Guy Fieri might want to consider coming back to The BBQ Shack in Paola, Kansas, and taking down his posters. When the Bit-By-Bit BBQ Pit Crawl arrived at the Shack with high expectations, based on Guy’s endorsement on his “Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives” program, and on many word-of-mouth recommendations over the years, we were very disappointed. Very little lived up to all that we had been told.
Admittedly, when we walked into the place shortly after noon, they were busy. A girl’s softball team had arrived just ahead of us and pretty well filled the seating. That circumstance caused some of the problems we experienced, but is not an excuse for the generally mediocre to poor quality of the food we were served.
One of BBQ’s basic staples, ribs, were not available to our group. A little more than an hour after the Shack’s stated opening time, they were sold out.
Of the menu items we were able to try, our group found most to be very run-or-the mill, or inferior. The list of our opinions is as follows:
· The burnt ends were rubbery and chewy, and not very flavorful.
· The beef brisket was dry, and hard, and again not particularly tasty.
· The sausage, likewise, was dry.
· The pulled pork was tender and moist, but it too was not very flavorful, as if not enough rub had been used to prepare it.
· The Carolina-style pulled-pork sandwich was OK, but the slaw used on it wasn’t as tangy as I prefer.
· The ½ chicken was OK, but not noteworthy.
· The seasoned fries were under-seasoned.
· The fried pickles were generally inferior to those we have tried at other BBQ restaurants.
· The fried okra, cheese sticks, and corn nuggets were acceptable if you discount them being tepid instead of hot.
The few things our group sampled that we found to be good were:
· The Atomic Buffalo Turds (bacon-wrapped jalapenos stuffed with creamed cheese) were quite good.
· The Sweet Fire BBQ sauce we found to be very tasty, with the Hot Sauce being a close second.
· The Onion straws had good flavor and were cooked and seasoned well.
It should be noted that none of our food was really served hot. It was mostly just warm, as if it had been sitting awhile. If that were the case, and we believe it was, that would not have helped the quality problems.
The service was not good. To start with, our group of four was not greeted or seated by the restaurant staff, but by the bus driver of the softball team, who juggled their group to make space for us. When a waitress finally came to take our order, she warned us there might be a wait, but we had no expectation that it would end up being almost 2 hours. That particular problem became increasingly annoying as more and more people who came in after we did, started getting served ahead of us. When that number reached seven parties, we complained. At that point, our food magically appeared within moments, and it was clear that it had been sitting awhile.
In picking the establishments we planned to visit and review, The BBQ Shack had been high on our list of places to try. We left very disappointed and The Shack had fallen so far down the list that it will be some time before any of us try it again.
Dennis Constance on behalf of The Pit Crawlers