Saturday, December 29, 2012

The People we meet in bbq

Well we’ve been on this BBQ journey for two years now. Hard to believe, but true, and so far, every bit of this pit crawl has been Amazing. We started out at Zarda Q and, from there, went to one of my personal favorites--and a place I believe anyone who loves BBQ needs to visit Smokin Guns BBQ.  We headed to a Kansas City Classic, Gates BBQ, and over to Don’s farm to test out his handcrafted smokers. I threw in one of my favorite smoked chicken dishes. We had some awesome Q at Woodyard BBQ, with the Pit Crawlers and again on my birthday.  All in all, we've been having a great time eating some great food and meeting even greater people.

People who cook BBQ love BBQ! There’s no other way to put it. Call it passion, pride or better yet, their heart and soul. Every bit has layers of love. It’s possible that the passion for BBQ that people have they were born with or handed down from family tradition. Maybe it’s simply a learned love. All I know is I’m thankful to be a part.

I don’t want to get into reviewing the reviews on our blog. You can go back and read them yourself and if you missed any, I think you should. What I would like to talk about briefly are the people we met. The ones I was talking about above who have that great love for BBQ. I guess what I really want to do is thank some people.

Our friend Don, the smoker builder, has to be one of the most gracious hosts I’ve ever met--giving us access to his smokers (and his entire farm really)--while never trying to influence us in any way on what we thought of his smokers. He just wanted to do what all BBQ lovers want to do: Have fun! This wasn’t about any sales pitch or an opportunity for exposure. Don just wanted to get out and have some fun--which we all did.

The folks at Gates have the passion and most definitely were born with it. Few BBQ restaurants have as deep a family history as Gates. The service we got from this family was as kind as any you could get anywhere.

When we arrived at Smokin Guns in north Kansas City they were about to close and we had no idea. We arrived just before closing and were treated with kindness and pride. In no way did they make us feel rushed or like we were keeping them. In fact we didn’t even know we were keeping them until we left and while leaving noticed the hours on the door. All they wanted to do was serve us the best BBQ with as much love as they could.

At the Woodyard, we not only found passion and pride we also found a friend in Paul the manager there. Telling us stories and answering questions, he felt more like one of us than a restaurant manager. We all felt at home there.

The very first blog posted was on Zarda Q. Eating there was like having dinner at a close relative's house.

I was sad to hear that Smokin' Babes was closing it's place to focus on catering. I certainly felt welcome there and that feeling was totally due to the people working because, when people love what they do, it reflects back on you. They love BBQ.

And Last but not least: Papa Bobs. This is a family place. When you go there, whether you’re a once- or twice-a-weeker or a first-timer, you feel like you’re a part of the family. To me, owning a family restaurant of my own, this means a lot.

I know I haven't mentioned everyone weve meet but you get the point. So to all we’ve meet along the way and to all we hope to meet in future legs of our Pit Crawl: Keep on lovin' that Q.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

American Royal

This past weekend I had the privilege of helping out at theAmerican Royal BBQ competition in Kansas City. They call this event the WorldSeries of BBQ and with good reason. On Friday the best of the best square offin the American Royal Invitational. This is where grand champs compete (onlyabout 50 teams) for what just about all que masters think to be the mostprestige’s honor in all BBQ.

Saturday is full of action! Inside there’s a barbecue expowith cooking demos all day, sauces, pits and even a mechanical bull for kids toride. Outside is all smoking. About 600 teams cooking chicken, ribs, pork andbrisket. Early Saturday afternoon its turn in time for the invitational contestand most of those teams are doing double duty. What I mean when I say this isthat most of the teams competing in the Invitational also stay and compete atthe open. The American Royal Open is just that open to all who are up to thechallenge of going up against nearly 600 other pit masters. They even have a Jr.Contest for up and coming BBQ masters.

If you love BBQ the American Royal is a must go. From theparties starting Friday night to the great food everywhere to the expo there istruly something for everyone from 6-106. Now I was there on official duty most of the time however I was able toescape and walk around a bit. I even meet some legends in the barbecueworld.  Oh yah I almost forgot the foodwas awesome!

American Royal 2013 here I come.


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Rub Bar-B-Que

The Rub Bar-B-Que

Cary has mentioned before that our reviews, as with those of many other reviewers, can catch some establishments on an unusually bad (or good) day. We can only hope that we caught The Rub Bar-B-Que on a bad day. During our visit, there just seemed to be a tendency to Rub the Wrong Way. We have to keep in mind, of course, that this is a very new establishment, likely to have more ups-and-downs in its startup years.

The dissatisfaction we felt started with the awkward ordering experience. Perhaps our matching pit-crawl shirts bothered the staff. Perhaps we seemed too much like tourists. Perhaps we were too happy on a hot August day for someone experiencing an unlucky 13th of the month. Perhaps it was a combination of the above conditions on what was expected to be a slow, run-of-the-mill, easy training dinner shift. Maybe there had been a bad shift-change or a short staff. Whatever the cause, the staff seemed curt and exasperated by having to deal with unfamiliar patrons.

First, we ordered the Ultimate Platter:
  • The sausage had a heavy sage/ham taste, like breakfast sausage;
  • The burnt ends were tender but too mild;
  • The pulled pork was dry and flavorless.

In addition to the ribs which came with the Ultimate Platter, we ordered another rack because we were optimistic about our appetites. The ribs were good but had a flavor which began to fall short--not bad, just somehow tiresome--after 2-3 ribs. We couldn't quite place the underlying flavor(s) which tried us. Some of thought the flavor was maybe cinnamon. Others of us thought it was maybe turmeric. The flavor just didn't develop its character far enough to keep us interested.

We were informed that different sizes of sides come with different menu items. That can be an important point when combining racks and platters for a group.

Kate's Cheesy Corn was okay.
The Carolina Slaw tasted heavy on vinegar.
The Bar-B-Que Beans had a nice variety of beans but somehow managed a canned flavor.

The sugar-crusted corn bread was okay.

Great fries emerged from the mix. This find is ironic to us because we don't normally expect to rate fries. Usually, we intend to use them only as taste-testers for sauces.

We weren't very happy with the sauce taste-tests.

The place looks fantastic. It's a big, open space with a large, visible kitchen area and gleaming stainless steel surfaces. Even the trash cans look expensive. Somehow, the clean, airy atmosphere seems to have sapped the energy, synergy, smoke, and marination from the food and let the juices evaporate. From the good that was left, there was a lack of development. Maybe, it's still breaking-in and not yet seasoned.

If The Rub has too many days like this, however, one of us predicts that they'll be out of business in 2 years.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Dickeys Texas Pit

Well we said we were going to some lager chain type BBQ places and we did. Now I’m not sure Travis Dickey would have ever thought his little BBQ Pit in Dallas would have expanded to what it is today. All Travis Dickey wanted was to provide Texans with the perfect Texas style barbecue and Ronald and TD Dickey Jr. carried that dream on when they took over in the late 60’s. But the brothers started expanding throughout the greater Dallas area and Franchising began in the early/mid 90’s with great success. Roland Dickey Jr. continues the family BBQ tradition today.

Texas Pit BBQ……What is Texas style BBQ? You hear people talk about Texas style BBQ, Kansas City BBQ, Memphis BBQ and Carolina style BBQ. But what does all that really mean? In today’s world of BBQ….and in my opinion not much! By that I mean no disrespect to anyone or their traditions. I’ve spent many hours reading about and studying barbecue and the history of barbecue. And let me tell you I haven’t even scratched the surface! You could read and read and read and every time you finish a book on cue another one shows up in front of you. Now I’m not going to spend time going into just what is traditional Texas style BBQ but there is such a thing. So why not explain to you the reader of this blog the difference? Answer…. Because like I said before in today’s world of BBQ there’s not a lot of difference. People from Texas are proud of their BBQ as are people from Kansas City, Carolina and Memphis, however most barbecue joints all around the country serve the best of all styles of BBQ. And Dickeys is one of those joints. Once a true Texas Pit Dickeys now serves cue of all types.

To some people getting away from tradition isn’t good but I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as taking the best of four awesome worlds of barbecue and ending up with the best of the best. Beef brisket, spare and baby backs, chicken, pulled pork, ham and so much more all in one place. And like I said most BBQ joints have done this. So let’s get to the food. 

We ordered both chopped and sliced brisket, pulled pork, polish and cheddar sausage and pork spare ribs. As for sides we had barbecue beans as well as jalapeno beans, waffle fries and fried okra. Let’s start with the sides……. How do I put this…..? Nothing was bad but at the same time nothing really stood out either. The beans were beans nothing more as if a can was opened and they were done. The fried okra obviously came from frozen and the fries were fries. Although the fries did serve their purpose as sauce testers and the sauce was very good. One thing I would like to have seen was more sauces for sale. You couldn’t buy the sweet sauce which I felt along with others was their best. However all were cut from the same cloth so to speak and all were good.

The chopped brisket was very good as was the sliced I’m not sure which I preferred more however Dennis thinks the chopped was better. Both had enough fat to not be dry but by no means were fatty. And they had great smoky flavor! I didn’t think much of the polish sausage not that it was bad in any way it just wasn’t special in any way either. It reminded me of a basic brat. The cheddar sausage on the other hand had a flavor all its own. The good kind! If you take a blind taste test and can tell ….hay that’s dickeys cheddar sausage and are smiling yea that’s good. The pulled pork was also good. I don’t remember thinking it was the best we’ve had but I thought it was good. Oh I almost forgot we also had slaw for a side. Anytime there’s pulled pork we have to try the slaw. Not bad but no more than par for the course. Ok its rib time! I thought the spare ribs were the best thing we had and most of what we had was really good so that say something. Robert (a baby back man) thought they were the best spare ribs he had ever had. In fact they inspired him to try spare ribs more often both at home on his smoker and grill as well when were out.

All in all we liked Dickeys Texas pit BBQ.                                                                                           



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Earl Quick's Bar-B-Q

This one is easy!  

1-      Enter and sit down.  

2-       Order the smoked and deep fried Bologna sandwich.

3-      Enjoy this delicious sandwich then go home.

I understand Quick’s Bar-B-Q and catering has been a popular spot since 1964. However, the best thing we had was the above sandwich.

Both the baked beans and the green beans were perceived as if nothing more than fresh from the can. At least, that’s what they tasted like. The burnt ends were ok but no real big flavor. The pulled pork was much like what you’d get in the freezer section at the super market.

The ribs were a bit greasy however they were pretty good. Not nearly the best we’ve had but not bad.

The brisket was maybe the driest brisket any of us has ever had. So dry in fact it laid on our plate as not chunk’s, strips, or slices but rather pieces. It just crumbled as you tried to pick it up.

Now for the chicken: Wow, how do I put this….as we cut into it and tasted it, the only thing I could think of was the scene from Christmas Vacation when Clark cut into the turkey. If you haven’t seen this, look it up you’ll know what I mean.

I will say this! Their hickory smoked and deep fried bologna sandwich was quite awesome.   
Their hickory smoked and deep fried bologna sandwich was quite awesome. 


Friday, January 20, 2012

Schloegels Woodyard Bar-B-Que

Have you ever had a last-minute change of plans turn out to better than any careful plans you've made before? We did. We actually visited Schloegel's Woodyard Bar-B-Que at the last-minute. (We discovered that our two remaining listed destinations on this leg of our crawl were not open late on Mondays.)

Schloegel's main business, the woodyard, sells wood for smoking. The restaurant is actually a side business that developed out of demand. That demands hints that something very right is happening. More details about the history of this four-generation family business can be found at

As we climbed the entry steps to the patio, Dennis noted another right-on detail: One of the steps was built around an existing tree rather than cutting it down as the patio was added or expanded. We appreciate a not-only down-to-earth but also we're-down-with-earth approach.

Tree appreciation.
Here are our orders combined:
  • baby back ribs, smoked with the membrane on, served unsauced;
  • burnt ends, chopped and lean;
  • a smoked sausage, slightly reminiscent of bratwurst, which they call "specwurst", sliced;
  • pecan-smoked salmon sandwich on ciabatta with a lemon-infused dill cream;
  • cheesy corn;
  • pulled pork with RO*TEL;
  • coleslaw;
  • brisket;
  • baked beans;
  • and sauces
  • (and I'd like to note the red cream soda which I got for myself).

Here are our orders combined.

The baby back ribs were smoked with the membrane on and were served without sauce. We all agreed that we question the benefit of wrestling off that membrane before smoking. We were delighted that we could taste these smoked ribs without the sauce. They needed nothing. Their appearance, texture, and flavor were as good as Smokin' Guns'.

Baby back ribs, smoked with the membrane on, served unsauced.

The burnt ends were chopped. We were glad to find another place which serves them chopped. (This experience helped confirm that our last encounter with chopped burnt ends was less pleasant because of the fat content, not because of the chopping.) These burnt ends were lean and flavorful.

Burnt ends, chopped, lean and flavorful.

Dennis, who is a wizard at divining the source of flavors, thought that the smoked sausage had a bratwurst-like quality. He's right--our host, Paul, explained that they prepare the sausage by taking bratwurst and combining it with their smoked bacon. They call it "specwurst". It took a slight lead over Smokin' Guns'.

Smoked sausage, slightly reminiscent of bratwurst, which they call specwurst, sliced

The pecan-smoked salmon sandwich was served on ciabatta bread with a side of lemon-infused dill cream "sauce". It was more of a cream than a sauce and was quite good. Cary noted that the salmon was, in his opinion, properly cooked, instead of the wetter, slightly-undercooked style commonly accepted (perhaps to avoid claims of dryness). We enjoyed this detour from standard BBQ fare.

Pecan-smoked (and properly-dry, according to Cary's tastes) salmon sandwich on ciabatta w/ lemon-infused dill cream.

The pulled pork puzzled us. Mixed into the meat were what appeared to be diced tomatoes and peppers or onions. Sure enough, Paul told us that they mix in RO*TEL for a unique flavor. I liked it; but we all agreed that it didn't seem very smoky or BBQ-compatible. It seemed like a combination in search of another venue, not a BBQ ground-breaker.

Pulled pork w/RO*TEL.

The brisket was great, with an excellent texture and smoky flavor. The appearance and texture were as good as Smokin' Guns' but with more flavor.

 Brisket with great texture and flavor.

The sides we got were coleslaw, cheesy corn, & baked beans, along with regular and spicy sauce.

The sides we got: coleslaw, cheesy corn, & baked beans, along with regular and spicy sauce.

We were especially glad to find, and enjoy, the cheesy corn.

Cheesy corn.

We were utterly delighted by this experience in the dark-yet-mild Winter.

Dennis, Cary, Robert, and 4 generations of Schloegel.

Our host, Paul, was very helpful. Not only did he explain how the specwurst and pulled pork were made, he discussed the fact that they use a non-offset smoker, which is hotter, better for chicken. They smoke it right out on the patio, where guests have seating when the weather suits them.

The patio at night and the smoker and prep area.

They usually change up the wood as they smoke a batch--Oak to start, Pecan for the bulk of time, Cherry to finish. Paul, and a friendly family of avid Woodyard BBQ fans, really helped to make the experience fully-enjoyable with conversation.

Paul was great for talk about the Woodyard and BBQ in general.

So, you should definately consider checking out Schloegel's Woodyard Bar-B-Que, 3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, Kansas 66106.

3001 Merriam Lane, Kansas City, Kansas 66106.

Blogging off for now,