Friday, June 22, 2012

Review - Oklahoma Joe's in Broken Arrow

(Broken Arrow, OK) - The way the story was related to us was as follows:

There was a fellow up near Kansas City had himself a team competing in KCBS competitions around the region. He eventually found himself going head-to-head for titles with a maker of fine smokers hailing from the Tulsa area. At some point they became close friends and this equipment guru from Oklahoma -- who went by the name of, yeah, that's right, Joe -- along with the other fellow eventually forewent good sense in favor of pairing their collective skills to open a 'cue joint somewhere southwest of downtown over on the west side of the KS/MO line.

They don't just hand out awards like those two to just anyone. Those are rare. We did find it amusing that the big Memphis in May award was for beans or rub or something -- but HEY -- this is a KC jernt!

We don't know if all of that is true but we do know that somehow, in the smoke and haze and all of the awards and accolades, a sort of a mini-chain formed and that one of the handful of locations is now open next to a Bass Pro Shops in the affluent Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow. We know that Joe must have wanted to come home -- even if it was just for a visit -- because we've been there. And we are glad of that.

Like most of the establishments in this Broken Arrow TIF (rogue Kialegee casinos notwithstanding) this is an attractive place.

Inside and out it says one thing -- cash money built this house. And a lot of it. But cash money builds places like Dickey's and Colter's and Luther's too and they don't make barbecue good enough for my dog. No worries with Oklahoma Joe's. Amid all of the flash and glitter is some downright excellent  barbecue. It's served up by some nice folks in a place that's spotless. Not only that but look over there by the door -- that is one cool-ass artifact. If that piece of floor could talk... I reckon it'd have some wild stories ranging from Mr. Wills all the way to the Sex Pistols and beyond.

Really though -- it is about the meat. Some folks really dig the sides and from what we could tell they won't be disappointed here. At least not with the fries and the beans. Some say anyplace tending a deep fryer isn't watching the meat. We say hire a guy to man the fryer and give us some fries! Oklahoma Joe must agree.

Funny thing I noticed here. Up in Kansas City where this place was born -- burnt ends are a staple. Here in the suburbs of T-Town they aren't on the menu. Good news though -- they are being served. When asked about them the fellow at the counter didn't hesitate and actually seemed glad that we asked about them. And the burnt end sandwiches we were served were OUT-STANDING.

We liked them enough to pretty much use the two sauces only on the fries. Meat didn't need sauce. And even though they were sandwiches there was plenty of meat. In fact we get the feeling they are in the practice of serving plenty of meat to each diner in this place because they skip the whole "asking for a to-go box" charade and just put the boxes out there near the Big Red machine, silverware and napkins (get a few of those, by the way -- you'll need them).

The do serve other meats. The brisket is moist and tender but not overcooked. The pulled pork is actually pulled - not chopped - and not mushy, overcooked pork. Very good pork considering it is found so far to the west. The ribs might be the best thing here outside of the burnt ends. Moist and tender, they pull clean from the bone meaning they are not overcooked or undercooked -- just right. Have not tried the sausage  yet. 

One final note on the music. It seemed as if it may have been coming from a CD carousel because much of it was fairly obscure -- and awesome. I seem to recall there was Robert Earl and his old roommate Lyle along with Wayne "The Train" and along with some obligatory cash -- what was it -- Robbie Fulks? Nice job.

We're proud of these guys for showing that it can be done. Good brisket in a chain. Looking forward to the next trip through the area -- or better yet to the original up in Kansas City, Kansas. We have our confirmation and we are judging the American Royal Invitiational -- so we will see you guys up in Kansas then. May see Broken Arrow in a few weeks when we travel to the NeOk (can we coin that term right here?) to take our princess to the cool aquarium they've got there.


Oklahoma Joe's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Chandler Hog Wild BBQ and Chrome Fest

(Chandler, OK) - Something about this contest is just right. Sure there are lots of flies on account of the proximity of water treatment facilities. Sure its hot on account of judging being held in a pavilion in mid-June. But it's still a great contest run by some really great folks in a great Oklahoma town.

It would appear they are growing this whole festival in a proper fashion as the crowd is bigger and the teams are better. Heard a radio commercial for it and it could be that is drawing people in as word gets out. Good  music too with Stoney's brother coming down from just up the road to play it. Lots more chrome this year.

This is the hometown of Butcher BBQ and fresh of a couple of GC wins they didn't compete this year. They did cook, however. Yes they were serving up pork sandwiches with proceeds going to benefit the Chandler Chamber (the beneficiary of this particular event). Other big teams did show up though and Kosmos even pulled a 180 in pork. Very impressive although clearly our table did not have that box.

We did get a box of ribs that were probably a single 8 away from a star pin. Overall there was some fine 'cue today although we noticed that burnt ends were difficult to come by and many of the ribs were sporting membrane. What is that about? It was so tough on one rib that it was difficult to pull any meat off the bone to sample it.

Thumbs up to Kim Evans and the other folks who put on this contest. Communication is never a problem and they are clearly dedicated to improving this event year by year. Tip of the cap, y'all.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Review - Franklin Barbecue in Austin

It was one of those rare, late spring days in central Texas where the mid-morning temperature was still comfortable and a light Hill Country was rain falling on the windshield as we made our way from New Braunfels to the edge of downtown Austin. We came seeking the best there is. Barbecue made by a master in his prime. One of but a very few places to earn Six Stars from Full Custom Gospel

Despite the drizzle there was already a line forming as we pulled in just after nine o'clock. This would probably be the best time to address this whole line deal. In case you are unfamiliar -- Austin is a great town that is chock full of proud hipsters. There are so many that one might think it odd that a 'cue joint could thrive in such a climate. But this is Texas and even most of the hipsters are carnivores here. Hell yes. But line waiters? That surprises me. To see the beanie and plaid facial hair-and-piercing crowd standing in line for hours for meat -- that can only mean one thing. This is very  good meat.

Our buddy -- a Franklin Line veteran -- had arrived about 10 minutes earlier and was in line under the covered deck with his cousin who had been waiting for her chance to sample the legendary meat. And here we were. Fewer than 120 minutes separated our palates from some of the most hyped barbecue in the history of hype or barbecue.

We'd made it just in time because the line grew rapidly until it was across the length of the lot to the next street up. An employee made her way out the exit door to vend cold refreshment, sodas and beers, to anyone who might have been working up a thirst in the line. We were informed by our buddy that the line usually snakes down the wheelchair ramp in front of the door and then down the sidewalk -- but today they were allowing the early birds to park it under the roof on the patio so we might stay dry. No matter as the rain would soon give way to steamy sunshine and the line was out to its normal spot by the time we left. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
In front of us

In back of us

Farther in back of us at around 10:40 a.m.
When this is your view of the sign -- you fi'in ta eat
Our buddy -- he tells us he usually doesn't get there so early but rather plays the odds and more typically arrives around 10 or a little later hoping to find a shorter line. Sometimes he gets there around noon and says he's batting about .500 in beating that sign dreaded by so many connoisseurs and afficianados.  

Three (long) minutes after 11 the door finally opened and they ushered in the 10 folks ahead of us. One guy was pulling briskets out of the hot box and unwrapping them from the butcher paper. They were black and the wondrous aroma washed over us and we eyed the counter with mouths watering. Finally it was us and our buddy suggested that they might hook us up with a few burnt ends -- a Franklin custom which they are only too glad to oblige (unlike KC they don't have to really save burnt ends here on account of most Texas brisket enthusiasts don't really know what they are -- the poor bastards).


A shot of them with the old trailer back in the salad days

Oh, man!!!!
It looked as good as it smelled and as those nuggets hit the butcher paper on the counter in front of us we knew that this was going to be an experience the likes of which we'd never had. And it was. The light poured in and the angels sang as the perfectly rendered fat dissolved as it hit our tongues and the smoky goodness blotted out all other senses and sensibility.

The third time he asked us what it'd be we were able to shake it off and pull it together enough to mumble something about more burnt ends. Burnt end sandwich and pound of burnt ends to go. Sauce? No -- no sauce -- doesn't need it. Sides? No. Meat. Just meat.

At the table we had a chance to savor and even sample a few of the legendary Franklin hipster sauces. They are good and while we had only brisket on this visit we can imagine how that espresso sauce would be mighty tasty on some ribs. Our buddy had ribs -- big ol' spares. He says usually he just pulls the bone out with one hand although that didn't work on this visit. He actually had to pull a little showing that these ribs were not overcooked as they apparently usually are.

We washed down our sandwich with some of the requisite Big Red (official pop of BBQ, don'tcha know?) and really couldn't believe it. This place is the real deal. It is not that  good -- it is better. Believe the hype, friends and neighbors. I would stand in line for four  hours and pay twice  as much for this stuff (Aaron -- please don't raise the prices).

If you're in or going to be in Austin -- go. Don't think about it. Just do it. Go and wait. You'll be glad you did. Who knows how much longer this guy can go before he burns out on the hours or doesn't show up anymore because of his celebrity or just expands into a large chain where the 'cue is good but not legendarily great.

One of the saddest sights in all of Austin

It's your big chance. It is rare. Don't blow it.


Franklin Barbecue on Urbanspoon

No hestitation on this: