Saturday, January 30, 2010

Road Trip

Last August I took a road trip to combine some business and vacation. We started off in Memphis and headed through Little Rock. Stopped at a fantastic pie shop; home of the “Mile High Pies”. But I digress since this is a BBQ blog. Rules must be followed. This is the second time I have run across some damn fine pie in Arkansas. Something must be done.

Our vacation stop was Hot Springs, AR, the home of winter mobsters and a former president. The Chicago mafia would hide out there when the heat increased up north. Bill Clinton was raised in the small town. I’m sure there’s a joke to be had regarding any connection. Again, I digress. Not a politico blog. Rules, rules.

There are some fantastic old resorts there along the hot springs and the bath houses, but the big draw for me was the BBQ at McClard’s. As most BBQ places should be, it is in the outskirts of town in an area that has seen better days. The other sure sign of success was the crowded parking lot and the standing room only area in the restaurant. People hawked over tables and looked like they’d kill you for eye-balling theirs.

After a modest wait we got some cool sweet tea and duly considered a starter before giving zen-like contemplation to the location of my navel and thinking better of pushing it out further. Instead I got the tamale spread which is not to say I was calorie counting. This was a well varied spread of several foods that would be enough food in their own right: tamales smothered with beans, Fritos, smoky chopped pork, something resembling french fried potaters (MMMMmmm Hmmm), topped with several days’ recommended daily allowance of shredded cheddar. I’m sure there’s an art to the order they’re laid down, but I failed to recall or notice beyond my carnivorous frenzy.

My wife got the rib and fry plate. I’m sure they were good, but when I moved to try some I got the same aforementioned eye that was less of a glance and more of threat. We’ve not been married near 15 years by accident. I retreated to my remaining BBQ sauce soaked Fritos.

We did leave with leftovers for the ensuing road trip to Dallas. It was less a defeat and more of a survival mechanism. I did ultimately get some of the ribs. They were quite good but don’t miss the tamale spread if you only have one shot here.

The trip to Dallas was a several hours more from there. Mary tries to act maligned as if my BBQ ventures are putting her out so. But we all know she likes it too. We opted for the road less traveled and veered right into Oklahoma to run parallel to the Red River where Tioga, Texas was our stopping point prior to staying the night in Denton, just a bit north of Dallas.

Tioga is home to Gene Autry, oldschool cowboy. I’m sure there’s some fun history there but I was set on getting to Clark’s Outpost before the sun went down. I’ve been burned too many times by Mom-n-Pop places that close because said Mom or Pop aren’t up to coming in that day. Some of these places don’t even have phones to check, but they do have good food. Anyway, if you ask Mary about our little jaunt around the Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona she’ll still grumble about that and look put out.

Ultimately, there was no risk as Clark’s was open for a few more hours. The place is apparently a Harley hotspot on the weekends. Today there weren’t more than a few other folks, us, and a few well-armed cops from nearby -- always a good sign.

I got the brisket. It’s Texas. Brisket is the law or something. It was nice. Crispy outside, then some smoke and juicy delicious throughout. I’m a fiend for sauce too. They treat theirs with reverence. It is nicely contained in these capped bottles like where you would see an old beer or soda. Oh, the fried cheese we had for a starter was awesome. It reminded me of some fried curds I had in Minnesota. I’m quite convinced that frying is magic. If I was ever on a Fear Factor or Survivor show I’m sure I’d gladly choke down the rancid sea cucumber anus if it was heavily fried. How else to you explain chitterlings – really? They had an unusual take on corn on the cob too. They fried that, and then stuck some hard core, horseshoe nails or something in the sides so you can hold it. That was yum. Mary’s ribeye was grilled with onion and jalepeƱo peppers. The onions were enough to keep me away. I will eat pretty much anything but onion.

I never got to try any other BBQ places in Big D. I did get to an AWESOME burger joint in Ft. Worth, but again: rules. Oh well, that just gives me reason to go back. Dallas metro area is bigger than some Jovian moons so there are plenty places I haven’t seen yet.

My job doesn’t require me to travel as much any more. This is a very good thing for, well, having a life and being married. But it means I won’t be seeing as many places. Hopefully this means I get more quality and less quantity. Barring that, I get to eat more in Memphis. Maybe I’ll get some enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli. I hear that is like the best diet ever.

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