This is a blog written by a complete barbecue amateur. In the UK a barbecue is something you cook a burger on and is largely a celebration of the few and far between days when it's not raining. In Texas I have quickly come to learn that barbecue is an everyday thing, and that barbecue sauce is something I never want to be more than five yards from at any given time.
I'd have to say that, if there's one place that convinced me barbecue isn't just a treat but rather a pursuit, it's Mike Anderson's on Harry Hines Boulevard here in Dallas. Working just down the road, I have frequented Mike's fine establishment for a few months now, and I anticipate lunch visits with the sort of religious fervor that you, a sensible person, might reserve for a more momentous occasion, such as a well-deserved holiday or your own wedding, say.
As I made the short pilgrimage down Harry Hines, dealing with the endless U-turns and lane maneuvers required to not be killed by a truck on a daily basis (seriously, roundabouts were invented a long time ago and it is only now I recognize their virtues), I can picture only a bubbling cauldron of Mike's Backyard BBQ Sauce. I long for the day Mike invites me into his backyard (!), to sample his sauce (!!). Yikes. This review has careered off the rails and I'm not sure how to rescue it. Focus.
OK. So, Mike Anderson's is very much a lunch-time venue. It isn't open past 2:30 p.m. Even if you wanted dinner there, Mike wouldn't be having any of it; he's probably got a very busy evening planned and none of it involves serving you BBQ. The wife and I decide to diversify our BBQ portfolio and get two dinner plates with six meats. Thus, we can provide the most information to you, the hungry consumer. We're a good team like that.
Unfortunately, for the second BBQ visit in a row she is misheard at a crucial moment (despite being an actual real-life girl she is nicknamed Richard from failing to make a man understand what her name is in Sonny Bryan's), and ends up with turkey, which apparently sounds like "pork rib" in a strong Welsh accent. Yes, we have a mongrel British marriage. Yes, we're much more comfortable with it than our families are. No, it falls apart during sporting events.
We end up with two three-meat dinner plates ($12.95 a shot), containing sausage (delicious), pulled pork (delicious), turkey (a questionable BBQ food), pork tenderloin (don't even remember it) and two helpings of brisket because goddammit brisket is incredible. There, glistening serenely next to Mike's right hand like some sort of BBQ Holy Ghost is a vat of sauce. I load up a bowl and perform my now customary sprint, stopping only to snaffle some BBQ beans (as someone recommended last time) and some fries, or chips as I will confusingly continue to call them.
Richard dallies longer, as her favourite thing about the entire Mike Anderson visit is one particular side, the cheesy cornbread bake. Think about what I wrote last time, and my confusion at the presence of corn. Now think about my wife delaying the purchase of meat by overloading her plate with corn. It's not something I find attractive about her, love her though I do.
As we take our seats, she compounds her original mistake by focusing on the corn, constantly saying how she prefers it to the pound and a half of delicious meat arrayed in front of her (seriously, there is no way to stop this blog sounding filthy, I have tried and tried). So, OK, the cheesy cornbread thingy-wotsit isn't bad at all. I would definitely eat it for dinner. It's not the point, though, is it? I didn't come to a place like this to eat cheese. Eventually, because she's of the opinion that she's really very amusing, she starts to force-feed it to me like I'm 2 years old, saying "here comes the aeroplane" to the sheer naked confusion of the three older Texas gentlemen across from me. I give in, largely because I am aware of her sheer tenacity in situations like this and the idea of a further 30 minutes of fending off fork-aeroplanes does not appeal to me. A bit of soda to wash the taste of cheese out, and then back to the brisket.
As I chew happily on brisket, a sad realization dawns on me. This brisket isn't quite as good as Hard 8. This is, literally, the first critical thought I have ever had relating to BBQ. For someone who has now fallen into the "job" of BBQ reviews, this is a momentous, horrifying and confusing revelation. Never before has the excited child in my brain stopped going "THIS IS LITERALLY THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED" while at a Texas BBQ restaurant. I am a changed man.
Don't get me wrong. The brisket is delicious. I would take 3 grams of it over a thousand kilos (that's right, European measurements now, deal with it) of that ridiculous corn stuff that my wife has polished off at the expense of a pristine, untouched plate of meat. A plate that never got to fulfill its BBQ destiny. I shake my head sadly at her as she points out this would probably make a good story for my blog, and that I should mention the Spudzilla ($12), the largest potato the world has ever seen, cracked open and filled with meat and sauces. She doesn't get it at all. "You can have all of my meat," she says, and it is then that I remember how much I adore her.
In summary, a momentous lunch. While being force-fed in front of old people, I had a critical epiphany. I am a changed man. Not changed enough to stop eating BBQ, obviously (that would be patently ridiculous), but there might now be some sort of engagement with my topic rather than the journalistic equivalent of a man eating his keyboard with joy. Whether that makes this a better blog, I don't know. Let's bloody hope so.
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