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Archive for November, 2011

It’s complicated, but I had no choice but to go back to the Boneyard  Bistro. And, since I don’t say “wow” very often, I’m going to lay out a big one for you here.  WOW!

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich, and I can honestly say it was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.  In fact, the more I think about it, let’s forget the “one of” qualifier.  It was awesome. Period.  I can’t think of a restaurant-made bbq sandwich I’ve enjoyed more.

The sandwich at Boneyard Bistro is much better than the lighting for photographs.

I apologize for my terrible photograph. But the sandwich had big, robust chunks of tender pork that were juicy and flavorful. The pork was cooked perfectly, not at all mushy, and served with some slaw on top. The rub at Boneyard is exactly how I like it. Again, I barely touched the sauce that came with.

This was the dream sandwich that makes visiting all these barbecues worthwhile.

I was lucky enough to speak to Aaron, the proprietor, who obviously knows 10 times more about barbecue than I do. He confirmed my suspicions regarding why some big establishments serve mushy pork. See my Phillips review for more on that.

And he confirmed that indeed those incredible collard greens are soaking in brown sugar (and he mentioned molasses, too.)

Anyway, bottom line – Hey, L.A., go to the Boneyard Bistro for some of the best barbecue you’ll ever eat.

(p.s. the same crew of dudes with tattoos sat next to me on the bar. They seemed so nice. I wonder what gang they’re in.)

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Not health food.

After four decades of visits to Disney, I finally tried one of their famous smoked turkey legs.

 

Setting aside the foolish maneuver of eating said leg between a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and another ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I’d say buying one of those legs was a pretty good move.

 

First of all, it’s dinner for $9, which in the Disney economy is the equivalent of a small popcorn or two small bottles of water. Cheap, considering. (The macaroni and cheese at Ariel’s Grotto is, like, $450.)

 

Second, it’s fun walking around with a turkey leg.  People stare at you, half wondering where in the world did you get that, and the other wondering why in the world would you get that? There’s something satisfying about having one.

 

Third, for pushcart food, it’s not too bad. If you haven’t had one, I found my leg tasted a lot more like ham than turkey.  It’s even pink like ham because of the smoking.  They’re cooked until they’re tender, they’re not dried out, and honestly, I’d eat one again.

 

The only downside is that I’m told they’re terrible for you.  Apparently, they’re incredibly fatty and a total salt bomb.  One web site notes that they’re close to 1,100 calories each.  (I didn’t eat all of mine, but still, if I’m going to consume that many calories, I’d probably rather eat 10 bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.)

 

Henry eating an everlasting heartstopper.

My only other quarrel with the turkey leg has nothing to do with Disney.  I just find turkey legs hard to manage. Full of bone and cartilage, plus a skin that needs to be pulled back and tossed, it’s not the easiest thing to eat.

I suppose that explains why Henry the VIII seemed to always be carrying one – it takes all day to eat.

I also sampled a mushy ear of corn on the cob. Don’t bother.  And as for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — awesome, as always.

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See? I didn't forget the apostrophe. There isn't one.

Driving down a crowded boulevard in L.A., one of my kids asked “Dad, what’s all that smoke up there?” I let her know, “it’s either a car fire or, if we’re lucky, it’s dinner.”

I had heard from several sources that Phillips Bar-B-Que was some of the best in town. Spotting a murky cloud of smoke from about four blocks away certainly was a good way to start backing up that claim.

Pulling up, you can tell what kind of experience Phillips is going to be.  A small, somewhat shabby place with no tables, a guy with his pants on the ground digging through a garbage can just outside, a (damned) long line of people waiting inside, and smiling customers walking out with grocery sized bags of barbecue.

Using my daughters as an excuse, I ordered about three times more food than I should have.  A dinner of baby back ribs, another dinner of sliced beef, and a pulled pork sandwich. The dinners came with two sides, so I went with the beans and slaw.

There are lots of reasons to go to Phillips. This sandwich is not one of them.

I have to say, I was a bit worried when I got my food because the first thing I opened was the pulled pork sandwich.

I could see right away the pork had “too popular disease” (aka: it was a pile of mush). I remain convinced that the busier a restaurant gets, the mushier their pulled pork becomes. It makes sense – these places have to cook a mountain of it in advance, so it probably sits there stewing in heaps for hours at a time, which is a sure formula for turning pork into mashed potatoes.  I took a quick bite with my fork, it had the texture of wet sand, and my reaction was “oh no.”

Now we're talking. With our mouths full. Phillips' baby back ribs.

Fortunately, I opened the ribs next, and they looked spectacular. What a relief.

We’re definitely talking about a South Texas style of barbecue at Phillips. Like Jones BBQ in Seattle, the ribs were completely swimming in a thick bath of sweet, face-staining barbecue sauce.  I recognize a lot of people like their barbecue this way, but generally speaking, it isn’t my favorite style. If I went back, I’d order the sauce on the side.  But I put my preferences aside, and soaked it up both literally and figuratively.

The ribs were great, and saved the pulled pork from nuking Phillips’ reputation. I could have and would have eaten more than I did, but theoretically, it was my daughter’s dinner.

Mystery meat simply called "sliced beef." It comes from a cow, what else do you need to know?

Writing this, I decided to go to my refrigerator to look at the “sliced beef” again. I’m not sure what’s up with the ambiguous name, because it really looks like tri-tip to me.  Anyway, like the ribs, the beef had to be served in a bowl like container because of all the sauce.  It was thinly sliced and tender, but didn’t crumble which was good.  The best part about the beef, though, was the smoke flavor really came through. Moreso than on either the ribs or the pork.  So….It wasn’t a car fire after all.

The beef was addicting, but I’d probably say the ribs were the main attraction.

Bottom line, Phillips is a great choice for the style of barbecue it offers. Soaking wet, sweet, messy, smoky and served with two slices of plain white bread.  You won’t confuse their swampy entrees with competition style barbecue, but so what? It was fun to eat, and tasted great.

Oh, order the sweet potato pie. It was awesome.  I told myself I was going to eat a few bites.  But after one small taste, I practically shoved the rest of the whole thing in my face at once.

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Huston’s, a skinny little barbecue in Hollywood, is one of those mysterious places where the online reviews range between “awesome” and “awful.”

I love Yelp, Urbanspoon and the like, but the user reviews are perplexing.  Seems to me, once a restaurant gets a certain number of user reviews, these sites should maybe employ a knowledgeable critic to go, eat, and settle the debate.  Yelp, email me and I’ll send you my number.

The best part about Huston’s is the free parking. If I were a significantly nicer person, I’d stop writing at this point. But, then I wouldn’t be doing my job, nor helping any other hungry Yelp refugees. So here we go…

Huston’s served up the third worst barbecue I’ve tasted at a theoretically respectable barbecue joint.  The actual worst was everything I ate at Floyd’s in Seattle. The second worst was the hideous brisket I had at the Montgomery Inn in Cincinnati. But now I have a firm third: Huston’s.

I took the family, and we ordered pork ribs and Huston’s signature “Brownies” sandwich (chopped beef tips), with sides of Cole slaw and potato salad.

I’ll give credit to Huston’s for having a seriously friendly staff. Nice people all around, which indeed makes me feel just the slightest bit guilty about what has to be written here.   That said, if they were truly nice people, they would have told me just not to order anything and save my money.

A "Brownies" sandwich at Huston's.

The “Brownies” sandwich reminded me of the kind of barbecue you get at a county fair. Tasteless, mushy meat on a fluffy white bun, doused in sauce that was little more than tangy ketchup.  I did my best to excavate some beef from under the sauce to see what it tasted like plain, but I couldn’t really do it.  Meanwhile, I appreciate that Huston’s is trying something clever with the term “Brownies,” but it’s a regrettable choice. They might as well call it “Floaters.” Maybe this is some sort of regional moniker that I haven’t heard of before.  But it’s still disgusting.

Huston's pork ribs.

The ribs were only somewhat better.  They didn’t appear to be rubbed at all, so they were very bland. Granted, slow cooked pork is still yummy even if plain. So, that plus the fact that they pulled off the bone nicely saved the ribs from being the nastiest thing we ate.  But they may have been the most boring pork ribs I’ve ever eaten.  The menu should just read “warm pork strips.”  I don’t understand why Huston’s doesn’t use just a smidge of dry rub, or even more salt and pepper, to liven them up.

I haven’t yet mentioned the worst thing we ate: The potato salad.  I realize potato salad is personal. One person’s masterpiece is another person’s compost.  I get it. But I’ll go out on a limb and say that only Huston (and his mother) would ever choose to eat that potato salad.  I try to stay away from words like “terrible” on this blog when referring to other people’s food. But in this case, there’s just no other word. It was terrible potato salad. It essentially had no flavor, except for this strange bitterness that creeps onto your tongue like an oil spill after the pasty goo has already been swallowed. Believe me, you can get better potato saladfrom the Shell station deli.

I will say this: The prices at Huston’s were reasonable. It’s not easy to find ribs for under ten bucks…anywhere… so I appreciate that Huston’s is a place you can go, get something resembling barbecue, and not feel like you’ve spent too much.

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McRibs and Yoga Mats

Evil.

I’m usually pretty forgiving of junk food. There’s a box of Oatmeal Cream Pies screaming to me right now, probably made from the same materials as Super Glue.  But Ronald McDonald really should keep his white gloves off barbecue, and reading this reminds us of why. The ingredients are said to be the same as those used in gym mats.

(Thanks to the Seattle PI for pointing this one out.)

“The ephemeral McRib sandwich appears at McDonald’s infrequently and only for a limited time. If you haven’t indulged in one yet, here’s what you’re missing: azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate 80 — those are just three of  the 70 ingredients (34 in the bun alone) that go into the BBQ pork sandwich,  according to the restaurant’s website.”

Read the whole story here.

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