Chris' Bloggin' Topics

06 June, 2010

Dillon's Restaurant - Peoria, AZ

So I stumbled upon this place because a girl I work with said they "have an AWESOME prickly peach salad."

I had never heard of the place and did not know what to expect at all. I was 100% caught by surprised when I learned it was a BBQ place. I had no idea until I saw the menu actually. Which brings us to a point I made in my Provo BBQ post - if you don't smell the smoke, don't bother stopping in.

That said, I wasn't there for myself. I was picking up lunch on the way to work. So I was stuck no matter what I smelled or didn't smell.

I only made it as far as the bar since my order was going to be to go. On the menu, I was surprised to see the BBQ traditionals - pulled pork, brisket, ribs, etc. But one thing caught my eye and no-smoke-smelling be damned...I was going to try it. It was the burnt ends brisket. The fact that it was actually on the menu sort of made it a no-brainer. Then it was also noted "when available" or something. So I asked, and she said it I got it.

Was I disappointed? Well, no. And yes. I know. I ramble but lemme 'splain.

If you've ever had burnt ends at saaaay, the Salt Lick in TX, then you know what I'm talking about. Ever piece is perfectly charred and loaded with flavor. Not burnt flavor, but the fullly loaded pieces jam packed with their rub/spices. This was far from the case. Granted, they may have just gotten my order wrong and thought I just ordered brisket and not the burnt ends brisket. To me, it was a regular order. Some end pieces...most that were not. it wasn't burnt ends...but was it good? I'll say it was moist and tender but I really couldn't taste any smokey goodness. I don't know how they cook it but I felt it was just "oven" smoked or whatever the hell that's called. I don't know cuz I'd never do it. My smoking takes place in ONE place and one place only - my pit. And all my neighbors know when I'm doing it.

I think this place deserves a second shot if only to recon the joint and see what and how they are actually cooking their meats. I'm not 100% I'll actually make it out there, but if I do, I'll post an update whether positive or negative.

I can't give it my thumbs up but also wouldn't classify it in the Provo category.f

Oh yea...I had the mac-n-cheese which looked home made. Definitely NOT kraft. And I digged that the mashed taters had two gravy options - brown and white. I don't think I've seen that around too much.

04 November, 2009

The video

If you start it and only see the small screen...double click on it and the youtube full screen version should pop out.

Famous Daves BBQ, Peoria, AZ

Finally!! Some decent BBQ in Phoenix. After disappointing jaunts to Lovejoy's, Honeybears, the Pits Again; we finally got to a place that has good food.

We've seen and heard about these guys for quite some time but just were never able to get there. So we finally did and we were all very pleased. I had a little of everything (like I always do). And I must admit, I was VERY happy to go to a place that took as much care on their side dishes as they did their meats. I know it is a chain and that makes a difference. The single location places that pride themselves on BBQ seem to basically say "'re here for the meat and not the other stuff." With F.D. being a chain, I think they need to basically have it all.

But their mac-n-cheese was really tasty with their added jalapenos. Their cornbread muffins were the sweet sort of cornbread that I really liked. Even their fries were really good believe it or not.

Ok, enough of that. Let's get to the meats! I started out with their wings because I pretty much have to try anyone's wings if I've never had them before. They were pretty danged good. No complaints on them at all. Smokey and crispy and tasty.

As far as the actual dinner goes; on my plate were ribs, brisket and sausage. Cass had the pulled pork sandwich and lil' Kyle had the chicken. All of it was pretty good. The brisket was SUPER DUPER tender. While it was really tender, there wasn't much "smokey goodness" throughout. I won't say it was cooked in an oven...but it didn't have that slow smoked feel with hints of oak or hickory or anything. It was still good though. I've had enough dry brisket in my day to at least appreciate tender, moist brisket, regardless of how it was cooked.

The ribs were also really tender and definitely had some woody notes in the taste. As did the chicken that I ganked from my son (hey...he's 2 and won't finish a whole big chicken breast!! :-). It reminded me of Rudy's chicken. Rubbed really well but not overpowering and then very moist and tender. The sausage was good but not quite as good as Rudy's. It had a bit of a grainy texture that I have had in several sausages. I'm no sausage maker so I don't know what causes that. But it still tasted decent although it could have been a little hotter (stove hot, not spicy hot).

On to Cass' pulled pork sandwich. In her words, it was good...but yours is better ("yours" being what I do at home - and speaking of...check the video to see my latest batch of pulled pork). Now you'd think she just has to say that because she's my wife...but she doesn't. And I'll also go out on a limb and say that I do feel like I have the best pulled pork in town.

And like a lot of places, Famous Dave's had an array of different sauces. From spicy to sweet. They were all pretty good. None were too hot by any stretch but they had a decent bite.

So...the overall verdict was definitely a thumbs up. However, the only downside I'll say is that for a BBQ spot; it was a little pricey. I'll admit, we probably ordered a little more food than we needed just so we could try different things; but our bill for 2 adults and 3 kids was almost $60. So maybe a coupon or two would help but even so, I think we'll go back. The food was very good.

The last downside is watch out for birthdays. On their cakes they do some sort of huge roman candle sort of thing. Don't expect to breathe for about 7 minutes if the table next to you has a birthday to celebrate. It's especially bad for us because we have twins with respiratory problems. So maybe the next time we're there...we'll all sit outside!!

22 October, 2009

Lon's Cookin' Shack, Provo, UT

Where to start with these...

Well, I guess I should just put it this shouldn't aspire to find great BBQ in Provo, UT. No offense to any Provonians who may read this...but daaaaang; this stuff was bad. I basically got the combo and wings (just cuz I pretty much have an unwavering urge and cannot pass up trying wings at new places).

So starting with the least bad was their sauce. It was basically a hum-drum sauce. It wasn't unique tasting at all. Nothing crazy hints of oaky goodness spiked with fruity notes or anything. It was just sauce.

And unfortunately, it goes down from here. First off, EVERYTHING WAS COLD. If it didn't take so long to get it and if I didn't have a flight to catch and if I weren't already completely woulda gone back. Or actually, I probably would have just asked for my money back and headed over to KFC. Getting past cold ribs and chicken was the brisket. You might could also use the brisket as sandpaper should you be in a pinch for some sandpaper at lunch. But seriously folks, I thought that The Pits Again was my worst place for BBQ but we have a new Bottom Dog. Not only were the ribs cold but they were tough. And the "chef" didn't remove the thin membrane off the backs of the ribs which pretty much means you're taking little bites of wax paper with every gnaw.

Oh wait..there was ONE good thing. They served hush puppies and they were actually good. The "homemade" mac&cheese pretty much sucked too. One potentially cool thing could have been that they touted a sort of "sauce bar" with what looked to be a bunch of different types of sauces. If I were to ever go back there...that might be a good idea. Try a new one with a new dish. But fat chance! I'll have a better chance of singing in the next boy band with Justin Timberlake, Mike Tyson and Rod Blagojevic than ever setting foot in that place again.

And here is my other tip. If you stop at ANY barbecue joint on the planet...if you DO NOT SMELL THE SMOKE FROM ABOUT A MILE AWAY....DO NOT STOP!! For some reason, I didn't notice it on the way in. But I sure noticed it on the way out. I didn't smell a thing. Not one hint of hickory, not one waft of pecan...nothing. So there something to pass on to the next generation.

14 August, 2009

Salt Lick BBQ, Driftwood, TX

Well, I finally made it to the Salt Lick after my 5th time in Austin. I guess the last few times I was in Austin, it was tough for me to make the trek to Driftwood after working all day. Well, I won't make that mistake again. I can safely say that the Salt Lick is now my new #1 and overtakes Rudy's in San Antonio. While it is not by a landslide by any means; S.L. is the new champ.

I probably should have figured out how good it was by the time I drove up. I was just past 8:30 PM and the place was still teeming with people all over the whole restaurant area. Luckily, I didn't have to wait but a few minutes for a table. Prior to securing my table, I did grab a couple of cell pics of the pit they use. Then, I get a table with Jon. What can I say about Jon? Very cool guy and didn't make me feel at all bad for being a solo-diner hogging up a table that could have accommodated 6. He was very knowledgeable about the menu and just a downright good dude. But more on that later...let's get to the food.

So I got the all-u-can-eat for $18.95. But, I really wanted to try the chicken, so I got it as a side. The AUCE included the brisket, ribs, sausage and then sides of slaw, tater salad and beans. Ya'll have already heard my rant on sides. These were decent but again...nothing I'd make a trip just for that. And I should note that as far as sides go; Rudy's creamed corn is still the #1 in a true landslide. Ok, but we're not talking sides...we're talking BBQ so let me get back to it.

Everything was pretty much awesome. But it is all predicated on the fact that the sauce from the Salt Lick; which is on EVERYTHING is the best sauce on the planet. So its one of those things that if you are crazy enough to NOT like their sauce, you probably won't like much else. The chicken was smoked and then set to the side of the grill to be basted in the glorious sauce and just caramelize and baste again and cook and man...soooo tasty. Basically, it is all that way. The brisket and ribs had the sauce but you always have your little jar with more sauce at the ready. And if you like it spicy, be sure to ask for the Habanero sauce. Don't be scerrred though. Habanero might freak you out but its not that spicy. It has just the right amount of kick without being too overpowering. It is awesome on the chicken and turkey...well, and the ribs and brisket too.

And I have to get back to the brisket and Jon. So I'm polishing off my first plate from the AUCE (again...all-u-can-eat for the memory impaired), and Jon and I get to talking about all things bar b q. After a conversation of all topics he says to me "so it sounds like you like your bbq and brisket, have you ever tried the burnt ends?" Now we have to go back in time to the Austin episode of Man vs. Food on the travel channel. Adam Richman talks about the burnt ends of the brisket and I'm literally salivating over him eating. I pretty much hog the "burnt ends" of everything I cook. And I don't hate myself for doing cuz it is Chef's prerogative on that one. Pork tenderloin, prime rib...doesn't matter...I get the ends. Anyway, back to the brisket. So Jon asks if I would like that and I had to tell him that I wanted to ask immediately when I sat down. But considering there are only limited amounts of the ends due to the limited real estate on the meat...I figured I had to be Mack Brown or Matthew Mcconaughey in order to be granted some of it. But nope, he said if I wanted would be in my next round. So I scarfed down the bits I had left and Jon came back with a plate of the most wonderful thing that is the burnt ends of the brisket. The only thing we could come up with describe it is how it is the best burnt/sweet taste you'll EVER have. It won't make sense until you have it. Because there is absolutely ZERO actual burnt taste to it. It is just the best piece that combines the taste of the meat, the smoke, the rubs and the sauce all in one bite. It is truly amazing stuff.

I can't wait to go back next week!!!

And then another note about just the nicest atmosphere...Jon took me to the open part of the pit behind the counters and all and me and a couple other guys talked about bbq for probably 15-20 minutes. That was really cool and really cool of them to let me, just a regular joe who is nuts about cooking go back there. I saw the wall of oak wood and the soaking pecan shells (interestingly enough, my own shed is stacked with pecan and oak...I guess great minds do think alike). Hopefully, those guys will be there next week for more bbq fun!

04 August, 2009

Ironworks, Austin, TX

So I finally made it to Ironworks. They decided not to close during dinner time for some private party this time around.

For some reason, and I don't know why, I was expecting a fancy type of restaurant with a name like Ironworks. It was actually a corner dive. Not that that is a bad thing but I just wasn't expecting an 'order at the counter' type of place. Of course that ended up working out for me considering I just got my big bag of food to go instead of eating there.

What did I eat? Pretty much a little bit of everything. At least most of the main courses. And it was pretty tasty. This was good bar b q they way I like it. I even had beef ribs which not many places serve. They have good sauce. It is the traditional tangy sauce everyone thinks about.

But to the meats...they were cooked very well. The backs of the ribs didn't have that thin membrane that I hate so much (see Ruby's review). Both the pork baby back ribs and the beef ribs were extremely tender and moist. The beef ribs should be since they are pretty fatty in general. Good smokey flavor that isn't too overpowering. The sauce complemented both very well but next time I will probably order them dry to see what they taste like sans sauce. I wasn't aware that when you order with sauce; it is slathered all over and not put "on the side."

Then came the sausage. It was pretty good. Better than most but still have to put Rudy's (with a D) up in the #1 hole. Then of course, smoked turkey and brisket. Here is where I was disappointed. Both were pretty dry. I even lucked out and got a "burnt end" piece of brisket which I love because it is usually covered in spices. But alas, both were pretty dry and unimpressive. The sauce helped but I would have hoped for more some better quality. I think next time, I'll stick with ribs and try the 1/2 chicken.

Of course that means that I will be going back. The ribs were really good. And I also go back to how I found out about the place to begin with. When I asked the front desk guy, he mentioned that Ironworks is known for the ribs. So chalk this one up for a good recommendation instead of getting hosed by a crappy rec.

17 July, 2009

Recipe for a Steak Marinade

One recipe I've had in my arsenal for quite a while is my steak marinade. It always works and is always good on just about any cut of beef. And it is really simple.

It pretty much consists of
Soy Sauce
Wooosterchestershire Sauce
Peppercorns (of your choice...doesn't have to be just black)
Crushed Garlic
Pineapple Juice

The kicker is of much of each. Well, that is all going to depend on how many steaks your doing. For anyone who knows me...I'm an eyeball it kinda guy.

So for about 4 steaks, I'd say about 3/4 cup of Soy Sauce, 2 mini-cans of pineapple juice, a handful of crushed garlic cloves (don't waste time fine chopping or mincing...just toss 'em in a ziplock baggie and take a brick or the back of a pot to 'em), 3/4 of a can of beer (I'd say any lager or ale you like...probably just not a stout) and a tablespoon of peppercorns.

The beauty of this stuff is that after a couple of hours you can still put a rub of your choice on the steaks if you go that route. Enjoy.