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.