Thursday, August 06, 2009

Erik Pena Officially Joins BBQ Quest!

Erik's been so good at his guest reviews, we decided to make him a standard contributor of the site. He'll be posting his own reviews. We look forward to seeing all new reviews.

Big Daddy

Interstate BBQ – Memphis, TN

Guest Review by Erik Pena:
Here’s a hometown gem in my backyard that I had not visited yet. I swear that Memphis has more high quality BBQ joints in one square mile than most cities can claim in their entire metro area.

I had made the requisite trip to Rendezvous (overrated), Corky’s (great but a bit commercial now), Commissary (sometimes hit-or-miss), and some other smaller shops, but this beats ALL! For anyone touring Memphis it is worth a short ride south on 3rd Street.

My wife and I got the sampler platter which is more than enough for two with pork and beef ribs, beef link, pork shoulder, slaw, BBQ spaghetti, and beans. I really wanted to try the pork ribs but I looked down for a minute to eat some of the excellent link and they were gone. She says she doesn’t know what happened. There is some photographic evidence.

The parts that I had were awesome. I’ve been back a few times with friends and family which is saying something given all the great places in Memphis. I’ll be back again.

Craig’s BBQ – De Vall’s Bluff, AR

Guest Review by Erik Pena:
I was driving back from vacation in the Ozarks and decided to hit this place. It is on the old Highway 70 between Memphis and Little Rock. It’s right across the street from The Pie Shop which got some major press from the USA Today food writer about 2 years ago. But this isn’t a pie blog so that’s all there will be about that.

I had rained hard for about two days here. Things inside were a bit soggy. But potential health code violations have never kept me from good BBQ. I got the dinner plate hot. You can get mild, medium, or hot. Apparently you can get extra hot too but I didn’t know that until after I ate. I like a spicy BBQ as long as it isn’t so hot to interfere with actually enjoying the food. The hot sauce is a thick, spicy, orange sauce that would hold up well on most any meat. I got the pork. It was tender, and thick sliced but still soft enough to chew through on a sandwich without stopping to cut it up.

The coleslaw is mayo based. I’m not a fan of that in general so I pushed it off to the side. Most of the carry-out orders were for BBQ only so I figure I wasn’t missing much. There were a lot of drive-up customers from out of town. One guy was returning from Oklahoma where he had moved after growing up. The place has been around since the ‘40s. It’s nice to see such longevity when it is earned from the consumers.

Chances are I’ll be back here and I’ll be having some pie too.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Old South BBQ - Smyrna, GA

Guest Review By Erik Pena
Atlanta has its share of good places to eat. Parts of it remain true to its Deep South roots. BBQ is no exception.

I met some friends from Marietta at the Old South BBQ in Smyrna, GA. Things started a little dodgy when they told me there was no sweet tea. This is not good. It turns out there was a little bit left in a pitcher but it was promised to another customer. They left so I got it.

I decided to get the BBQ house salad. It is super finely chopped pork on a pretty ordinary salad. I got it with the sweet and hot sauce. My friend got brisket with the hot sauce. "Sauce" is a bit of a misnomer since it was more like paste -- it was thick.

The salad was good, not great. But I got it with some garlic toast that was excellent. So that made up for it. This made for a very full meal so I skipped the sides and the dessert. Mistake? Maybe, but I'll never know. There are just too many other places on my list in the extended Atlanta metro area.

I think the ramp out front is so you can be wheeled out on a dolly when you are done.
Last time I forgot the photo of the food. This time I made it halfway. I need a better camera phone.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Jenkins Barbecue - Jacksonville, FL

Guest Review by Erik Pena

Jacksonville is a town that rolls up the sidewalks at night. Finding things to do downtown is not easy. There's The Landing and ... well are we heading to Southside or the beach now?

This place is by a big Baptist church with a lighthouse in a part of town that looks conducive to certain felonies. The whole block smells smoky from the place which is good unless it caught fire recently.

Travelling a lot let's me sample BBQ from all over the south. I didn't expect Jacksonville to use a mustard base. That is more of a South Carolina thing. But that's how they do it here.

I got the Rib "Sandwich". This is a misnomer unless you call the space shuttle an airplane. As you can see from the picture it's a slab of ribs plopped down on four slices of white bread -- two on the bottom, two on the top. I got the sweet mustard and spicy mustard on the side since I wanted to try both. These were very good ribs not too heavily seasoned.

Sweet tea is very good. I told the lady behind the counter that it tasted like it had some honey in it. She immediately said "I ain't tellinya" with a smile. Gotta protect those secret recipes. Whatever, I wanted a refill.
Normally I don't go to many places more than once. I came back here later in the week. The first time I got red velvet cake for dessert. The second time I got sweet potato pie. It was good but I should have gotten the red velvet again. It was worth the trip.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Kojak's House of Ribs

Guest Review by Erik Pena:

Kojak's House of Ribs in Tampa, FL.

This place is an oasis of old Florida in the midst of 1980's strip malls and sprawl. The environment itself is great which is a nice to have when looking for good BBQ. It's an old rambling shack with lots of rooms and a fantastic wrap around porch. There are live oak trees shading the property so the porch is the place I ate.

The ribs came right up with a side of snappy hot links. I also got the parsley potatoes. These are drenched in butter and quite good. But the ribs -- these are nice -- have not a lot of rub or smoke to them. They were super moist and unbelievably tender with a crispy outside. They have some sauce on the side, but I barely used it. Wash it down with a not-too-sweet tea.

There are no pictures here because I started tearing in to the food and thought of pictures after polishing off my last rib. Oops. Half-eaten food is none too appealing in photos.

I was adventurous (and hungry) so I also got the key lime pie. The crust on it was homemade, granular graham cracker. I could have eaten that on its own.

Good stuff. I'm ready for more!

To check them out online, go to the following URL:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Williamson Bros Bar-B-Q: Marietta, GA

This guest review is from Erik Pena. This place is huge. This was just one of the rooms. There was a moose over my table.
I was cajoled into getting AUCE but really it was only $1.50 or so more than the single plate. So I overate and liked it. I got: mac-n-cheese (very cheesy but ordinary, the bottle of sauce (nice tomato, sweet, zesty, peppery, soupy consistency. very good), toast (used it to soak up some stew, Brunswick stew (very good, but a little runnier than I like) and ... pulled pork and riblets. pulled pork was great crisp with tender, not dry great with the sauce. Riblets were even better.

You can find them on the web at

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Henry's Memphis BBQ - Roanoke, VA

It has been a while since my last review, but I am going to try and use some business trips to catch up on my blogging. On the way to Philadelphia, I decided to stop in Roanoke, VA for BBQ. I got a lead to try Henry's Memphis BBQ there. Typically, when a BBQ has the name of another city or state, and you are not in that state, it is not a good sign. "Authentic Texas BBQ" in Chicago, for example. However, since I trust my source, I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did.

The nice ladies at the front of the place (where you order) said their brisket would be their recommendation. This took me back, because that is more of a Texas thing, and I would have thought ribs would have been their specialty. I ordered a combo plate with their brisket and pork, and BBQ beans and collards on the side with a roll.

The meat already came with Hennry's regular red sauce. I should have ordered it with no sauce. I was able to pull aside some of both meats and taste it without sauce and they both had a lot of flavor. There was not a lot of smoke in either (in fact I could not get any hickory or oak smell at all), but the flavor was very good, so I am not complaining. Next it was time to try all of the sauces.

I included Louisana Hot Sauce as a sauce here just because I sometimes like only that with pulled pork. It was very tasty with that. The South Carolina sauce was a mustard based sauce, but very sweet. It went well with the pork. I don't usually like that style, but this was very good.

The North Carolina style was more of a thinner, vinegar based. It had some spices in it, including celery seed. This is another sauce I am not typically fond of, but I liked Henry's version of this type of sauce better than others I have tasted. Henry's regular sauce is a red, sweet, Memphis style sauce. There is a hot verison of this sauce, called Henry's Habenero. I really dug that sauce because it had the right amount of heat. I wanted to purchase some of their sauces but they are not bottling it right now. They may start in the near future. If they do, I would get some and use it at home. All of these sauces work well with the pork. Their brisket came with sauce, but it really does not need any, and could have stood alone on its own flavor.

The BBQ beans were not baked, but they were not stock out of a can. It was doctored up with some onions and BBQ meat and other spices. The beans were tangy and sweet, a little more than normal baked beans, but I like them. The collards were cooked right. It came with hot vinegar already mixed into it. I would not recommend that they do this. I would recommend a little more fatback or ham hock, and a touch of sugar and those greens would have been perfect. I would generally like to add the hot vinegar myself to adjust to my taste. But they were not canned greens and were good.

I enjoyed the vibe of the place, and loved the big picture of Elvis on the wall (after all, it is Memphis style). It had a run-down BBQ place feel, but it was very clean.
There is a good meny selection and take out orders are welcome. You can find them on the web at

Overall, I would give Henry's a 7.5 out of 10. A few simple changes would put it to an 7.75, which as you all know is an extremely high number based on my completely subjective rating system. If you are traveling on I-81 or are near Roanoke, take a detour down 581 and find Henry's just past the downtown area. I will be back to try the ribs, probably on my way home on Friday. Henry - please bottle that habanero sauce. It's good.

-Big Daddy