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Entries in Review (47)

Tuesday
Mar272012

Review: Country BBQ - Bethalto, IL

It's been awhile since I found and reviewed a new BBQ joint.  However, this past weekend I had some time to kill and I was in an area that I don't often visit.  So, I plugged "BBQ" into Google Maps on my iPhone and found out that I was only a couple of miles from Country BBQ.

I followed the guidance directions and pretty soon, I'd located Country BBQ.  It's a small place that you'd miss if you weren't looking for it, but that's usually where you find the best BBQ.  So I found a spot to park, stepped to the counter, ordered, and grabbed one of the dozen or so tables in the place.

I ordered the 2-meat plate.  Sliced beef and pulled pork, along with sides of cole slow and BBQ beans.  They did have sweet tea (the mark of any good BBQ joint), but I skipped it as I'm watching the extra calories and cutting them out where I can.

Country BBQ - Bethalto, IL

The food came out quick enough and I was impressed by the generous portions. Definitely a good value.  The cole slaw was kind of a cross between a vinegar and creamy based slaw, but it was very good.  The BBQ beans were okay, but there was a flavor there that I couldn't put my finger on and frankly didn't care for all that much.  When I ordered "sliced beef", I assumed that would be brisket.  Disappointingly, it was closer to a shaved roast beef and not very "bbq like".  However, the pulled pork was very good.  It was finely chopped, but I really enjoyed the flavor.  

There were 3 kinds of sauce on the table.  I chose the "regular" sauce and while it was thin, I thought it was very good.  I did not try the mustard sauce or the other sauce that appeared to be a thick KC style sauce.  Two giant slabs of Texas toast rounded out the meal.

Overall, I liked the joint.  I'd recommend the pulled pork for sure.  Here's how Country BBQ in Bethalto, IL stacks up on my score card:

  • BBQ - B

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - A

  • Overall - B

If you find yourself in the area, give this place a shot.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.  

Cheers,
Braddog 

Thursday
Dec012011

Review: Draper's BBQ Rub & Sauce

I love the "microbrew" movement in BBQ sauces and rubs.  It has created many new products and companies that share the love of good BBQ with a passion to make a great product.

Drapers BBQ  361

Shane Draper at Draper's BBQ is one of those folks who is sharing his passion and family traditions via his own "microbrew" BBQ sauce and rub.  Shane is a 3rd generation pitmaster from Western Kentucky and as the label states, there's "3 generations of pride and flavor in a bottle" that honors his family hertiage.  While I had met Shane on line awhile back, it was only recently that I actually got to chat with him a little at the Kentucky Bluegrass festival where he was sharing samples of his products.

Drapers BBQ  362

I came home with a bottle of both the A.P. Rub and the Smokin' Sauce.  I'd planned to cook with these products righ away, but a little knife accident sidelined me for a couple of weeks.  I finally had the opportunity to fire up the grill and try out Draper's rub & sauce.  I like to sample rubs and sauces with pork tenderloin or chicken.  I think flavors stand out a little more with these meats.

So, we had a couple of pork tenderloins ready to go for dinner last night.  I applied the A.P. Rub to both and grilled them on the Bubba Keg.  When they were nearly done, I gave one of them a coat of Smokin' Sauce as a finish.  Then, I sliced them and the family sat down to dinner.  

Drapers BBQ  364

Now usually, my wife and I like a finish sauce on pork tenderloin, but my kids prefer them dry.  The Smokin' Sauce definitely changed that.  Much to my surprise, the kids couldn't get enough of the sauced tenderloin.  In fact, one of my daughters said, "I can't eat any more, but can I lick the sauce off that last piece?"  Now if that's not an endorsement, I don't know what is!  

In all seriousness, Smokin' Sauce is a tomato based sauce with a slightly sweet finish and just a little kick.  Don't think "Kansas City" when I say sweet, cause that's not what I'm talking about.  This is more Memphis than KC, but I'd even hesitate to put it in the category of Memphis style sauces.  I have also tried the sauce on brisket and for me, I'd have to say that I prefered it on pork.  But it was a good compliment to both.

Drapers BBQ  366

The A.P. Rub is a really nice balance of salt, spice, and sweet.  In fact Shane was sampling the product sprinkled on popcorn in Danville, KY.  I found it just a little sweeter than the rubs I've been using most often.  That's probably what makes it more all purpose than rubs targeted at a specific meat.  For comparison, I'd definitely put it in the cateogry of a Dizzy Pig or Yardbird type of rub.  Truly, it's an all-purpose (or A.P.) rub. 

I'm very happy with the products and I'll continue to cook with them.  I'm also anxious to try the other sauces that Shane's working on.

Check out Draper's BBQ at http://www.drapersbbq.com

Cheers,
Braddog

 

 

Thursday
Oct132011

Review: Jack's BBQ - Nashville, TN

Recently, we spent a little family time in Nashville.  By now my family knows that we eat BBQ at least once when we travel.  So, after a full day visiting the hot spots in downtown Nashville, we headed over to Jack's BBQ on Broadway.

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In the middle of the afternoon, there was a line out the door so my hopes were high.  There was an unmistakable smell of smoke and BBQ in the air.  The place looked like any good BBQ joint with paper plates, sweet iced tea, counter service, and happy diners seated in 3 seperate dining areas.  

I opted for a 3-meat plate, while my daughters chose kid's meals and my wife got her normal pulled pork sandwich and baked beans.  I was disappointed that there was no brisket available that afternoon, so I added chicken to my ribs and pork shoulder plate.

I found all 3 meats to be very good.  The vinegar-based cole slaw and baked beans were both very tasty and I appreciated the sweet bread.  Most joints that I've eaten at over the past few years seem to go with garlic bread/Texas toast it seems.  

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I like a Tennessee vinegar-style sauce, but didn't care much for the house BBQ sauce at Jack's.  Being from the St. Louis area, I then tried their KC style sauce and frankly didn't care for it much either.  The good news is that the BBQ was really good without it and I usually don't use much of any sauce.

Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Jack's BBQ.  If you're visiting the sites in downtown Nashville, Jack's is just a short walk away and definitely worth a visit.

Here's their contact info:

Jack's Bar-B-Que 
416 Broadway
Downtown in the District 
Nashville, Tennessee 37203
615-254-5715 Restaurant

and here's how the stack up on my score card:

  • BBQ - A

  • Side Dishes - B

  • Atmosphere - B

  • Value - B

  • Overall - B+

Cheers,
Braddog 

Wednesday
Jun082011

Review: Stumpy's House of BBQ

Occasionally, I'll do an Internet search for BBQ to find a new joint to try. Well I did that today and found Stumpy's House of BBQ was only a few miles away from where I was working. So off I went to try it on my lunch hour.

What I found was a place that was a cross between a sports bar and a BBQ joint. Red checkered table clothes and corrugated tin made it feel like a BBQ joint. But big screen tv's and sports memorabilia made it feel like a sports bar. You know something? I didn't mind the combination at all.

I ordered up the lunch combo platter and a big glass of sweet tea. The platter came with your choice of 3 meats, 2 sides, & garlic bread. I chose pulled pork, brisket, and ribs to go with Stumpy's beans and green beans.

I really enjoyed the ribs. There was only a simple dry rub and no sauce on them, and that's the way I like them. The pulled pork was only average. The brisket however was tough and tasted like roast beef. The sides were passable, but not outstanding.

Overall, I enjoyed my meal. The BBQ was average, but I liked the joint. In fact, I like to support local joints like this one who are making a real effort to make a go in a tough business.

Here's how I'd rate my experience at Stumpy's.

BBQ - C+
Sides - C
Atmosphere - A
Value- A
Overall - B

Cheers,
Braddog

  

 

Tuesday
May102011

Review: Big Green Egg


2007 05 27 004

Since I've been blogging, I've been cooking on a Big Green Egg.  But it dawned on me recently that as much as I evangelize the merits of the Big Green Egg, I've never actually written a review on the product.  What prompted this review is the number of people that are coming to GrillandBarrel.com after doing a search for "Big Green Egg Review".  Well for those of you that have gotten here through that method, here goes.

For centuries, people have cooked in clay vessels.  Evidence of clay cooking vessels have been found all over the world.  From the tandoor cooker in India to the mushikamodo in Japan, it's believed that these are the precursors to today's kamado style cooker.


IMG_0476Kamados became popular in the US after World War II.  Today, there are a number of companies making kamado style cookers using ceramic and refractory materials in their construction.  Big Green Egg began production in 1974, first using clay materials and finally the ceramic construction used today.  Based in Atlanta, Big Green Egg is the world's largest producer and international distributor of ceramic, kamado style cookers.

There are many advantages to this style of cooker and in particular, the Big Green Egg.

  • Temperature Control - once the ceramic material comes up to temp, it retains the heat for hours and doesn't require a large fire to maintain that temp.
  • Low Fuel Consumption - as stated above since the ceramic is radiating retained heat, only a small fire is needed for low temperature smoking and thus only a small amount of fuel is required.
  • Moisture - this style of cooker does not require a pan for water or other liquids.  The ceramic retains the moisture in the cooking chamber and produces moist & flavorful results
  • Grill or Smoke -  Of course you can cook indirect on lots of grills, but few afford you the ability to smoke or grill equally well.
  • Active User Community - There's a very strong following of fanatical owners of the Big Green Egg online.  Called "Eggheads", you can find them hanging out at the Egghead Forum or gathering at regional "Eggfests" around the country.  The granddaddy of all eggfests is in Atlanta in October called Eggtoberfest.  There's plenty of advice, tips, techniques, and recipes willing shared among the loyal following.

Of course there are some drawbacks to any product, and the Big Green Egg is no exception. 

  • Capacity - Although you can add additional cooking grates higher into the dome, there's no getting around the fact that capacity can be an issue if you often cook for large groups.  Now by "large", I mean more than ~20 folks or so (depending on what your cooking).
  • Portability - These things are heavy.  As such, they're not great for tailgating, camping etc.

Table with Egg

Personally, I find that the advantages to a Big Green Egg outweigh the disadvantages.  And since the product comes in sizes ranging from mini to X-Large, I'm confident that there's a size that's right for everyone.

Since I acquired my Big Green Egg, the way we eat as a family has completely changed.  I cook nearly every weekend and often times throughout the week.  With a little practice, you can have the cooker running and ready to cook in less than 15 minutes even though it's charcoal.  So being able to cook dinner after work is very easy to do.  When I cook on Sundays, I am most often smoking (or cooking low & slow).  This typically means a larger meal with plenty of left overs.  

Throughout the pages of GrillandBarrel.com, you'll find lots of my own experiences with the Big Green Egg.  So peruse the information here and let me know if you have questions or feedback on the product.

Maybe I'll run into you at an Eggfest someday!

Cheers,
Braddog 

Thursday
May052011

Review: Pork Barrel BBQ Sauce

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I began following the boys at Pork Barrel BBQ on the interwebs awhile back.  What caught my attention was the catchy name and the story of how they chose it.  It seems the founders were US Senate staffers in Washington, DC.  While their bosses were debating Pork Barrel Spending, they were debating their BBQ dining options in the greater DC area.  The two things collided and what you have is a catchy name for a line of BBQ sauces & rubs.

IMG_0506

Recently, I was perusing the sauce selection at my local grocer in the midwest and was surprised to see their Pork Barrel BBQ sauce on the shelf.  I snapped up a bottle of the original sauce, headed for home, and put together a couple of sandwiches from the leftover pulled pork that was waiting for my in my refrigerator.

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I piled a couple of buns high and applied a liberal amount of Pork Barrel sauce.  It's a thin sauce and the vinegar twang outpaces the catsup base that's listed on the label.  I'd call it a variation on a Carolina style sauce.  While I enjoyed the sauce overall, it was a little too"vinegary" for my taste and I'd like a little more pepper.  But that hasn't stopped me from continuing to use it.  I'll also try their sweet sauce the next time I'm in that grocery store.

You can check out Pork Barrel BBQ sauce at their website:  http://www.porkbarrlebbq.com

Cheers,

Braddog

 

 

Sunday
Mar272011

Review: Tasty Licks Original BBQ Rub

Recently, I've been cooking with the Original Smokin' Good BBQ Rub from Tasty Licks BBQ Company.  Tasty Licks is the signature brand of Fred Bernardo at Fred's Music & BBQ.   Fred is a BBQ evangelist and a purveyor of BBQ pits, accessories, rubs, and sauces.  Fred  publishes an exhaustive list of instructional videos on his website as well.  

I've used Fred's Tasty Licks Original BBQ Rub for the past month or so and I'm finding it to be a nice general purpose rub.  It goes equally well with pork and chicken and I've enjoyed it on both.  As I write this, I've got 4 pork tenderloins rubbed own with Tasty Licks and my family has really enjoyed this flavor profile. 

It's a little sweeter rub than I typically use, but that may be what my family likes about it.  It has a nice blend of spices, kosher salt, and black pepper but no one ingredient overpowers the other.  There is a distinct hint of chili powder that provides a very slight bit of heat, but again it's definitely not overpowering.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this as a general purpose rub and would highly recommend it.  You can pick up this and any of Fred's other rubs and sauces at http://www.tastylicksbbq.com.  Or if you're in the market for a new pit or other accessories, check out Fred's online store at http://www.fredsmusicandbbq.com/.  If you're lucky enough to be within driving distance of Fred's location in Shilington, PA, stop by and say hello and check out first hand all that they have to offer.

Cheers,
Braddog 

 

Tuesday
Feb082011

Review: Bandana's BBQ, St Louis

I’ve delayed writing this restaurant review for a long time.  I can’t explain why, but I guess it’s because it feels so overly commercial that I don’t place it in the same category as most BBQ joints.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an honest-to-goodness BBQ restaurant, but it just feels like they are trying way too hard to be “authentic”. 

Bandana’s is a St. Louis based BBQ restaurant that has franchised to roughly 25 locations in 3 states and growing.  I’ve tried at least 6 of their locations and I can say that they’re very consistent.  But with that consistency, comes a lack of authenticity.  This is evident in the way the place feels when you walk in the door.  From the wash tub light fixtures to the handkerchief curtains, it’s obvious that they’re executing on a theme.  It's like walking into an Applebee's or a TGI Fridays.  You know that it's supposed to be kitschy and cool, but it just doesn't feel authentic when there's one on every corner.

But enough about how the place looks and feels, how’s the BBQ you might ask?  Well, it’s just okay.  In at least one of their locations, I’ve seen the pit and they are sure enough cooking on site.  However, I wouldn’t say that the results are great.  I find the ribs to be too tough, ditto the brisket, and the pulled pork is hit or miss.  On the other hand, I do enjoy their side dishes.  I like their baked beans, green beans, corn, and especially the garlic bread that accompanies every lunch or dinner plate.

Another area where they’ve done a nice job is in their selection of sauces.  I can’t say that it's necessarily an original idea, but they have a six-pack of sauces on every table.  Each sauce is designed to capture a different regional form of BBQ.  From a thick, sweet Kansas City style sauce to a mustard-based Carolina sauce, they offer a taste for just about everyone.  The only anomaly here is their Chicago Style sauce.  I never knew that there was such a thing as “Chicago Style” BBQ, did you?

Here's how I'd rate Bandana's BBQ:

  • BBQ - C
  • Side Dishes - B
  • Atmosphere - C+
  • Value - A
  • Overall – B-

Banadana's has done a nice job of making BBQ affordable and accessible to a lot of people.  I just wish the food was a little better. 

Cheers,
Braddog

 

Monday
Jan312011

Review: Peg Leg Porker Dry Rub

I recently attended the Business of BBQ with Mike & Amy Mills in Murphysboro, IL.  I met lots of great folks, including Carey Bringle of Peg Leg Porker.  I've read about Carey, his competition team, his team mates, and his line of signature BBQ products.

Carey is a seasoned competition cook and I'm really glad that I got to know him.  As the 2-day class wrapped up, Carey tossed me some of his rub to try out and reveiw.  So I brought it home and finally got around to firing up the Big Green Egg and giving it a try.

This is a classic Memphis style dry rub.  It's not sweet.  In fact, I'm not sure there's any sugar in it at all.  But that's okay.  It has a very rich, earthy flavor with a slight hint of chili powder or something similar.  Don't get me wrong...it's not spicey, but it has a nice flavor.  If you've ever eaten ribs at the Rendezvous in Memphis, this rub is similar to the dry rub they serve.

I like to taste test rubs on chicken.  I think you get a better idea of the flavor profile with the lighter flavor of chicken.  I hit some chicken with Peg Leg's rub and smoked it for a couple hours.  I thought the rub had a great taste and went great with chicken.  I'm sure it'll go great on pork too, and I'll be trying that soon.

Peg Leg has a couple of other products available at their website, as well as information on the competition team.  You can also catch up with them at Memphis in May.

Here's their contact info:


www.peglegporker.com
www.smokelikeapro.com
Follow Peg Leg Porker on Twitter
Peg Leg Porker Twitter Page
Join their Facebook Page:
Peg Leg Porker Facebook Page

Cheers,
Braddog

Wednesday
Oct132010

Review: Michelbob's BBQ, Naples, FL

My folks are snow birds and spend most of the winter in South Florida.  They've often spoken about a BBQ place that they like called Michelbob's.  They've even brought me a jar of their rub, which I enjoyed.  I reviewed their rub here.  Well finally I had the chance to visit their place in Naples and eat at Michelbob's while we were there. 

Since my folks have eaten there, they've acquired a Big Green Egg and I've shown them a little bit about how to prepare ribs.  I think they were surprised that the ribs weren't quite as good as they'd remembered.  I have to agree with their revised opinion of the place and say that the ribs weren't all that great.

The place is typical of mot BBQ joints.  There's lots of vintage Coca-Cola hardware decorating the walls, the floors and walls are rustic, and the menu is pretty standard BBQ fare.  There are several mentions in the lobby and on the menu to having "Championship Ribs" and of the restaurant being voted "Best in South Florida".  I didn't see any other BBQ joints in Naples or Marco Island, so the competition may not be too steep.

I ordered a combo plate of ribs and BBQ beef.  I found the ribs to be tender, but the only flavor came from the sauce.  Frankly, I didn't much care for the sauce they served on the ribs or either the sweet or tangy sauces that were on the table.  The beef was a very thinly sliced "beef roast" according to the waitress.  I was disappointed in the amount of fat that was left on the roast.  Either trim the beef before the you cook it or after, but don't serve me a bunch of fat.

My wife tried the pork sandwich.  Frankly, that was the most flavorful meat that any of us ordered.  However, it was thinly sliced (rather than pulled) pork shoulder.  It suffered from the same issues as the beef roast and was a little fattier than I'd have liked.

Overall, I did enjoy the BBQ rub that I'd tried before.  However, I wouldn't categorize Michelbob's as "championship" BBQ.  In a pinch I'd order a pork sandwich but I'd pass on the ribs if I were to eat there again.

Here's how Michelbob's stacks up:

  • Atmostphere - B+
  • BBQ - C-
  • Sides - C
  • Sauce - D
  • Value - C
  • Overall - C

Cheers,

Braddog