Sunday, December 03, 2006

I like big butts and I cannot lie

Just a lazy Saturday. I was freezing my butt off trying to heat some butts up.

They turned out GREAT! 12 hours of love. The trick is to get the meat internally to 190 degrees. We cooked it on the smoker for 8 hours, wrapped it in foil and cooked it in the oven for about 3 hours. Then let it cool down. The bones came out by giving the slighest pull. This is how it should be.

Friday, August 04, 2006

David tries to cook a brisket...

A friend of mine from Atlanta sent me this email:

Scott -

Here are some shots of me and my rig with a nice Brisket. I cooked it last Sunday. It came out OK. I think the temp was a bit high and casued it to cook to fast.

The meat has a nice smoked look. I use regualr coal and hickory. My best meal by far is still the turkey breast!



Yeah - brisket is a hard one. You gotta do a lot of research and have a whole weekend to baby that thing. Most briskets take about 15 to 20 hours to cook over very slow heat. At some point they are wrapped in tin foil and there are all kinds of tricks and tips you can use to make it tender. I am still working on my own way of doing it, but the three main areas are smokiness, tenderness, and flavor.

Hey - if you want to send me your pictures and BBQ story I will be happy to post it.

Big Daddy

Judge Beans BBQ: Nashville, TN

After getting back to Nashville for a length of time and getting off the road, I decided to head down to Judge Beans. I had heard about them from a friend and we decided to check them out. I wanted to give these folks a fair shake because I intend on being pretty picky about a place that claims to have authentic Texas brisket, especially in Nashville. You can read the whole story on their web site which I have a link to for this story.

I actually went there three times before I did this official review.

The first time I went I had a combination platter and the brisket was a little tough. I was told that this was very unusual and I should give it another try. The ribs to me were OK, but they were not a match for an authentic Memphis rib place. The second time I came back I decided to have just the brisket and it was tender and it had more flavor and I liked it a lot. I also noticed that I spent the rest of the day and into the evening with about the worst case of indegestion I can remember. You know the kind where it seems like there is something just at the back of your throat and you try to burp to get it out but it never really goes away? That kind.

I suspected that perhaps I ate to much or it was something else that caused it so I went back the third time. This time I had the brisket plate again. It was not as good as the second time but better than the first. So that tells me that you can't really judge this place on one particular day.

I also ordered the "Texas Sushi" which is basically a jalapeno popper wrapped in their brisket. For $3.50 (it could have been more, I can't remember), I thought this one piece was a little over priced. I would have thought at least two would have been on the plate.

Here is a picture of my buddy's plate:

Now after the third time I noticed the indigestion was back for the rest of the afternoon. I had a conversation with one of the cooks there and they told me that they cook their brisket for 24 hours using Mequite wood that they have brought in by the truck load every few day, and they put an injection in it. I figure its the injection that gives me the indigestion. Another buddy of mine had the same problem. I suspect it may be packed with MSG or some other concoction that messes me up. So if this happens to you, they you'll know why. I don't think it affects everyone that eats it though. That's why I don't like to eat at places that use MSG in their cooking. My wife is allergic and so is my father. And I can tell if I have eaten a lot of it I just feel crummy and bloated for several hours. Why people cook with it I will never understand. If you need that much help with flavor you ain't a good enough cook. Get out of the freakin kitchen. Bu sometimes (and I think it might be the case with Judge Beans) that it is one ingredient in something that they use and isn't labeled and they probably don't even know it.

The Q here does have flavor and it is one of the front runners for Nashville BBQ you will find. It also stands alone (as far as I am aware) as the closest to authentic Texas Q that you can find in Nashville so it stands out. The sauces are OK, but most people who know Texas brisket won't use a sauce on it. Its mainly for the ribs. The sides are OK. They seems authentic. Nothing to slap your grandma over, but decent. Overall it is a well put together meal. It gets a 6.5 (would have been a 7 if I did not get indigestion every time I eat it). I would love to come back and try it again but I am afraid to eat any more of it. But if you don't think you are allergic to any of those injections and you like Texas BBQ, you should head over there and give it a try.

Here are the smokers in the back that they cook on:

Here's a look at the mequite wood they get brought in for the cookin of the brisket:

I will have to give them the points for the 24 hour smoking and using real smokers and the right kind of wood. You can't get brisket that slow cooked anywhere else around here, that is for dang sure! I wish their ribs was as good as the brisket because I think they could be one of the best places in Nashville if they could change just a couple of things. The waitresses are very friendly and sometimes you will see the owner hanging out and talking to folks. I did like this place. I think I just have a strange reaction to the meat. Perhaps I could just take some Pepcid with me when I go next time and just get it over with....

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lonnie's BBQ: Nashville, TN

Last month we were eating at Blackstone Brewery on West End in Nashville. When I walked out fo the doors to leave I looked across the parking lot and saw in huge letters painted on the side of the building that said "Lonnies BBQ - WORLD FAMOUS". Well, now dadgum! I ain't ever heard of them. I asked around. No one else has ever heard of them and no one had eaten there. So I am not sure if the claim about being world famous can be backed up, or if this is just to attract the seasonal tourist who are hunting and pecking around town.

Me and the "BBQ wrecking crew" - that's me and my buddies - headed over to find out what all the fuss was about. Turn out the world famous place is a hole in the wall in an alley behind a Pizza Hut on West End Ave.

I had the ribs, another person had the pulled pork sandwich, and another had the brisket. I originally wanted a combination plate and offered to pay more to get a plate with a little bit of everything on it. When the manager found out who I was and what I was doing there, he would not even sell me his chicken because he said it was not his regular chicken. He had been ordering from an alternate source because his main supplier was out for a few days. So I just had the ribs by themselves.

Here is my plate:

As you can probably tell, the ribs were not cooked over a slow heat. The outside shows more of a braised look. They were harder to bite off of the bone because of this, as would be expected. Other than not being as tender, they had no real rub or bark. Because of the faster paced cooking, they were a little fattier and the flavor just wasn't there.

The sauce was basically a "Texas Pete" strength hot sauce. I did not notive anything special about the taste. It was not a thick sauce, about the consistency of regular ole hot sauce. The sides were just OK. The beans were closer to canned than baked and the slaw was a little soggy.

My friend who had the brisket said it was very tough and agreed with me on the sides. Both he and I rate Lonnies as about a 3.5 or a 4 maximum on the BBQ wrecking scale. Not something I was too impressed with, but if you don't have enough money to eat at Blackstone, the prices tend to be a lot cheaper. But don't count this as your experience with the best TN BBQ has to offer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4th Ribs

Well, a lot of you think I just taste test other peoples stuff and rate it like I think I can do better. Time to put my expertise to work. On July 4th I decided to try another round of ribs, this time learning some of the tips and tricks from recent research. I prepped them the night before and we made a slightly different rub than we normally do. It turned out to be the magic trick we needed to improve the overall flavor.These were the best I have ever had. Although the picture below looks like the left front might be a little overcooked, it wasn't. These were perfect.

For two racks of spare ribs, they were cooked for 5 hours on about 220 degrees in my smoker.


Notice the sampled portion in the top right background. I was sampling while cutting them up. I just wish I had some of these BBQ resturant owners at the house that day to judge my Q! I would beat about 80% of them.

To top this off, I made my own sauce, and I also used some I bought from Dreamland the last time I was there. Man, this was a great independence day indeed!

Big Daddy

Monday, June 26, 2006

Swetts: Nashville, TN

Swetts opened in 1954 as a small soul-food meat-and-three café, it became a large, modern cafeteria, burnt down, and was built again.

Its not a BBQ place, but I wanted to review some of the famous meat-n-threes that are so popular in Nashville. I grew up in North Florida and South Georgia and was raised on southern cooking - REAL southern cooking. I know what it is and I know what it isn't. I know what good sweet tea is supposed to taste like and I know when Collards come from the can! I have several generations of women in my family who were and are the iron chefs of southern cuisine and this has been verified by many people outside our family. So yes, I am a self-proclaimed expert. The real fact is, about all I know how to do right is eat. I can't do much else. In fact, my job is the tear up stuff (really) so eating and tasting is about the only constructive thing I do. And therefore I am obligated to tell the truth about all this food, even if my review is less than flattering.

With that, let's move on to Swett's. A partner in crime as well as myself descended upon this place at lunch. Its a cafeteria style serving of southern food. You go down the line and tell them what you want and they ring you up at the end of the line. This is very typical for a mean-n-three in Nashville. My friend got the beef and I got the chicken (baked as I am trying to cut back). Usually I get the fried chicken but I just wasn't in the mood.

I am sure it is hard to get the "down home" flavor of good southern cooking in larger amounts. People in Nashville will go out to eat at the drop of a hat and they will go anywhere it reminds them of home. The problem is that there are a lot of people who were raised elsewhere who now make Nashville home who have no idea was southern cooking is and they will rave about a place like this because it has been opened so long and they think this is how it was in years gone by. What you actually have here is decent, but nothing special, southern style food. Its about a half a point better than something you might eat at a Shoney's buffet. I have no problem eating that kind of food. But when they rang me up for my meal it was almost $13.00, which I think is a little high to be paying for this quality of food. The tea was OK, the cornbread was OK, and the food at least had flavor. But Swetts is not a place that I am going to go out of my way to eat at again. I would not use it as a place to bring an out of towner to show off Nashville's best southern cooking. I think many of these resturants have a legacy, much like the music people here. After a while it gets blown so out of proportion that old automatically equals good. There are some examples of that (Bobby's Dairy Dip), but it ain't always so.

And while I am at it, let me take this opportunity to say the music industry sucks and I wish I could slap a few people in it.

Back to the review, the greens needed more fatback and flavor in it. Any southern cooking resturant in South Carolina could blow these greens away. The corn, again, it'll do. I think there are probably a couple of meat-n-threes that might beat this and I aim to find them.

I'll give Swett's a 5 on my relative, self-ordained scale.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Mothership BBQ: Nashville, TN

I read about this new place that just opened up in Nashville in the Berry Hill area, from all places the Nashville Scene. I normally don't trust this liberal paper for anything except movie showtimes. However, this place peaked my interest because it is right around the corner from the music store I like to go to. So I had a good excuse for going.

Jim Reams, the owner, is big on blogging and he uses it as a marketing tool to bring people into the resturant (a great idea). I have a link to his blog on the site now. He is a very friendly guy and he strikes me as a person who is serious about what he is trying to do. When he found out I was doing reviews, he took me back to the smoker. Alright, that's 2 points right there.

I wish I had one that big. Jim cooks only baby backs, not spare ribs. He showed me that he uses authentic hickory and charcoal to do the ribs. He slow cooks them approximately 5 to 6 hours. He had started them that morning about 6 am or so. He uses a rub made of fresh home made ingredients. No MSG or other flavor enhancers. His rub and sauce are both very simple recipes. No liquid smoke or any of that other crap. Ok, more points and I have not even tasted anything. While we were waiting on our order he brought us some samples. I nearly ate the bone with th meat. Yeah, this is what I am looking for. Finally someone who gets it.

Not many people realize that even though there is this impression that TN is the place for BBQ, there are not any good places (or many) in the Nashville area. The closer you get to Memphis maybe, but not Nashvegas.

Cynthia had the rib plate:

and I had the combo (ribs and pulled pork):

Let's first talk about the sides. Not bad. The slaw was sweet, creamy, and crunchy. The beans were more of a western beans, not BBQ baked beans like I am used to. They did not have a sweet taste to them. I have not been convinced that this compliments the meat as much as some good baked beans would, but it was not a bad side and did not ruin the meal. The pulled pork is in the good category, with plenty of smoke. I think it needed a little more flavor, but not bad at all. The high point is the ribs. Very well done. The rub makes a decent bark and they stand on their own without any sauce. They come off the bone easily. I was very pleased with it. Only area of improvement was the sweet tea. It needs to be a little stronger (brewed longer perhaps) and a little sweeter. Not overtly, but a little more brewing would help a lot.

The sauce is very interesting on its own, and I like it because it has a hint of the North Carolina vinegar style - in that it has a tang and is not as thick. But it also has a sweet, tomato base that pleases the Memphis crowd. I think it is a great compromise and best of all, it does not cover the ribs taste, it compliments it very well.

Overall, I think these are probably the best you are going to get in Nashville. They are definitely the most authentic - done by the book.

About the only negative thing I can say about anything is that this place it too small. Jim is going to need to expand to a place with more parking and more seats because I have a feeling he is going to be overrun very soon. You can't get ribs in Nashville with this much attention paid to the quality and when people around here find that out, there is going to be lots of lines and cars parked all over the little nieghborhood it resides in.

I'd give Mothership an overall rating of an 8, so its in my top category for the time being. Needless to say, I'll be making more trips to the mothership soon!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Ken's Bar B-Q and Steaks: Lake City, FL

Having met my wife in Lake City, Florida back in 1991 - I am partial to this town. We've eaten here when we were dating and its been so long since I have been back I had forgotten about it. We were passing north up I-75 trying to escape tropical storm Alberto when we just had to take a break.

It brought back a few memories, but now that I am so dadgum serious about my Q, I can't eat any of it without being over-analytical about it. Sometimes I hate that.

Ken's is pretty much the standard Florida BBQ place with the standard items. Its a Sonny's copycat place. The sides are mediocre at best. The slaw needed more help than the beans. The chicken and the ribs were OK, but there is nothing here that is going to make you excited about BBQ.

The sauces are not that great either, and are on par with a Sonny's or Woody's. Ken's get a 4 on the Scott scale - boring, but it'll do in a pinch... They have multiple locations in Lake City. Perhaps there is a better one than the one we tried.

While we were in Lake City, I had to take a picture of my favorite Chines place. They have been around for as long as I can remember. How they were allowed to keep this name I will never know. This is just wrong:


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sarasota Seafood Places

Here are a few of the places we have enjoyed since being down in Sarasota: - This was walking distance from where we stayed and surprisingly it was really good. The only hassle was that you have to shuck your own oysters, and you know how lazy I am. But they were big and steamed just right. I also had a grouper sandwich with cheese. The grouper here is really good. No MSG - This is a low key place that has some excellent seafood, and some of the freshest. They have this great smoked mulled dip and this weird hot vinegar sauce that I really liked. Very reasonable prices, and they also sell fresh seafood caught by local fisherman. I would recommend this place. No MSG - This place just OK, but after 58 years in business, they decided to close. We ate there on the last night in business. Our food was over cooked, and the service was just so-so. Good riddance as far as I'm concerned.


Shell's Seafood. The food is so-so, but don't try to custom order anything. If it is not on their little keypad for the register, the waiters get confused and they don't know what to do. It's overpriced a bit, and the overall service sucks. The bread sucks too. The other options above are much better places to go.

Bridges BBQ - Rebuttal

Well, I guess folks actually do check out the web site. I received this email from our server at Bridges BBQ. I wanted to make sure they had a chance to respond to our review to be fair to the fine folks in N.C.:

I thank you for your interest in BBQ. The Bridges review, overall, was good but I feel that I need to clear up some misconceptions.
1. The sauce at Bridges has never contained molasses. As far as I know, there isn't even molasses in the building, even to eat on hot biscuits with butter.
2. There is no horseradish in the slaw. It is a popular misconception perceived by the most discerning BBQ tasters. It is the combination of ingredients with the cabbage (along with how "peppery" the cabbage is ) that creates that particular flavor. Cabbage develops a different, stronger flavor at certain times of the year.
3. There are actually 3 different regions for BBQ in North Carolina. What you refer to as "N.C." BBQ is actually Eastern Style. Usually whole hog basted with a sauce made primarily of vinegar and hot pepper.
Moving westward there is Lexington or Piedmont style. Still with more vinegar and pepper but containing a tomato addition in the sauce. More Shoulders or Boston Butts are used than whole hog. You will also find the introduction of the Red BBQ slaw which was actually born in Shelby but made it there by way of Warner Stamey of Stamey's BBQ. Warner Stamey was in the BBQ business in Shelby in the late 30's early 40's and his family moved to the Lexington area during the war to work in the ship building business and opened Stamey's BBQ
.Then there is Western style which has more tomato in the sauce, and is the birthplace of the red slaw. None of the sauces are "sweet" but usually contain sugar. You will find that the farther west you go, the more tomato and sweetness you will find in the sauce.
Even though the styles are different in taste and texture there is one common denominator...traditional N.C. BBQ is cooked with a direct fired method as opposed to smoking. With direct- firing, the meat is roasted over hardwood coals which results in the skin on the shoulders turning a rich, golden brown giving the meat a milder smoke flavor. Smoked meat will have a richer smoke flavor and is usually associated with BBQ even farther west, as in Memphis and K.C. . Because of "Open Burning Laws" in N.C., some municipalities have banned open pit burning and smoking has become more prevalent. Older, direct- fired establishments have been grandfathered in where as newer ones have to go to enclosed smokers.
As someone who has been in the BBQ Business for over 30 years (and have eaten it much longer than that) I truly appreciate your interest.!! Right now, BBQ is hotter than ever (pardon the pun). Everyone has their own personal style preferences... molasses or no molasses, smoke or direct- fire, mayo, mustard, or ketchup in the slaw... but I am sure that QUALITY is the consistent factor that you will be looking for in your quest for BBQ and hope that's what you found when you visited us at Bridges' BBQ Lodge.

(your server at Bridges')


THANKS for the NC BBQ lesson. I'm becoming more "edjuhmuhcated" every day about this BBQ stuff.

As for Bridges, like I said - they are a member of the Q brotherhood and I'd stop by there in a heartbeat just to have another meal with them. I would definitely say they strive for quality food there and recommend you try them out for yourself.

I also want everyone to know that we are not on a "Quest" to run anyone down and don't mean to offend on purpose. We know that the best Q out there is in the tastebuds of the beholder and you can't judge a place based on just one meal on one particular day. On the other hand, this is my dadgum web site, and I aim to tell it like I see it. That could mean a BBQ resturant owner gets upset. Just start making better Q and we'll all be happier... ;^)

I am sure Bridges is confident enough to handle it if some little podunk guy like me says a derogatory remark or makes an incorrect assumption about a recipe - since they have been in business almost as long as I've been alive. But there are probably some other people who can't handle it. My purpose is just to keep trying enough Q to determine what I think is really good and not so good. What I am finding is that its like anything else. There is a lot of it around and a lot of it is not that great. But the outstanding ones need recognizing. Thus, the reason for my Quest for Q! And what a great Quest it is....

Monday, May 01, 2006

Souped Up Smoker

Just thought you might want to see what I'm looking for in a BBQ grill...

We have been eating at a few seafood places in Sarasota. In my next post I'll turn you on to some of them.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Smokemaster BBQ Sauce

Has anyone ever tried this sauce?

There was an article in the Jacksonville paper about this and I have not seen it before?

If you have, let's hear a review from someone.


Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Oaks Open-Pit Bar-B-Q: Sarasota, FL

Still down in Sarasota and had a day off. We were staying a few miles down the street from The Oaks and I had been passing it by it every day. It was either this place or the Sonny's BBQ down the street. Most of you know how I feel about Sonny's (its ok if its you're only resort).

Their web site looks a bit generic, but it makes you think this is more of a fine dining experience. Check it out at:

This is how they claim the chef's look.

In real life, this is just a straight ole Q joint, with taxidermy of gators and deer heads and such on the wall. Its not a very big place at all.

This is closer:

JUST KIDDING!!! OK now, let's lighten up just a bit. Once you see their site and then actually visit the place, you will at least get this joke.

They say their Q is pit smoked, but I really couldn't tell. I ordered the "all u can eat" special which lets you pick out any two meats and then you can switch the meats on your next order. I was going to try a little chopped pork, 2 ribs, and then eat a piece of chicken. They brought me out like 6 hige ribs, and about 1 and 1/2 cup of the chopped pork. I had turnip greens and baked beans with garlic toast. I could tell I would never make it to the chicken based on the portion size.

We ordered with no sauce on the meat. They had a regular and a hot styled sauce, and they also had louisianea hat sauce and hot vinegar for the greens.

Now the problem: This stuff tasted like it was reheated from the night before in the oven or microwave. There was a FAINT hint of smoke, but not what I would have suspected from a pit smoke place. The beans had a "relish" sort of taste, as did the slaw. The greens had little flavor (no fatback or seasoning) and actually tasted canned. The tea was about half sweet and half unsweet, but not very much flavor either.

The chopped pork was very dry (probably from reheating) and the ribs were a little dry as well. The way they pulled off the bone led me to believe they might have been boiled, but this could have also been from reheating. There were no spices on the meat. The sauce helped a little, but overall this Q was more of the "in law" grade, not even sandwich grade. We pretty much just stopped eating and left.

In this case, I would have to recommend Sonny's BBQ over The Oaks if you are looking for decent BBQ in Sarasota. I think their web site is misleading, and they should pay a little more attention to flavor for ALL of their food, not just the meat. It would not take a lot to make the food more appealing here, but its just not up to par at this point. Based on what I experienced here, I would rate The Oaks a 2.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Gold Rush BBQ - Venice, FL

I'm currently working down in Sarasota, FL. We had a chance to get out and about to take a look at the surrounding area and we just happened to drive by this resturant. Well, you know I can't resist a place who's tag line says "An American Legend". We have to see what this is all about.

They have a 1800's gold mining theme going on here, as the dishes are served up inside of mining pans. They had a lot of mining stuff on display around the resturant.

We decided to order up something different. They had an appetizes called "Fried Yam Patties" which we thought would be more like a sweet potatoe fried potatoe chip. Instead it was almost like a desert. It was those yam patties that you buy in the store that are round like a hockey puck sort of thing. They fried this up and covered it with a brown sugar sauce and pecans. Actually this was pretty addicting, especially for someone who has been trying to get off of sugar and use more splenda. This sort of messed up the day for me, but it was very good and something I could probably make at home - although not that often for dietary reasons.

I ordered a comba with chicken and chopped pork. The sauces were all red based. They had a regular sauce and a hot sauce. The hotness of the sauce tasted more like a Datil pepper, a kind found in Florida. I wonder if that is what it was. The sauces were also sweet, not having a vinegar taste. It was more akin to the Heinz darker, sweeter sauce, than like a mustard or hot sauce based flavor. It was good, but it was more "safe" than anything. The slaw wasn't was creamy as I thought it should be being mayo based. The beans were decent, but I am not sure they were really baked. The cornbread tasted like the Jiffy cornbread you make at home. It was sweet, but it went well with the meal.

I would say that this was more "safe" BBQ for people who are only casual about their Q and generally want stuff like what they grill at home on gas grills. It's not bad, but its not for hard core folks. It's definitely not an "American Legend", the title for which only Dreamland currently qualifies to be at this time. But I think its great to have a BBQ place like this right in the middle of the retirement hub of Florida where seafood reigns as far as resturants go. I think most of the yankees who come down here to hang about probably wouldn't know good Q anyway, so its better to have a place that caters to their false sense of being. Sort of like getting BBQ at Disney World and thinking you have been to the best BBQ place on earth. Don't talk to me about Q until you've traveled through the dirt roads of AL, TN, and TX.

Gold Rush BBQ earns a 4 on the Q scale.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse - Sarasota

We have been to the Sam Seltzers in Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL and always enjoyed it. The food is good, and the price is great compared with other steak houses.

The one in Sarasota is hopping with people and we thought that was because it was as good as the other ones we had been to.

The real reason is because the service is so bad. You stand in line to get paged to go inside and stand in line to wait for your table, which then you wait for an overworked waitress to finally get around to you. Your appetizers arrive almost back to back with your meal, and when you are starving this can put you in a bad mood.

I would avoid this place - especially in prime time. Because there are a lot of retirees, this means there is a flood of old yankees wearing sweaters in 85 degree weather who don't know how to drive or park. They arrive to eat dinner starting at 4:30. By 8 p.m. the place is clear. These folks are probably asleep by then.

The Longhorn right up the street probably has better food, but we tried to order take out there and they were not even interested in taking a $50 order of food. The service overall in Sarasota for restaurants tends to suck. I think they are fed up with the normal clientele....

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Fat Boys Bar-B-Q: Ocala, FL

Whenever I am driving from North Florida to anywhere south of there, like Orlando or Tampa - I MUST plan my trip to go through Ocala, FL so I can hit Fat Boys. It's not an option anymore. I have eaten here so many times I have actually lost count. I may have put some pics up from a couple of years ago on one of my earlier postings. Now that I have started dong official reviews of places, I knew that I had to go back and do one on this place.

If you are looking for an authentic Florida style BBQ place, then this is where the bar is held. I would say it's one of my top 5 places to eat BBQ, but number 1 for Florida. If you aren't sure what I mean, then let's do a run down. Although Florida really doesn't have a "style" like Memphis or North Carolina, it does borrow from several. Most of the places will advertise as pit smoked, and usually this is done with oak wood.

Where Florida differs is that they offer chicken, sliced pork (not chopped), sliced beef, ribs, and sliced smoked turkey where there is really no emphasis on one or the other types of meat as being the most important. The most well known place for this is Sonny's. Then there is Bono's, and Woody's. I'd have to say Fat Boy's is the best of this breed of Q style, and for some reason, the chicken is some of the best - although I like it all. It may have something to do with the fact that you can have all you want to eat for about $6.75, which is cheaper than you can cook this stuff at home. With that you will get beans, fries, slaw, and garlic toast, and you get all of those you want to eat too.

The thing about Fat Boys is that EVERYTHING is good. I even have to stop myself from filling up on slaw because its that good. The chicken taste like its been smoked, but possibly even BBQ'ed rotisserie style. Its always moist and juicy, never dry.

The ribs are so big I can eat about 2 or 3 at most. They are very meaty.

The place is non-assuming and low key. If you go at the right times you can get a seat easy. We were actually there on Easter Sunday and I could not believe they were open. The funny thing is that this place is literally next door to a Sonny's BBQ. Its proabably the best kept secret in the area. The food comes out quickly and they keep the sweet tea flowing in huge glasses with the crushed ice.

The sauces are great. They are mustard based, a hotter mustard based, and a sweeter one that is darker - but I still think it is mustard based. They are better than any sauces I have had from any of the other Florida style BBQ resurants. I even like to mix the hot and the sweet together to form the ultimate flavor sauce.

I give Fat Boy's an 8.5 (very high) because they have great overall food (meat, sides, and sauces) and GREAT prices. You can get a great meal that is sure to fill you up for less than $10 and sometimes a lot less (like a 4.75 sandwich). I would highly recommend that Fat Boys be on your list of things to do in Florida. Go check out Silver Springs and then head over to Fat Boys for a meal you won't forget.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Dreamland - Mobile, AL

We pulled into Mobile after a long day of driving (all the way from Dallas). I was on a mission to hit Dreamland before dark. We made it in time and the anticipation was high. People that I have met over the last few months have really talked this place up to the point I didn't think it could live up to my scrutiny, or its own reputation.

This is one of those times where the hype is actually substantiated and I couldn't be happier. First, let's debunk a few of the myths that always need busting. I'm not looking for a fancy place. The plainer it is the better. Generally speaking, the closer a place is to being shut down by the health dept, the better the Q is. Next, is the portions. I'm not looking for a side of ribs that look like that one Fred Flinstone gets in the opening of the Flinstones cartoon that turns his car over on the side. And finally, I'm not looking for some spectacular crust or set of spices or whatever. Its about how the meat, the sides, and the place all come together to make for a true Q experience. Well, my dear friends, Dreamland delivers.

The ribs are delicious. The sauce is a thinner, hot sauce type of sauce. It has a kick that I cannot really describe. It is a little sweet, little vinegar, little spicy.... Again - It is hard to describe. The sauce isn't really that special UNTIL it hits those ribs. There is some magical combination that takes place. Before you know it you are dipping that plain white bread slices in the sauce and mopping it up off the plate!! The ribs have a nice smoky flavor, and the meat pulls right off the bone. They are tender and juicy and not too fatty. The beans are real baked beans. The slaw is good, and the sweet tea is some of the best.

One word I could use to decribe the BBQ here is "authentic". It is kind of like eating the best BBQ you have ever had at a family reunion cook out somewhere in the twighlight zone. You had always hoped the food would be this good but it never was. It all comes together to create a party in your mouth. I can say without a doubt, this place is one of the best BBQ places I have eaten at so far. It gets high points for everything - AND NO MSG like Corky's and some of the other places. This means my wife could enjoy everything too. I bought two quart jars of the sauce to take home.

The price was right too. You can get a nice meal here easily for under $10, and a sandwich for half that.

I would give Dreamland a 9.5 - our highest rating ever. If I lived within 50 miles of this place I would make the drive today. If I lived in one of the cities where this place was, they would know me on a first name basis and I would weigh about 500 pounds.

Now I have to hit Tuscaloosa, to try the original location and see if it gets any better, although I don't know if that is possible.

If any of you know any other places that think they can hang with Dreamland, send me the information and we'll put it to the test.

Big Daddy

Monday, April 10, 2006

Dickey's BBQ - Greenville, TX

We were almost to Dallas and I noticed this place and I thought it looked interesting. We haven't been to Dallas in about 2 years, so little did I know that Dickey's have been popping up all over the Dallas area. They seem to be in the same vein as Spring Creek BBQ. Its more of an attempt to take Texas BBQ and make it more mainstream or for a wider audience.

This was decent BBQ but a little on the "safe" side. There wasn't as much smoke as I would like, and I would have thought there would be no sauce in the vicinity of the brisket. It's one of those places that will allow you to introduce someone to Texas BBQ without worrying about it being too much of anything (too smoky, to spicy, etc). The only thing I don't like is the cafeteria style line you form and move through to get your food. There is always some idiot behind you acting like you are holding up their ability to eat. You get this impression that you have 1 second to choose or the BBQ nazi will kick you out of the line. That's for the birds. This is great for breeders....I mean families. Serious Q hunters should look for other less obvious choices.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Corky's BBQ - Memphis, TN. VLOG!

Those of you familiar with Memphis style BBQ will be familiar with the name Corky's. It's probably the most popular place. We felt we needed to go to the original location to ge the most authentic version of this Q, so on our way through the area we just had to stop. The only other choice is the Rendevous House and I knew that would be a bit difficult to get to. So as you can see, we made it ok. This place is not as pretentious as I thought it would be. We got in easily enough.

I snagged a shot of both the wet and dry ribs. Those of you who enjoy your Q, feast your eyes on this:

The service was superb. Our waitress was very friendly and kept the food coming quickly. Everyone there seemed very happy to be there, so we had a good time.

I rate this place an 8 and I believe Mike agrees on that one. The Q seems a little bit "dolled" up with spices and ribs and for those of your only familiar with the plainer Carolina style, this is probably way to much additive for you. Where they go too far is the use of MSG. If you do not know what that is, check Google and look for allergies associated with that flavor enhancer. My wife and father are both allergic to this stuff and its not a pretty site when it hits. We made sure to order Cynthia something that would not hurt her on this round, but she thought the fact that she couldn't try one of the ribs sucked, and I agree. These places need to stop using this stuff. Good Q should need no flavor enhancers except all natural ingredients.

The beans were good, and the sweet tea was just right. The slaw had a little too much celery seed and not enough flavor for me. I didn't like it very much. I dinged them a half point because of the MSG and a half point for the sides, which is how I came up with an 8. Its still great tasting ribs. Even though Mike and I are not allergic to MSG, it affects us in other ways. When you eat it you tend to feel a little bloated or like a rock is in your stomach. This is the MSG effect. We did not eat enough to have this follow us all the way to Little Rock, but it did because of the MSG.

At any rate, we did another video blog for you to either enjoy or laugh at, whichever way you are looking at them.

Friday, April 07, 2006 is LIVE!!!

Hey, for those of you tired of trying to remember the name of this BLOG, I have simplified it for you. I recently purchased the domain name so that's all you have to remember.

I have also signed up for Feedburner so this blog can be syndicated easily into Google, Yahoo, etc. Just go to this site and add it to your RSS feeds:

Have fun and send us a line at:

scott"at" (replace "at" with @).

Big Daddy

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Bridges BBQ - Shelby, NC - VLOG!

On the way back to Nashville, we stopped by another recommendation by James Pulley. I love places that have been opened 30 years or more. I figure if they have been in business that long, something must be keeping people coming back.

This was definitely interesting. The pork was chopped, not minced as at Spoons a couple ofdays before. No vinegar sauce to be found here. Instead it was a red sauce that tasted like hot sauce, molasses, and ketchup mixed together and simmered in a pot for a while to cook it down. There are probably a lot of other spices in it too. Although in smaller doses the molasses wasn't over powering, I personally don't like molasses on anything - except maybe cookies. The beans were not touched that much with spice. They weren't baked. They tasted close to heated canned beans. The slaw was KETCHUP based. It had horseradish in it. So it was sort of like cocktail sauce with chopped cabbage in it, if you can imagine that. The hushpuppies in my opinion were a little better than Spoon's because they were not as salty and had a hint of sweetness. The tea was OVERTLY sweet. We had to add another pitcher of unsweet tea to balance it out. This wasn't an issue once we toned it down. I am not sure I liked the ketchup based slaw. It's weird to have mayonaisse based slaw one day, mustard based the next, and ketchup the next. Keeps ya thinking. We met the waitress, who keyed in on the fact that we were BBQ tasters at heart. She was very friendly, asked for the web site address, and even offered to let me take a picture of the grills in the back. She told us about the BBQ competition they have every year in Shelby for KC style BBQ. Although this is not KC style, it might be good to come back to see this. The judging is supposed to be blind so its really fair. No bribing the judges. So I would rate the service and friendliness in my top 10!!!! These folks do enter into competitions so they are part of the brotherhood. I would rate this place a 6.5 - those of you who know me know that's a good rating. The pork is what brought the score so high.

So now its on to Tennesee. Look for more reviews and vlogs in the near future! Thanks for all the emails from folks who want to join in on the fun. The more the merrier.

-Big Daddy-

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bill Spoon's BBQ - Charlotte, NC

Our first full day in Charlotte, and it didn't take us long to hunt out Bill Spoon's. This came highly recommended by James Pulley. This is authentic North Carolina style BBQ. It's basically minced pork, chopped finer than the standard "choppped" pork. It is the only thing labeled as "BBQ" on the menu. No ribs, no chicken. The sauce is clear, and vinegar based.

The slaw is a MUSTARD based slaw with a yellow tint. Its an interesting taste for someone who has never exeprienced it. Some will like and some won't.

Overall, the only place I can compare this resurant to would be Wilber's in Goldsboro, NC.

My review:

The pork itself was very good, but I prefer hot sauce over the vinegar on top. I believe this is slightly better than Wilber's.

The beans were good.

The hushpuppies were a little salty, but in the very good category. I wouldn't stop until they were gone.

The slaw was OK, but I have not made my mind up about the mustard based flavor. it has to be eaten with something or it gets a bit sharp.

The sweet tea was EXCELLENT. If all places made tea this way, the world would be a better place.

Overall score would be a 7, but in the Carolina vinegar category (which to me is one all by itself) I would have to go higher to an 8.

My companion in travel had never experienced the Carolina style and was a little less enthusiastic about it, but he like the pork itself without the sauce.

I would have to recommend Spoon's to anyone visiting Charlotte as I think they represent what that style is about.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Jasper's Front Porch - Ridgeland, SC: 1st VLOG!

Mike and I stopped about 21 miles north of the SC/GA border on the way to Charlotte today and took in a buffet at this place located behind a motel. The food looked a lot better than it was. They had some southern style food like fried chicken, greens, and mac and cheese. They also had some breakfast items. However, it was not as flavorful as I expected it would be.

I have put together my first video blog, or vlog of this adventure, complete with my own background music and some simple video editing.


Later on today for supper we tried the Flat Rock Grille in Charlotte. Overpriced food, but tasty. A little above Longhorn steakhouse for twice the price. Looking forward to something new tommorrow.


Thursday, March 30, 2006

Stalvey's BBQ - Jacksonville, FL.

Monday, Mike and I tried a BBQ place just down the road from his house called Stalvey's bbq. His parents really like this place.

I ordered the pulled pork, the ribs, and the brisket. In this image you cannot see the brisket, but its there. The sides were beans and cheese grits.

Let's start with the Q. I couldn't sense real smoke from anything except the slightest hint from the ribs. They had no rub or anything on them. They were typical Florida ribs. They were a little greasy, but they were the best thing on the menu. The pulled pork had no smoke and were pretty tasteless. The brisket was chopped up like pork, which to me is heresy. You slice brisket. People from Texas would be offended.

The beans were OK, but tasted like they were pretty much out of the can, and just cooked in the oven. The cheese grits were the worst. It was regular grits and they took bagged, shredded cheddar and just threw it on top. It wasn't even melted. The garlic toast wasn't even that great.

I know some of you think I am harsh on BBQ places, but let me assure you I am a lightweight when it comes to judging. You need to check out this web site:

He pulls absolutely NO punches. He has three kinds of Q:

1. Eating Q
2. Sandwich grade - second rate and better than throwing away
3. Inlaw/Dog grade - not worth eating.

Much of the Q he analyzes in TX bareley makes sandwich grade. I can totally relate to this. There is so much Q out there, but the problem is much of it is bad. The people out there with BBQ places need to wake up and stop being so lazy. I am convinced a lot of them think that they can just throw a hunk of meat on a grill and call it BBQ. People like me who really like BBQ are on a quest for those places who are as meticulous about their Q as a high class French resturant in New York by an Iron Chef. We expect the best ingredients and cuts of meat, natural ingredients (not packed with MSG and all that crap), and we expect attention to detail when it comes to cooking. This means a thought out process on the type of wood, how long to smoke, how the meat is treated after initial cooking. Its not just about the week. We want sauces that compliment the meat, not hide its problems. We expect side items that are the best we've ever had from grandma. In order to get this quality of food, we are willing to sacrifice cleanliness and the place being in a safe part of town. We willing to sacrifice however much $$$ to get the taste we deserve.

So back to my original thought - I taste a lot of Q. I am on a Quest and I expect nothing less than the best from every place. Because of this I am disappointed quite a bit. While something can be said for judging a place from one day and one specific order of meat, I still think on their worst day, the best BBQ places are obvious.

Well, I have a few more places to try before Sunday when Mike and I hit the road to Charlotte for another BBQ run to NC. We are on a trip to get some training for work. I'm mapping out all the places along I-95 to try this week. We will meet up with James Pulley, who promises me some good places. As a native of the area, my expectations for his taste buds to know premium q are high. We'll see.