After stopping it at the Taco Xpress, for some breakfast taco’s and some food to keep us satisfied, we headed to Franklin Barbecue and arrived in line at 9:15 AM. Franklin’s claim to fame is that they open their doors at 11a and stay open until they are sold out, oh and also that they have the world’s finest Texas Brisket! So they usually run out of food around 2p as the sign says. Our timing was perfect, we were amongst the first 25 people in line and that got is in the door on the first shift. The line just grew and grew as we waited there, people joining people holding spots and the beverage lady coming through the line to serve drinks. The wait was half the fun, and a little tip, you can use their bathroom.
The first person from Franklin’s we met was a really Sweet young lady who came through to gauge our order as to how much, brisket, pork, ribs and sausage you would be interested in having. It is first come serve so she takes your order and then let’s you know whether there will be any left by the time you get inside. Not an issue for us, more of an issue for the folks closer to the end of the line.
We were lucky and got inside at 11a, waited another 20 minutes and was happy to see Aaron Franklin enjoying his morning espresso and watching over the first cuts of brisket hit the trays. We went with a pound of brisket, 1/4 LB of Turkey and pulled pork, two hot links and a pound of spare ribs and went to work. The surprise of the meal and not to be missed is the smoked turkey, we surmised that we may have been the first to order it and we got a fresh breast that was just amazing, nice blend of pepper, salt and smoke, with a delightful bark. Don’t miss it, we shared it with some line mates who made the mistake and they had the same reaction.
The pulled pork was awesome as well, salty, smokey with a hint of pepper and moist. Moist seems to be the seem at Franklin’s, how they do it, I do not know but all our food was tender and didn’t dry out as we ate it. The sausage casing had such a snap and a great flavor. Now the spare ribs had a great bark and a peppery smokey flavor with tenderness that made it easy to separate meat from bone. No falling off, but pulling off was just a delight and an awesome flavor.
Last but not least was the brisket, we asked for fatty and the bark, oh the bark was just amazing. The brisket was not like anything we have tasted thus far in Texas. It was light, fluffy and literally had the consistency best compared to a good birthday cake. The crusty bark mixed with the light and tender meat that was airy and so moist. The bark has a pepper flavor which is the most predominant flavor and it was worth every second in line to taste this Pit Master’s handy work.
Finally, Franklin’s has sauce and the Espresso BBQ Sauce, which is evidently taken from Aaron’s love of a good espresso is the perfect companion to his brisket. Highly suggest taken a few bites on it’s own, but then give that BBQ sauce a try, the mix of the coffee and the black pepper is just not to be missed. Had an almost chocolate under tone and was a pleasant surprise.
Enjoy the photos from the Austin BBQ Roadtrip on BBQ Pro Shops Flickr Page
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Hats off to Chef Skip Steele and the rest of the Bogart’s Smoke House Crew for bringing yet another BBQ masterpiece to St. Louis. My St. Louis family Donna and Jeff introduced me to Pappy’s Smoke House where I met Skip and toured the smoker with them. So when I read about Bogarts in the June 2011 Issue of Food and Wine Magazine as one of the Best New Barbecue Restaurants, Jeff and Donna were dispatched to Bogarts and found more BBQ heaven in St. Louis.
On our way to the Murphysboro 2011 Barbecue Cook-Off we determined that a lunch at Bogarts was in order, too much BBQ is just
enough. We arrived at Bogarts prior to the lunch rush at 11a and were greeted by Skip Steele at the door who was sharing ribs with the city workers and fire fighters who stood in line with us. The rib sample was sublime, tender and smokey with a crust that is a signature of Bogarts. The crust is created with a roofing torch that is blazed over the ribs to finish them! (See the photo of Skip in action.) Well worth a taste. While we waited in line, Skip brought me a small sample of hot pastrami right off the slicer and I was in love!
We ordered three sandwiches, the Smoked Pastrami, Smoked Prime Rib and a Brisket which I had determined to be the three things to try since the ribs were out of the way. I also got outside my comfort zone and ordered the Pit Baked Beans. They are cooked directly under the brisket drippings in the smoker with bits of brisket burnt ends smothered in for good measure! What a treat for a confessed baked bean virgin. A memorable first time to say the least.
The Smoked Pastrami is thinly sliced on a marble rye that is locally baked and procured to compliment this tender, salty masterpiece. The brine creates a perfect pink color and taste balanced out with just the right amount of fat which is required on a good piece of pastrami. Another unique preparation worth mentioning is the slicers that Bogart’s has going behind the counter. All of their sandwiches are sliced in something that is unique to most BBQ joints I have seen that use knives. This makes the pastrami is thinly sliced and well worth the trip.
The beef brisket was fantastic, great little smoke ring fills it with BBQ flavor and tender like brikste should be. It is served on a special bun made by the same bakery that does the rye bread with a consistency that compliments the well flavored meat. Skip has a mastery of brisket and a unique cooking style that makes it almost medium well and not over cooked. The slicer adds the finishing touch, slicing it thin enough that there is plenty of flavor and a perfect amount of fat!
The final item I tasted was the Smoked Prime Rib, we had to try this one as it was all about the unique at Bogarts. I had not had
smoked prime rib at a BBQ joint and this did not disappoint. It was definitely different from the brisket with some delicious grilled onions on top of the sandwich, but was just a little dry for my liking. It was also very difficult to erase the pastrami from my memory and tough to top the flavor.
Final Words: The Smoked Pastrami is a must try and in my opinion, the house specialty. Loved the place and please don’t miss the small batch St. Louis made Billy Goat Chip Company Potato Chips. Use the chips for dipping into the beans, you will be glad you did. The sauces were a lot of fun to try as well. Make sure you check out Bogarts when you are in town and support this new St. Louis BBQ gem!
Bogart’s Smoke House
1627 S. 9th St., Soulard
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We had heard rumors of this place for some time and when Steve Dolinsky reported that “Chicago q is the city’s first “elegant” BBQ palace” we knew the time had come. We were delighted to hear that Lee Ann Whippen of BBQ Pitmasters fame was the Chef and Partner, we knew we had yet another special BBQ place in Chicago. Lee Ann has moved to Chicago to make this place something special and that speaks to the mix of authentic competition and Virginia BBQ. Combine that with an atmosphere that you can only find in the Chicago Gold Coast, they did a fantastic job. The decor is like a chic Southern Plantation meets modern casual restaurant space. It is wide open with a cool bar, great dining area and a couple of private rooms including flat screens for watching sports. They also do carry out which they said is a huge part of their business.
Staff was really knowledgeable and this was an important part of the experience. When we mentioned that we owned a BBQ store we were treated to visits from the General Manager as well as Lee Ann herself! Lee Ann was really friendly, shared some of her experience of Chicago and was happy to spend the time and energy needed to make the place a success. Our waiter was awesome too, he was very attentive and even got us a kitchen tour, complete with a look at the smoker! This place is the real deal, a gorgeous kitchen complete with a smoker that is gas fired, but real smoking wood stacked right next to it.
We had to try the Kobe beef brisket and went for the Competition Spare Ribs as well as baked beans, fries and mac and cheese for the sides. BBQ is served with the sauce on the side, one is a mild sauce and the other has a little spice to it. The Kobe Beef Brisket was a little dry for my tastes, but very tasty and had a great smoke flavor. The bark on the outside exposed the Lee Ann Whippen Family signature rub “Pig Powder”, which tells me that it was cooked right but needed sauce to make it delicious. The Competition style Spare’s were so damn moist and pink that they pulled right off the bone. They had a great glaze to them which was tasty and perfectly complimented the rub. When we took our kitchen tour we noticed that each rack is wrapped in foil, just like most do in competition and pulled out of the smoker just before serving to you.
The sides is where you could taste all the love. We have heard that their onion rings are not to be missed, sorry we missed them. The Mac and Cheese was special, not
your run of the mill side dish, and we loved it. Overall, it was great to have something this authentic and special in Chicago. It is a great atmosphere and the prices are reasonable based on the neighborhood and the level of service you receive. They have a balance of southern hospitality and fine dining. You could go there to watch a game in the bar, carry out, have a nice dining experience with friends or enjoy a large party in one of their signature private rooms. Exciting to see Modern BBQ hit Chicago, and to have a real BBQ Pitmaster and a high standard of service complete the experience.
You can book a reservation right from their site, I would recommend one as you never know in Chicago. They are kid friendly, casual dining and have more on the menu than just BBQ (The qBurger sounds out of this world).
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As soon as we heard that Chef Charlie McKenna a true competition Pit Master, a winner at Memphis in May, was opening a BBQ place in Chicago we were very intrigued and we made a point of getting to it the first couple of weeks Lillie’s Q was open. I have been there three different times and each time I have been very impressed with the quality of the food, the service and especially the atmosphere.
Named after his Grandmother, Lillie, McKenna brings real BBQ to the Chicago food scene in a great little space on North Ave, on the edge of Bucktown/Wicker Park. The place has great beers on tap and all sorts of specialty drinks with Moonshine at the heart of most of them. Moonshine is to BBQ as Saki is to Sushi! They have a wide open space, cool wood tables and some booths with a huge slop sink at the back for cleaning the BBQ sauce off.
We started with the fried pickles, which are a quality dill pickle fried in a very light and delicious almost tempura batter. This is served with a ranch dressing that has to be homemade. In looking over the menu, brisket is missing, and I asked Charlie straight up, “Why no brisket?” He stated that he wanted to put Tri Tip on the menu instead and being that he competes Memphis BBQ Association, makes sense to me. (Tri tip is done perfectly by the way.) So for our tasting, we tried a slab of
ribs, pulled chicken, pulled pork and of course slices of tri tip. The sides, we went with Mac and Cheese, Bacon Green Beans, Baked Beans, “Carolina Dirt Dusted” Fries and Sweet Potato Fries.
The ribs had an awesome smoke flavor as did all of the meats because you will not find a gas line on Lillie’s Q smoker. McKenna has two custom built, gravity fed, charcoal fueled smokers under a hood in the kitchen. Best part, a BBQ Guru fuels the fire so it was about as close as you could get to true competition BBQ in a restaurant setting. The pork was tender with a nice smokey pink appearance, as was the chicken, a surprise as far as pulled chicken goes, tender and flavorful. The tri
tip was something special, a great appearance of smoke lined the outside with a great rub flavor and tender as all get out. In subsequent visits I have had all of these as a sandwich, highly recommended as he serves them on a soft buttered brioche roll that is divine!
As for sauce, he serves everything dry, another sign that this guy knows BBQ. On the table are five different sauces from all over the BBQ spectrum. Smoky, Hot Smoky (My Favorite), Carolina Gold, Carolina and Ivory. The Ivory is a mayonnaise based sauce which with all of these sauces, you can really sauce it up any way you want. The presentation is on trays, and we have never even gotten into all the other specialties that they have like Shrimp and Grits or the Low Country Boil. This is the real deal, food has been consistently good and the service is awesome too. Have made this a dinner standard before we go to see the Chicago Blackhawks and they get us in and out within 30 minutes or they let you dine and enjoy! Make it a point to check it out if you are in Chicago, or are looking for some authentic BBQ in Chicago.
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Lockhart is on my “Bucket List” and after reading this review from Dining in Austin‘s Mariah McElroy I know exactly how I would do it. I mean other than spending a couple of days there, how do you try Black’s, Smitty’s and Kreuz Market in just one trip? Dispatch your friends and reconvene in the Lockhart Municipal park for a food tasting challenge, that’s how!
Printed on permission of Dining in Austin:
One reason I love my friends: they’re foodies too. One hot Sunday afternoon, we all decided to carpool down to Lockhart and conduct a thoroughly scientific comparison of the Lockhart BBQ joints. Upon reaching Lockhart, we were disappointed to learn that Kreuz Market is closed on Sundays so we had to do a comparison of the 3 remaining BBQ joints, Black’s and Smitty’s.
At precisely the same time, a carload of us went to Black’s and a carload of us went to Smitty’s so the BBQ would be fresh and purchased at the same time. We decided, at a minimum, to get brisket, ribs, sausage, potato salad and cold slaw. We could also make an executive decision to get other additions we thought looked tasty. Then, we’d all meet up at the city park for a delicious picnic of BBQ.
I was in the carload that went to Black’s. When we arrived, I was stuck by how old fashioned the whole town looked. There was a beautiful old courthouse and town square. But unlike Fredricksburg, there weren’t kitschy country stores in the town square. It had a slightly depressed old Texas feel. Clearly, the only thing people come to Lockhart for is the BBQ.
But once you step into Black’s, it’s an oasis of Texas BBQ. The first thing you’ll notice are the impressive selection of home cooked sides. Many more sides than I’ve seen at any other Texas BBQ joint.
The meat is kept in an ingenious meat locker and is cut fresh when you order it.
Once we had procured our meat and sides, we went to the municipal park to conduct our thoroughly scientific taste test. In this picture, the Black’s offerings are in the front and the Smitty’s offerings are in the back.
And so you can get a sense of the aesthetics, here are the Black’s meats:
And here are the Smitty’s meats:
So the results!
Sausage – Winner: Tied
Smitty’s was meatier, almost gamey, while Blacks was creamier, with a finer blend. We were all split down the middle, some liking one more than the other. While I usually like a finer blend sausage, this time around I, liked the intense meaty flavor of the Smitty’s sausage better.
Brisket – Winner: Black’s
Black’s outstanding brisket was the winner of the whole meal. It was moist, soft and tender, fell apart. Smitty’s was dry and lack-luster.
Ribs – Winner: (Begrudgingly) Black’s
The Smitty’s ribs were moister but were covered in a sickly sweet red sauce. The ribs at Blacks had a better smoky flavor, but were dry. In the end, most people preferred smoky over sweet. But neither offering was all that great.
Potato Salad – Winner: Smitty’s
I liked the Blacks better, though, but I got overruled by the masses. Black’s potato salad is chunkier with large pieces of potato. Smitty’s potato salad is creamier, but in my opinion is, too mayonnaise-y. I got my fill of mayonnaise potato salad living in the Midwest. I want some mustard in mine now. Oh well.
Cole Slaw – Winner: Smitty’s
Smitty’s slaw used 3 different types of cabbage, carrots, and had a pleasant a peppery aftertaste. It was much more complex (well, as complex as cold slaw can be) than Blacks which only had 1 type of cabbage but was tangy.
Other Sides – Winner: Black’s
While none of the other sides at Black’s were all that spectacular, it won out in sheer volume of available sides. Smitty’s offered potato salad and cold slaw, that’s it. However, Black’s had yams – sweet and gelatinous and all together pretty bad. And creamed corn – much better than the yams, nice and creamy with a hint of tarragon. They also had mashed potatoes – peppery and good with the cream gravy. And macaroni and cheese – basic and not that great.
Overall – Winner: Blacks
The better selection of sides and the clear win in the brisket department let Black’s nose ahead of Smitty’s. However, I must state for the record that neither was the best BBQ I’ve ever had. Except for Black’s brisket. It was quite good, and may possibly be the best brisket I’ve had in Texas (yet).
~Smitty’s – 7
~Black’s – 8
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