View Full Version : Road Trip Debrief

07-17-2013, 09:01 PM
I got back from a 2 week family road trip which took us from Ontario, Canada through 8 states, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The excuse was taking my son to a video game convention, but the real reason was to visit music centers along the route and sample a cross section of regional BBQ. I'm a musician as well and places like Nashville, Memphis and Austin are cities I've wanted to visit for over 30 years. Bear in mind that we had 3 people with varying tastes in food and a somewhat limited timeframe in each locale. For simplisity, I'll stick to the 'Q'.

Bardstown Kentucky, had lunch at The Old Talbott Tavern. I had a pulled pork sandwich and a cup of Burgoo. I had forgotten after 2 weeks that I had the sandwich, so I can't say it was memorable, probably better than Arby's or similar. The Burgoo however was very enjoyable, like a standard meat stew with extra pepper.

Nashville, Tennessee, lunch at Jack's BBQ, around the corner from the Ryman Auditorium. I had a pulled pork plate, wife and son had sandwiches. The pulled pork had a nice flavour and was definitely smoked, bark and smoke ring in evidence. Sides were OK(baked beans/slaw). The place smelled like my yard when I have the UDS going, so I liked it as soon as we entered.

Next BBQ stop was Stubb's in Austin on July 4th. We had a bit of a time finding it on foot and we were getting used to the hotter(to us)climate. We met some other nerds from the gaming convention in a drugstore, and they helped us with their fancy phone to locate the joint. I had brisket and sausage, collards and slaw son had a brisket sammie, and I my bride had the pulled pork sammie. I tried my wifes pulled pork and it was really good, maybe the best I remember from the trip.
The brisket was tender and flavourful, the sausage was OK, slaw was nice, collard - I prefer making my own.

The next day, Friday was the first day of the con, and I went with Jr. We had lunch at Iron Works BBQ next to the convention center. I had the sampler plate, with brisket, sausage and 2 beef ribs, all very good and I especially liked the beef ribs. They were finished with a hint of sauce in the pit and were outstanding. All went well with a Shiner Bock. We went back the next day and I had the same meal. Later we went to Antone's to see Jimmie Vaughan play, and Blue OX BBQ was selling food from a counter at the club entrance. I now wish I'd tried some but it was getting late. It smelled awesome.

I had wanted to go to both Franklin and The Salt Lick. Franklin was closed for vacation except for the Saturday we were in town, and I opted to go look in music stores rather than boil under the sun for 2+ hours in line. Salt Lick we missed as we ran out of time. We had to go for Mexican food some of the time, too. I did get all three of Franklin's sauces and some Salt Lick Sauce at an HEB to bring home to Canada. I loved HEB! I kept drooling over the product in the meat aisle. The biggest brisket I can get locally is about 8lbs at $5 per, HEB had 11-14 lb for around $2 per. AND they were selling horizontal barrel grills and COS's outside the front entrance.

Sunday we headed to San Antonio, saw the Alamo and San Jose Miguel mission and had Mexican just off the Riverwalk, then on to Lockhart. We got to town after 6pm, checked into our hotel and went to Pizza Hut, where the debris of earlier diners sat uncleared at a table next to us. I thought perhaps the 4 young fellers that were that night's crew were waiting for CSI to come dust the table, dirty plates and crust leavings for prints. Things improved markedly the next morning.

I had an apple and a coffee for breakfast, knowing soon that I would be consuming some of the best BBQ in the state. My family had to have "Make Your Own" waffles in the shape of Texas and get a picture.

First stop on Monday morning was Black's BBQ, as the open at 7am(we got there at 10:30). As soon as we got in the door we were greeted warmly and made to feel genuinely welcome. It wasn't busy yet, so we were able to ask questions about the sides and order without rushing a decision. I had 2 slices moist brisket, 2 lean and a jalapeno cheddar sausage. I can't remember the sides, but I'm sure I have a blurry picture. The brisket was trancendent - it was what I want my brisket to taste like. The sausage was realy good too. Sonny probably had a brisket sandwich, it seems to be his usual MO. My wife wasn't going to gat any meet, but caved and had some brisket and some sides, and for some reason 2 small samples of bana pudding with 'nilla wafers and a pecan cobbler(which she loved). The staff at Black's let me tour the pit area because business was quiet. The place was just plain hospitable. Next we went to Smitty's Market. And I should have had a beef rib - those were Flintstonian in their proportions.

Smitty's had only been open for about half an hour when we arrived so no line-up. I ordered some lean and moist slices to go, then we sampled a taste curbside and moved on to Kreuz Market. The Smitty's brisket wasn't very smoky, not overly seasoned(only issue at Black's was a bit too salty).
Smitty's product tasted like the best roast beef you've ever had and would have gone perfectly with Yorkshire pudding.

Kreuz Market took a couple of passes to find, as it's not exactly on the road the address is on. The size is impressive when you get there. There's a huge stockpile of oak logs visible from the parking lot Again, we order food to go, this time choosing brisket, sausage and 2 pork spare ribs. a quick taste then over to the local HEB to get a cooler and ice to store our grub on the way to Shreveport La. Finished it in the hotel room after gently nuking at a moderate setting. Like Smitty's the Kreuz brisket was subtle and very beefy, not obviously smoky. I hate to say I wasn't that keen on the pork ribs, but the Kreuz jalapeno cheese sausage was the best I had hands down. Good fresh jalapeno flavour and firm filling.

I loved how at these places you could order as little or as much as you wanted.

From Shreveport, we went to Monroe La, stopping at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Preserve, after a quick stop at a supermarket for ice, cajun seasonings and sauce and some sandwich fixing we ate at the Park.

Our next stop was Clarksdale, Mississippi, location of the infamous Crossroads, lauded in song. We stayed at the Shack Up Inn, comprised of reconditioned sharecroppers shacks on the site of the Hopson Plantation. Great place with an ample supply of loaner acoustic guitars for guests to borrow. Dinner was shrimp and crawfish Po'Boys at Yazoo Pass Restaurant. the staff at the Inn recommended it and while not 'Q', the food was delicious. Next morning we went to get a picture at The Crossroads, which rather than looking forboding, has a large marker with oversized electric guitar sculptures on it. Abe's BBQ is at the intersection, with a sign stating in business since 1924 and a large offset smoker(inactive) in the parking area. I had a rib plate, my son had the pulled pork sandwich. I hate to say it, but I'm certain the ribs were boiled - Iused to boil them, I know what boiled ribs taste like. They were sauced then placed on the grill to get some char on them. They were edible, but disappointing. On to Memphis.

Memphis - Late Lunch- BB King's, Beale Street. Good live band in the middle of the afternoon, passable pulled pork plate, good service, my wife enjoyed her catfish. Touristy. I should have held out and gone to Central BBQ - I heard our tour guide at Sun Records Studio recommend it to another guest. Skipped Graceland, but Sun Studios was awesome.

Next Stop, Cave City Kentucky. We had lunch at Bishop's BBQ in a refurbished filling station. Sides all tasted homemade, they had a big offset going in the parking lot, so the 'Q' was a big improvement on Abe's. The staff were really nice, too.

Bishop's would have been our last U.S. BBQ experince, but we stopped for lunch the next Day in Tipp City, Ohio and passed a Hickory River Smokehouse franchise. OK 'Q' for a chain. The pulled pork tasted smoke and had bark and smoke ring, the brisket was fall-apart tender, but I suspect may have been braised. Not smokey, and they serve it with a lot of sauce. Good portions, reasonable prices.

In closing, let me say I enjoyed our trip immensely. Driving in the southern states was a joy, Michigan and at home in Ontario, not so much. I loved Texas, my wife was partial to Kentucky. I'd go back to either in a heartbeat, as well as Clarksdale, Ms(in spite of Abe's) and Louisiana. Some of the trip was too much driving, not enough stopping. Next time, many of our dining decisions will be more carefully considered.

Thanks for listening.