I Tell You What, They Got Some Good Dang Ol' Meat But I Ain't Gonna Tell You Dang Ol' Where
Much of the time in this blog, I've been banging on about "authenticity" or "being legit" and trying to work out what that was in relation to the Texas BBQ experience. It seems that the less inviting a place is, the more authentic the experience. For example, Sonny Bryan's (OG) is tiny, made of wood and has no real tables for placing your food on. It's this struggle through the adversity of actually applying meat to face that makes it fun to eat there. Forest Hill Off The Bone had the same feeling but for different reasons: The sheer incredulity of the staff that I would talk British to them while trying to acquire meat from their tiny shack in the middle of nowhere meant I knew I was getting the proper "local" experience.
Essentially, then, I am a tourist, seeking out not only good meat, of which there has been plenty, but the feel of a venue that is so far removed from my normal experience that I am left confused, scared and enthralled, knowing that, when I do depart this sunbaked land, I will have campfire tales about my time in Texas that I can pass down through generations of baffled Europeans who will all strive to attain this mysterious "brisket".
This place, though, topped them all and then some. It was utterly ridiculous, and I have never experienced anything like it. The previously mentioned two places at least had pretensions of being, if not restaurants, then at least diners. I think I am going to leave it anonymous, simply because they I doubt they had the required licenses and I want to go back there all the time until they're actually comfortable with me. This might take some time. If I thought communication problems were bad before, a room full of people who sound exactly like Boomhaur from King of the Hill soon put paid to any ideas I had of finally getting the hang of Texas.
What happened is this. I started a new job, and my new boss, having read all this Observer stuff, said "I know a fantastic place. You'll love it. It's walking distance from here." I was very excited. At lunchtime, three of us set out to arrive at what can only be described as a very small brick structure, with a miniscule, almost comical, hand-wrought metal sign over the door being the only clue that this was some sort of establishment. To the side, a couple of relatively small BBQs stood alongside some wood stored in "acquired" shopping carts. Inside, in a suffocatingly small room, there were just two long tables and a sort of sink/plates arrangement. One table was full up of the aforementioned Boomhaurs, all accent and white facial hair, some of them not wearing shoes, and the other table was free.
First though, we had to order. I say order, though there was one menu option, "MEAT PLATE -- $10", two meats, two sides, two bread. My third go at ordering from an increasingly irate man hidden behind a generous mustache was the charm, and even then my two sides were different to what I ordered. Have you ever not wanted to kick up a fuss so much that you're grateful that what you ordered was vaguely correct? Because that's how I felt. Not a single chance was I going to send anything back. I got ribs and brisket with a side of beans and coleslaw, and the obligatory free bread. The choice of drink was between iced tea and iced tea, and I assume there was no charge for it because people only started staring when I tried to photograph the food. In retrospect, that was a terrible idea, made worse by forgetting to turn the flash off, but I have a commitment to you, the reader, to take indistinguishably bad photographs of meat from very close up. The meat came sauced; it was very smoky and the portions were outlandishly huge. The ribs were the pick, very different, almost springy in their tenderness rather than falling straight off the bone. The brisket was tender and well-smoked, the links I tried from my boss' order were absolutely beautiful, and the sides were delicious. I couldn't finish it all, although by the end I had embraced the awkwardness and felt able to talk louder than a whisper.
We finished up by dropping cash into a bowl on the honour system (my question to my boss beforehand of "is this place cash only?" felt pretty stupid by this point) and scraping off our dishes into the trash and putting them into the sink. It was like eating at your dad's if your dad was brilliant at smoking meat but quite visibly resented you ever being born. I am going to go back again and again. I'm not telling you where it is, because it may well get closed down. My advice is to walk into a bunch of dodgy-looking shacks north of the metroplex and see if anyone gives you delicious meat. Sage advice I'm sure you'll agree.
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