Main Street Garden hosted the inaugural TX/OU Red River BBQ Shootout on Friday night, and the BBQ carnage that ensued left folks young and old victim to great rib artistry. Amidst a backdrop of thick country music and a setting sun, Cousin's BBQ of Ft Worth squared off against Leo's BBQ of Oklahoma for the right to claim the title of Best Ribs for the next 364 days.
The night before, our own Robert Wilonsky was among a panel of judges that narrowed an initial seven entrants (four from Texas, three from Oklahoma) down to two, each state winding up with its respective Spartan of the Sparerib. Cousin's beat out venerable Texas peers Black's (Lockhart), Big Daddy's (Lavon) and Baker's Ribs (Dallas) while Leo's rose above Elmer's (Tulsa) and Van's Pig Stand (Shawneee).
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Judging of the final two took place in a blind taste test format. Festival goers paid five dollars to get a basket with two ribs from each place with some generic potato salad thrown in the middle as a buffer. After cleaning the last bit of meat from the bone, each meta-judge took a raffle ticket and put it into a plastic bin indicating which rib rocked hardest.
Rib "A" was cooked perfectly, with plenty of smokiness to compliment the sweet apple flavor of the sauce on top. A thin layer of fat kept the meat moist and just barely clinging to the bone. Rib "B" was a bit overcooked, but the availability of a fiery, albeit watered down sauce on the side was a fair cover-up. It seems my small raffle ticket into the "A" bin wasn't enough to quell the swell of favor to rib "B", as it was revealed later that night that Cousin's (B) was voted the champ.
Although ribs were the main event, next-door neighbor Wild Salsa showcased a basket of two of their brisket tacos with a Styrofoam shot of elotes. The tacos, while likely not indicative of the variety tried by Scott Reitz, held up fairly well with tender brisket and carmelized onions topped generously with cilantro. The accompanying cup of spiced corn provided the perfect counterpoint of taste and texture, hopefully this becomes a trend that gives contest to rice and beans as the default taco side dish.
By all accounts, the first-ever rib tilt was a success. Hopefully in the coming years, they'll rotate the type of meat used or perhaps introduce multiple categories. Small steps, but no matter what happens in the football conferences, this is a showdown that shouldn't go away. Check out more photos below.