Good barbecue isn’t all that difficult to whip up. There are few homes in America that don’t have some form of a barbecue grill lodged out back, ready to char a chunk or two of grocery store meat to the delight of the folks tending the fire. A bottle or two of one’s favorite brew can turn average ‘cue into fantastic ‘cue, enhanced by a splash or two of a favorite sauce. Terrific ‘cue, on the other hand, is usually the work of a master who has spent time perfecting his craft. Terrific ‘cue is made of carefully selected meats, lovingly rubbed with just the right spices and brought to perfection over a carefully managed fire. To me there is a single characteristic of terrific ‘cue that distinguishes it from ordinary barbecue; the taste, texture and flavor of the meat arrives before the taste of the high fructose corn syrup laced concoctions passed off as barbecue sauce these days. The City Butcher in Springfield, Mo. is home to terrific barbecue.
I have promised myself a motorcycle ride to Franklin Barbecue in Austin, Texas. Every time I read about this purveyor of what is described as the grand-daddy of Texas Style Barbecue, I marvel at the good fortune of the Texans who live close enough to arrive early and wait in a long line for this ‘cue. It must be that good. Jeremy and Cody Smith, not related by blood, have worked hard to perfect their craft. These are not good old boys who happened on the right rub, rather they are good old boys who attended Le Cordon Bleu, one in Arizona and the other in Texas, where they were introduced to the finer points of the culinary art. These are local boys, hell bent on delivering something memorable and my dear readers, they got ‘er done. The Smith’s rely on the same source of quality brisket as the Franklin crew in Austin, guaranteeing a proper start to their ‘cue.
Like any really good ‘cue joint, once you select and are served your fare, the rest of your meal is on you. You pick up your butcher paper covered tray, with the ‘cue lovingly slapped right on the paper, either unceremoniously in a pile or on a bun, and find a place to sit. You have already walked past a long, real ice, open cooler, laced with any number of bottled beverages and another cooler reminiscent of a live bait cooler in a country store, where you have selected your side of potato salad, macaroni salad or slaw, dished up in cardboard containers for your convenience. They also offer beans, generously loaded with bits of ‘cue, lightly smoked without the gooey texture of the stuff other joints throw at you. Prefer a fountain drink? No problem, they will hand you the cup and you make your way to the back of the dining room, walk past a cooler full of pickles and make your selection. Grab a bowl of pickles as you walk by. There are long community tables or booths, it matter’s not as everyone is concentrating on their ‘cue. In a joint like this, talking with your mouth full is socially acceptable….
The Smith’s stick to the basics and do it well. They serve an absolutely perfectly finished brisket, a neat smoked sausage, and either pulled pork or pork belly. Prefer burnt ends, you have arrived…as theirs are top shelf. I am not a burnt ends fan, but the lip smacking around me suggests they have this dish down! I have feasted here a total of four times in the last two weeks and found the ‘cue to be perfectly consistent. Trust me when I suggest the brisket, dry, as it is wonderful. As for sauces, they offer at each booth and on the tables, three concoctions that are relatively simple but terrific. The house, a spiced house and a mustard sauce comprise the offerings which are presented in plain glass bottles. This is a ‘cue joint where the sauce is, well, secondary to the wonderful meats. Sauce is how Americans do their ‘cue…..in this place, a little dab will do the job.
Let’s wrap this up. I go to the gym five days a week and work my butt off so I can eat. It is that simple, and the medical community says it is good for you. This same group of boring medics frown on too much red meat and suggest moderation in all things that are really tasty to human beings. Out of respect to these scholars, I will limit my trips to this eatery to once or twice a week, unless I have a breakthrough urge to eat terrific ‘cue in the interim. We have found our barbecue joint in Springfield and I recommend it to anyone who has a love for meat done right. Get there early or risk a long line to get to the counter for your sliced in front of you goodness. You don’t have to go to Austin to enjoy Texas Style Barbecue……it is here, just south of Bass Pro on Campbell. See you there!