Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review of Waller County Line BBQ (Waller, TX)  

WCL BBQ's Website, Facebook, & Yelp

On my way to Pearland for New Year’s I decided to stop for lunch. I quickly realized I had a choice: Waller County Line or Field Store BBQ. Both of these are located in/attached to gas stations on 290 in Waller County, TX. I decided I would take Waller County first, and grab Field Store on the way back.
Waller County Line BBQ is set up line style. Order your plate, pick it up, and pay at the register (same place you pay for gas). 
(Scott's comment: Do you want your brisket moist, lean, or premium unleaded?)
They offer a decent selection. I order a three meat plate (brisket, sausage, chicken), and get a pork rib in addition.

Sausage: I ordered original sausage. It has a good snap, is nice and juicy, and has a decent smoky flavor. This is good stuff. 8.0/10. I also noted that they sell boudin, and (if I recall correctly), you can buy uncooked sausage to go.
Note: You are now going to see some *. Don’t worry, I’ll explain in a bit.

Chicken: The chicken is tender and moist. There’s an interesting tomato flavor to it, but it doesn’t taste like BBQ sauce. I also don’t taste any smoke. It’s decent, but something is missing and not quite sitting right with me. 6.0/10. *

Pork Rib: The pork rib has the same flavor as the chicken. I’m starting to think they are using a wet rub of some kind early in the process. It’s not a bad flavor. Unfortunately, I’m still not tasting any smoke at all. Even more unfortunately, this rib is so tough I’m having to cut it with my knife. 3.0/10.

Brisket: Waller CL BBQ offers brisket and “Smoked” brisket (which is apparently their version of fatty or moist brisket). I ordered the smoked.  It’s hard to tell how it would taste on it’s own, because it came pre-chopped. And yes, that picture is brisket, not pork. Again, I taste no smoke, and that tomato flavor is back. And if I close my eyes I’m flashing back to elementary school for some reason. Again, it’s not a bad flavor, but something is definitely missing. 5.0/10 *

*About the time I finished the brisket, I figured out what this flavor reminded me of: the Italian flavored Manwich that we used to make sloppy joes out of when I was a kid (do they still make that stuff?). And the more I think about it, that was the issue with the chicken, the brisket, and would have been the case with the rib if it hadn’t been so badly prepared. I feel like I’m eating Italian food, not BBQ.
(Scott's comment:  A severely bastardized version of Italian food. My dead Italian grandmother is probably rolling in her grave as I write this.)  

So how do I rate Waller County Line BBQ? This is always a tricky situation. With the exception of the rib, everything was actually pretty good. However, it didn’t taste like BBQ. The chicken only needed a little pasta to be a perfect Italian dish, and all I needed was some bread and the brisket would have made an excellent sloppy joe. But there was nothing in any of those three items that made me think I was eating smoked meat.  

So the scores above are based on their rating as BBQ. It’s like ordering cheese cake and being brought carrot cake. The carrot cake may be a perfectly acceptable dish, but if you really wanted cheesecake then the carrot cake is going to be lacking. 
(Al's comment: I had the experience recently of getting Heinz BBQ sauce to go with some smoked flank steak at a buffet. It was basically Heinz ketchup with paprika mixed in - terrible!  So maybe it's harsh of me to say somebody is using Heinz BBQ sauce in their cooking.) 

Is it worth a visit? I’d say yes. The sausage is definitely worth trying. And the other items certainly taste fine for what they are.  

Is it worth a trip? Nope.  

Decision time: Since Waller County Line and Field Store BBQ are one exit down from each other, which should you choose? You should choose Waller County Line if you want overall better tasting food and aren’t as worried about a more “genuine” BBQ experience.  

-Tom & Scott

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Opie's BBQ Review (Spicewood, TX)  

Opie's BBQ's Website, Facebook, & Twitter

Mike, Scott and I went to Opie’s today to check it out. It works on the same premise as Cooper’s: select the meat you want from the grill (I want that pork chop and that piece of sausage). It definitely has a small-town feel on the inside. It’s also a nice pleasant drive. Interestingly, one of the staff there mentioned that @tmbbq would be there a little later that day with a tour group.

Quite a few things were tried today, so let’s dive in. I ended up trying turkey, brisket, original sausage, pork loin, pork ribs (and pork chop and baby back ribs at home), and a bite of Scott’s sausage. Scott had pork loin, brisket and jalapeno cheddar sausage (and a bite of my turkey). Mike had brisket and pork ribs, took a pork chop home, and had a bite of my turkey. We all got moist brisket.
Original Sausage: The sausage has a nice snap. It’s tender and juicy. It has a pretty decent amount of heat.  It actually started hotter than the jalapeno (although the jalapeno finished hotter). It’s good stuff. Tom: 8.0/10

Pork Chop: The pork chop was tender and juicy. It had a nice crust. Interestingly the bite of Scott’s I tried onsite had the strongest smoke flavor of anything we tried, and smoke was the strongest flavor in the chop. The one I had at home had a much stronger black pepper flavor (a plus in my book).
Scott: This thing was the size of one of Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard's hands (i.e. insanely huge).
It's also as thick as about 3 decks of playing cards stacked up.  I had a few bites at the restaurant and brought the rest home.  Later this evening, after I emerged from my BBQ Coma (it's a recognized medical condition nowadays, right?), I heated it up and dug in.  Great flavor still abounds. Tender, meaty, juicy. I'd be curious to experiment the next time at Opie's with trying the Pork Chop first.
Tom and Scott: 8.75/10
Brisket: The brisket was extremely moist and tender, with a nice bark. It had a light smoky flavor and pretty much melts in the mouth.
Scott: Beautiful color on the bark, flavor through and through the meat.  Almost falling apart when making contact with fingers or utensil.  It melts in your mouth, not in your hands (if I may borrow the catchphrase).  
Tom and Scott: 9.0/10.

Pork Rib: The pork ribs have a lot of meat on them, and a good crust. They have excellent flavor and taste wise are one of the best I’ve had. It’s just a smidge tough. Tom: 9.0/10.  
Pork Loin: The pork loin is tender, juicy, and has a nice crust. As with most of their items the smoke is light and adds nicely to the flavor.
Scott:  Nice cuts of loin (about 1/3 of an inch thick cut) very well balanced.  Smoky, but it's not overdone. This was a very nice selection.   Tom: 9.0/10 Scott: 9.25/10

Baby Back Ribs: The Baby Back ribs have an excellent smoky flavor and are nice and tender. There’s a surprising amount of meat on them. These are excellent! Tom: 9.5/10 (and that’s a reheated score!)

Jalapeno Sausage:
Scott’s comments (Tom doesn’t like jalapeno): Excellent snap to it.  As I had a full link, ok two,  I got a some variance between the cheese and jalapeno at various intervals. Again, this is an art not a science. It's part of what makes the eating experience fun.  The spiciness of the jalapeno had a wonderful time release effect, but was never overwhelming.  Flavorful, juicy, and excellent throughout. Scott - 9.5/10.

Turkey: The turkey is extremely tender and juicy. The light smoke combines well with the rub. We agree this is one of the best turkeys we’ve had.

Scott: I had one bite, but oh Lord have mercy, what a bite.
Tom and Scott: 10/10.
(Scott: I think even the East German judges would give it at least a 9.7.) 

I found it very interesting that there wasn’t a long line at Opie’s. Cooper’s usually has a line on a Sat. The only reason I can think is location, as Opie’s can definitely hold their own in terms of quality.  Everything we tried rated in the exceptional range.

Scott: We don't grade sides or desserts, but that Blackberry Cobbler was sensational. Worth making room for. 

Mike: The butter beans (sold Fri – Sun) are definitely also excellent and worth trying.

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely.

Is it worth a trip? Again, absolutely. It’s a nice trip out and back, and the BBQ is definitely worthwhile!
(Scott: If you can survive the existential horror that is trying to drive through the Y intersection at Oak Hill.) 


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

(AKA, What the Hell??!)

McDonald's McRib Website

I was very pleasantly surprised with the McRib. There are rich subtle undertones of hickory and oak in the meat. The sauce adds the right amount of tang. The edible bones are a nice touch. It’s juicy and tender without being….(cue needle scratching record noise)

OK, the dogs are growling at me and my wife is checking to make sure the house is properly grounded in case of lightning strike.  

The McRib is a reoccurring item on McDonald’s menu. It first came out in 1981, was removed from the menu in 1985, returned in 1989, and became a seasonal item in 2006. It maintains enough popularity to hold onto that status.

Calling the McRib BBQ is like calling reality TV real, or the current LA Lakers a basketball team. There’s only the faintest nod in that direction. A little explanation if I may: 

Any rib meat in this sandwich is incidental. McRib (like McNuggets) is a restructured meat product. Less desirable pork products are processed in a way to form a shape (in this case, something vaguely similar to ribs). You can read more about the McRib at this website: (Chicago Magazine). There’s also no smoking in the process (obviously). It’s cooked on the same flat metal grill as all of McDonald’s other products.

(Scott's comment: Looks like the High School Cafeteria's Salisbury Steak...with onions.)
(Tom's reply: The Salisbury steak actually had flavor. )
So how does it taste? Well, I ordered 2: one with everything but pickles, and one as plain as I could get it (it comes pre-sauced so light sauce is as plain as you can go).  I’m sure you’re expecting me to say horrible things about it. Actually, when it comes to the rib patty itself, it’s going to get the most damning comment of all: it’s completely unremarkable.  

There’s no real flavor to the patty at all. Once I wiped the sauce off my plain one, I didn’t really taste anything other than hints of residual sauce. I came across no real gristle (points for that), but no real flavor. It literally was almost like eating nothing. I’d have almost rather had a flavor I didn’t like, as at least it would have been memorable. I think I got more flavor from the bun.  

And that confirms what I suspect about McRib. As my wife says, it’s a vehicle for BBQ sauce. The sauce they use appears to be the same they use on McNuggets. While there’s a slight hint of smoke in the sauce, there’s also a strong metallic taste. It’s very heavy and cloying, and overly sweet.
In conclusion, the sandwich isn’t anything without the sauce. I personally don’t like the sauce, but since McDonalds has been using it for their nuggets for years, I suspect some people do. If you are at McDonalds and like their BBQ sauce, you can order this. All you’ll taste is the sauce and you’ll spend $3.50 on just the sandwich, but it’s your money. Although, why not order a hamburger and a side of BBQ sauce? You’d get more flavor.
Is it worth a visit? No.
Is it worth a trip? Do I really need to answer that?

(Al's comment/postscript:  This particular review led to an interesting chain of conversation...)

(Tom: I threw myself on that's not the worst thing I've had.)

(Al: Oh Lordie!)

(Scott: You paid money for this? On purpose? We really want to devote parts if the internet to this?)

(Tom: It's been around off and on for 25 years. Probably worth a mention.)

(Scott: I have t-shirts that old and I don't think they're worth a mention either.)

(Tom: The McRib is the Khardashian of the BBQ world. No redeeming value, but it manages to stay around. )

(Scott: You are officially the Super Dave Osborn of BBQ Blogs!)

(Al: *Between fits of laughter* This is soooo going in the blog!)

(Scott: We'll just consign this to a back closet on the website, shall we...)