lunch there.
I ordered the "smoked bbq pork sandwich." It was quite possibly the worst sandwich I have ever had. I cannot accurately describe how much fat was on this sandwich. It's possible that at least a third of it was fat. It is the only barbecue sandwich that can compare with the atrocity that was JR's Texas BBQ. I think I had maybe two bites and gave up.
The rest of the weekend wasn't much better for finding good food. Months later, when my friends had gotten familiar with the area, they told me that their loft was only a couple blocks from the best food street in Minneapolis and they couldn't understand how we possibly kept missing it when we went out looking for food. (Apparently it would be analogous to staying at the Marriott in Old Pasadena and missing Colorado Blvd every time you went out for a walk.) I kind if wish they'd never told me that.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Pismo Beach, CA
I first visited Mo's three years ago. It was the middle of the week and I stopped in relatively early. The barbecue was terrible, and obviously a day or two old. I said to the guy working the counter "This wasn't smoked this morning, was it?" He simply shrugged and mumbled "I dunno." A couple months after this trip I mentioned my experience to my buddy Les - one of the most knowledgeable people I know on the subject of barbecue - and he reported having a very similar experience when he went there.
So I pretty much put it out of my mind. But then a few years went by and I found myself in Pismo Beach again and I figured why not give it another try? It was much, much better this time around.
On my previous trip I had an order of garlic fries that were cold, including the garlic topping, and a pulled pork sandwich that was old, as I mentioned, and also completely drowned in cole slaw. I do not mind slaw on a sandwich, but that was the only time I can remember having more slaw than pork.
This time my friend and I got a large order of homemade potato chips. As soon as we saw them we knew we couldn't have gotten a smaller order. But they were so damn good we ate almost all of them. Homemade potato chips are one of my biggest weaknesses. I got the shredded pork sandwich and she got the shredded chicken. Since the sandwiches come with slaw on them, we got potato salad on the side instead of slaw.
The shredded pork was very good. It was fresh, and even though there was a lot of sauce on it, the sauce was good. The shredded chicken was phenomenal. I took one bite and it melted in my mouth like the barbecue equivalent of cotton candy.
They have four barbecue sauces: original, hot, Sweet Carolina's, and Philthy Phil's. The first two were good although there was nothing to set them apart from hundreds of sauces I have tried around the country. The sweet sauce was lousy. I am not a fan of sweet sauces, but this was just ridiculous. You could put this on ice cream and it would not be out of place. The Philthy Phil's sauce was fantastic: a vinegar sauce with brown sugar, mustard and spices. I bought a bottle of this to take with me.
So I have been to Mo's twice now. Once was terrible, reheated food, and once was fantastic and very reminiscent of a Southern barbecue shack. One of these days I will make it back for a third time and see what I find.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
For years I had wanted to make it to Gilroy - the "garlic capital of the world" - for their annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. A couple years ago, after watching Huell Howser do a special on the festival, I decided I had to do it. It was a lot of fun, although it was well over 100 degrees, and after eating garlic egg rolls, garlic pizza, and a dish of garlic shrimp that seriously challenged my line that "there can never be too much garlic," my friend and I were sweating garlic out of every pore.
There was also a barbecue stand there, so I had to try a pork sandwich. I was not expecting much, and that is exactly what I got. It was drenched in a sweet sauce and did not have any smoke ring. I can't really complain about being disappointed for ordering a cheap barbecue sandwich at a festival centered on garlic, but if I ever go back, I will stay away from this sandwich and just go for another round of garlic ice cream.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Very rarely do I visit a city for the first time and find it exactly as I expected. New York City, Las Vegas, Memphis and Chicago are the only ones that come to mind. Often a city is a big disappointment, like Seattle, St. Louis, or Cleveland. But every once in a while I expect little out of a city and I am pleasantly surprised. No place was more of a shock than Little Rock, Arkansas.
I had driven through Arkansas twice before visiting Little Rock: once in mid-July when the humidity rivaled any sauna I have ever sat in, and once in October when the foliage was as beautiful as anywhere in New England or the Shenandoah Valley. On my third trip to Arkansas I stopped in Little Rock to visit the Clinton Presidential Center. Since I got in in the early evening and stayed right by the center, I decided to go out for a while in the "River Market District" and see what trouble I could get into.
It was one of the most fun places for nightlife I have been, like a grown-up version of Bourbon Street or a non-Yuppie version of Old Pasadena. My friend and I had several beers at a bar and watched the sun set over the Arkansas River before hitting several other places on President Clinton Ave. We had so much fun that we forgot to eat dinner. The next morning, with my head slightly aching and my stomach growling, I stopped by the River Market Building and got a chopped pork sandwich from a stand there. It was perfectly smoked with no fat chunks in the sandwich, and the slaw complemented the sandwich nicely.
I then spent a few hours walking around the Clinton library and museum. Afterwards my friend asked me what I wanted to do for lunch. I said I wanted another barbecue sandwich. There are lots of food stands inside the building so she agreed to go there because she could get non-barbecue food. (She actually ate sushi... and said it was excellent.) My sandwich was the same as the previous one, which was a good thing. I contemplated getting a third sandwich, but we were on our way to Memphis and I knew I would be having barbecue that night, so I didn't. There is a limit to the amount of barbecue I can eat in one day. Actually, that's a lie.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
I took these pictures on my trip to Memphis for the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and I never planned to put them on my blog, as they are not good pictures. But then I had a conversation the other night and I figured I would go ahead and post them. The reason they are so poor is that the battery on my digital camera died one day in Memphis and I bought a disposable camera to take pictures. The first picture is a pulled pork sandwich at Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street, and the second picture is the pulled pork plate at Charlie Vergos' Rendezvous, across from the Peabody Hotel.
The reason I am posting them is that the other night my friend Shawn asked me: "Do you ever visit any barbecue places you like?" He admitted that he had not read my whole blog, but I do see his point. I do indeed like many of the places I visit, but barbecue in Southern California, with only one or two exceptions, is just not very good. Even the places where I have had certain meals that I think are great, such as Robin's or Spring Street Smokehouse, have also provided me with meals that have been horrible. The consistency is just not there.
However, in my four trips to Memphis, I have eaten five meals at Rum Boogie and two at Rendezvous, and every one of them have been spectacular. The first time I had the pulled pork at Rum Boogie, in 2002, my friend Tom and I were sitting in the bar listening to blues, and I proclaimed it the best pulled pork I had ever eaten. It was a revelation. The next time in Memphis I ate at Rendezvous and had their pulled pork and mustard slaw, and I proclaimed it the best pork I had ever had. I have never uttered anything close to that in Southern California.
So I am posting these pictures of terrible quality to show that yes, there sure are barbecue places I love. But hardly any of them are around here.