Just what is it that makes quality BBQ? Why is one better than the other? I have some lengthy experience in this matter and I’m just gonna tell you.
I had an invite to join some people for dinner in one of Lockhart’s fine BBQ establishments yesterday evening. The wife took off early to be able to trip down there with the rest of us.
My just turned 74 first cousin and his new wife of almost 5 months got lost trying to find my house and this put us behind just a little bit – the BBQ place’s web site says they close at 6 PM during the work week. We were headed to meet up with two long time, but not quite as infirmed, friends of my cousin there. They were coming from the western side of South Austin. The wife had some concern when the cuz didn’t show at the appointed time. I wisely said to just hold on and we’ll see. Cuz’s wife eventually called and I gave her instructions from their current station to our abode.
While I was waiting, I took a look at the Lockhart websites of the four real BBQ establishments. Just Google “Lockhart Texas BBQ places” and you will find them prominently displayed along with fifteen to twenty reviews on each. In an attempt to stay away from any legal battle that might arise, I will not mention any names. The review screen looks like you are ask to rate the establishment from one to five starts. From the comments, I believe they should have included a zero star option—you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s some direct quotes:
1. **** “Went to all 4 BBQ restaurants in Lockhart. XXXXX's was best.”
2. ***** “Can you say Hatfields and McKoys?” XXXXX's got the pit and WWWWW got the ashes when the family parted ways. BBBBBB in Luling and XXXXX's in Lockhart. Best BBQ I've had south of the Colorado River.”
3. * “Nothing worse than eating off of paper, and no table waitress. I live in lockhart and i do not eat out here much. I want to be pampered when i go out. The choices are limited at all the BBq places in Lockhart. I want my food and plate hot. Not paper and plastic forks. Thanks,”
4. * “The ribs were super. The side choices are limted. Once again no floor staff and eating off paper and using plastic. No Thanks,”
5. * “Another paper, plastic, no floor staff restaurant. No Thanks,”
6. * “Nothing worse than eating with plastic and off paper. No waitress. The meat was fatty. Thanks,”
7. * “I want to like this place because the food tastes ok, but the food was COLD...our meat was cold, our sides were cold and we were the only ones eating there at the time, My chopped beef had pieces of sausage in it, so THATS where they put their scraps...YUK It also gives me the TURKEY TROTS everytime I go”
8. * “I agree with Dawn. Lousy service unless they are servicing your men. A good place to go to find homewreckers serving up std's.”
9. * “The food is ok but the service is horrible. The only thing the girls there want to service is your husbands.... BEWARE!!!”
I do appreciate #2 giving my family name a mention.
As you might imagine #s 3, 4, 5 & 6 were written by the same (initials only) anonymous reviewer. The guy lives there and kept going until he had had practically the same experience at every establishment. Some people just never learn.
My question to the reviewer in #7 is: Why keep going back if EVERYTIME you go you get the turkey trots?
Boy, what’s up with #9? What’s this all about? I bet there’s more to the story here than what made it to the review screen! But wait there’s more; # 10 was about the same tone. But since these are anonymous, it is quite possible the same person may be jousting with windmills here. This is when I decided that the review screen had no choice less than one (1) star.
There were far and above many more REAL good reviews of all four establishments than there were these bad comments. I merely portray those that managed to catch my eye.
* * * *
My cuz and his wife finally arrived just after 4 PM and we were soon on our way. Actually we arrived at the appointed place in plenty of time; some 30 minutes before the missing other couple.
We decided that there was time for a beverage while we were awaiting our chums. I got a Shiner Bock and my cousin took one of those frou-frou Bud Lites. I had to share half of mine with the wife; she never wants one, but is extremely willing to take half (sometimes more) of mine.
Finally, the other older couple made their appearance and we moved to the serving line; leaving behind the currently most infirmed to guard the table and purses—like she could have really run off a fifth grader.
Most went for the beef ribs. Cuz ordered two pounds (took home one lb); the other ordered a pound of ribs and several slices of brisket. My wife had a pound of ribs (leaving several to take home later). I went for six slices of brisket and two rings of sausage. I was not allowed to finish off all of mine (two slices and one sausage ring went home for today’s lunch). I did manage to wipe out the bowl of red beans and most of the block of cheese before I was told “No more!” I will say that my wife managed to switch the two glasses of tea: mine sweet and hers un-sweet. Mine didn’t have enough ice—I’m not sure whose fault that was. Now I know good iced tea when I come across it. Being of the southern variety, I was handed a glass of iced tea by a nurse in the delivery room when I was born and have been drinkin’ it ever since—don’t try to pass off low quality iced tea on me.
It was a very pleasant drive back to the house. I constantly had to wake up the others with a poignant comment every now and then.
But what makes good BBQ? I’ve had this long-running argument with many others about just what it is that determines the quality of BBQ. Well, Ima gonna get to that but I must first establish my credentials.
First (maybe not foremost), I have been eating for a good long time and know what I like. Unlike my cuz and his same age friend, I do not yet collect social security. This, I hope helps you understand that I am no way as old as his just –turned-74. I’m a long way from that; but I do understand his generation very well—they just don’t hear much of what I’ve gotta say.
Second, I learned at the foot of one of the best BBQ people in the world; my Dad. I have documented evidence that he had a long career in the field. The 1930 census form lists him as a cook in a BBQ pig stand. There you go. I can remember from the time that I was about eight having to help with the fixin’s: wood, charcoal, pit prep, fire watch, meat prep, etc. Those were some HOT Texas summer days workin’ around the pit. Oh, I must mention that he did use propane, but just to get the fire started and evenly distributed.
Third, After managing to get the BBQ prepared; I helped serve it up and then I helped eat it. No matter whether it was beef, pork, goat, mutton or even some chicken for the females attending the feast—I don’t much go for that chicken, especially when there are far superior meats available.
Forth, If you have sweated over the cooking, you are far in away the better judge of the quality. Most likely you have sampled so much meat by the time that the finish line has come over the horizon that you would rather just sit and watch everybody else chow down.
I can remember as a boy, my dad telling me, the server, to switch up what I told those in line. We usually placed the beef first and followed it with the pork, goat and mutton respectively. When the guests started passing over the goat and mutton, I was told to mix up the species and they never knew the difference. This happen more times than I can tell you. Good BBQ is Good BBQ.
Oh yah, so what’s the real qualifier determining good, better and best. It’s not the fact than one uses only wood. It’s not the fact that hickory is better than mesquite. It’s not that charcoal is better than gas. It has nothing to do with whether the meat was seared over an open fire on a spit that constantly turned by some little buckaroo
That was detailed just that job for the day. Actually none of that matters.
So what does matter?
Let me tell you my friends. There are only two factors that have anything to do with the quality of BBQ. I fully believe that if you think about my criteria you will be won over to my side and become a lifetime qualified reviewer of good BBQ.
Qualifier #1 is the quality of the beverage being imbibed. It doesn’t matter if you prefer beer, wine, hard alcohol, water or iced tea. As long as its good beer, wine, hard alcohol, water or iced tea; that’s all that matters. Come to think about it, in my example above my tea didn’t pass muster. This is why I have modified my criteria over time. As long as you are a master reviewer (you make this determination your self) you can over rule criteria #1 as long as criteria #2 passes the acid test.
Qualifier #2 is the quality of the company one has when devouring the BBQ. If the company is good and a good time is had by all; you have consumed good BBQ. That’s all that it actually takes—nothing else matters.
Woops, I see my iced tea pitcher is way low. I gotta make a new one.