Saturday, July 25, 2015

Johnny T's BBQ Review (Pflugerville, TX) 

Johnny T's Website & Facebook & Yelp

On our way to the birthday party of our “niece” (child of friends), Scott and I decided to stop at Johnny T’s for lunch. Johnny T’s is located in a strip mall in Pflugerville. They moved here about a year ago from their former location in Round Rock. They advertise as “The Best Butt in Town”. Pits are enclosed in a wood area in back.
Inside it seems like a normal setup at first: Walk to the counter and order. Then things get a little different. They give you a number and bring it out to you. So it’s kind of a cross between true counter ordering and a sit-down restaurant. 
They do offer meat by the pound and plates, but there’s a strong emphasis on sandwiches (11 on the menu). They also make their own sauces: an original which still has some kick, a spicy, and a North Carolina style mustard.

(Scott's commentary: The sauces I tried did help accentuate what I used them on. I had two of the 3 sauces. The mustard sauce was quite good, trying it with the ribs, sausage, and chicken. Still won't convince me to try a sauce with brisket though. I have some standards. Not many, but a few. )
Scott and I each get the ¾ pound plate with three meats each. Scott gets brisket, pulled pork, and sausage. I get turkey, chicken, and St. Louis style ribs.

Sausage: The sausage is Meyer’s Elgin sausage. Decent flavor, but not much snap left in the casing, and not much smoke flavor. Their presentation of this area staple is decent, but not great, Both – 6.0/10.
Turkey: The turkey has some smoke flavor, but not a lot. There’s not much else going on here, and it’s just a hair dry. We both agree it is decent, but not great. Both 6.5/10.

Ribs: The ribs have a decent smoke flavor and are tender, but do not have a crust to speak of. I think they have a good flavor, but Scott thinks there’s room for improvement, although he says his improved a great deal with the mustard sauce. Tom – 8.0/10, Scott – 6.0/10 (7.0 with sauce).

Brisket: Tender, but not a lot of bark. There’s a decent smoke flavor, but not much else working for me. Scott likes it more than I do. Tom – 6.0/10, Scott – 8.0/10.

Chicken: Interestingly, the chicken they have at the moment is advertised as chicken breast. IT reminds me of those prepared breasts you can get at stores without the bone. The cuts are way too even for this to be something they took off the bone. It’s a little tough (which doesn’t surprise us if our theory is right about the type of chicken), but has a decent smoke flavor. Tom – 7.0/10, Scott – 7.5/10.

Pulled Pork: This has an excellent smoke flavor. More importantly, it’s moist and tender without being greasy (which is a common issue with pulled pork). This is honestly one of the best I’ve had. Scott – 8.5/10, Tom – 9.5/10.

Special Side Dish Note: We don’t normally comment on side dishes, but Johnny T’s has one that is unusual enough that it is worth a mention – their Tamale Potato Casserole. This is exactly what it sounds like, and I decided to give it a try. On the plus side it’s an excellent tasting dish. Texture wise it is like a tamale pudding, and has a great flavor. It is definitely worth trying. On the minus side – it doesn’t feel like it blends well with the rest of the meal. A place like Valentina’s has blended their Tex-Mex BBQ quite well. This side dish doesn’t feel like it fits in. After a few bites during the meal, I quickly made the decision to finish it after the meal, because the flavor change from BBQ to Tex-Mex was a little jarring. Again, it is an excellent tasting dish. It just doesn’t feel like it fits in as a BBQ side dish.

Is it worth a visit? Absolutely. Note that most of their scores are in the middle to upper range of the “good” category. This would be an excellent place for a BBQ lunch that is better than Poke-Jo’s or Rudy’s. It also seems like a good choice for those in the area who want good BBQ without the long trip or wait to some of the top-shelf places.

Is it worth a trip? Not quite. There’s only one item Scott and I both agree is exceptional, and that’s not enough for a 60+ mile trip. I can see that they are close, and it wouldn’t take much for them to get into that category, but they aren’t there yet. One suggestion Scott and I talked about was serving actual chicken instead of what appears to be chicken breast.* They could also use a little more bark on the brisket. Those two things would probably get those items into the exceptional range (8+) and with three cores of 8 or higher they’d be worth a trip.

*Note: When I came home to write the review I noticed their website said they were doing a soft launch of whole chickens this weekend. I think that is an excellent move on their part.* 
(Scott's commentary: We should swing by another time just to check out a sammich or two.
Also, I liked the fact that they offered wheat bread as an option to Texas toast.  Seeing as there are many folks that that have to avoid white flour (such as white bread/Texas toast) for dietary reasons, a wheat bread option is nice to have.) 

-Tom & Scott