Tag: restaurant

Review: A Fine Swine – New Baden, IL

Today, I had to run a few errands with my bride and we found ourselves in a rural community that we don’t often visit, New Baden, IL.  As we entered town, I spotted a BBQ Joint that I haven’t been to before.  So, after we completed our errands, we circled back and had lunch there.

As we parked, I saw 2 Ole Hickory smokers under cover near the front door and there was a smell of hickory smoker in the air.  Both, a very good sign. 

Right off, I noticed a couple of very unique things about this joint.  First, the counter was a converted off-set pit.  I thought that was a very cool touch.

The other thing I noticed is a live feed of a video camera mounted directly over a butcher block table in the kitchen where they are slicing brisket, chopping pork shoulder, etc.  I’ve never seen this in another BBQ joint and enjoyed watching the staff slice my brisket before brigning it out to my table.

All of this had my expectations pretty high.  I ordered sliced brisket with a side of house chips, and my bride ordered her usual pulled pork sandwich and BBQ beans.  At first glance, it all looked good.  There was a nice smoke ring on the brisket and it had been trimmed enough that there was a just the right amount of fat along one side of the slices.  

The BBQ was decent.  The pulled pork was good, but a little bland.  The brisket was tasty, but a little chewier than I prefer.  The house chips weren’t much more than kettle cooked potatoe chips, and my wife described the BBQ beans as “the worst she had ever had”.  In fairness, her comments reflect a personal bias.  That is a bias against beans with an overpowering flavor of molasses and apple pie.  They were unique and very sweet, but not my cup of tea either.

Here’s how I’d rate my trip to A Fine Swine in New Baden, IL.

  • BBQ – B
  • Side Dishes – C
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – B
  • Overall – B+

If you find yourself in the area, I would recommend you give them a try.  i know I will the next time I find myself in New Baden.  

Here’s how to find them:

A Fine Swine

423 Hanover St.

New Baden, IL 62265

http://www.afineswine.com

Cheers,

Braddog

My Visit to Peg Leg Porker – Nashville, TN

Rather than write a review of Carey Bringle’s BBQ joint, Peg Leg Porker, this entry will simply be a description of my visit.  You see, I met Carey a few years ago when we both attended a seminar called “The Business of BBQ” hosted by Mike & Amy Mills at 17th Street Barbeque in Murphysboro, IL.  Subsequently, I hung out with Carey and his competition team at Priase the Lard a couple of times and helped him serve at the first annual Kentucky State BBQ Festival.  So to say that I’m predisposed to enjoy my trip to Peg Leg Porker would be an understatement. 

My daughter is in the process of selecting an institution of higher learning, so that drew us to Nashville for a college visit.  While the family enjoyed learning about some of the finer points of college dining halls, I discovered that Peg Leg Porker was only a short drive away.  I excused myself from the cafeteria line and hit the road.

I’d seen a numer of photos from Carey’s social media sites, so I quickly recognized the place when I saw it.  Located in an area of Nashville called The Gulch, Peg Leg Porker is in a trendy area of Southwest Nashville and a popualr destination for locals and college students.

Out front, Peg Leg Porker has a whole hog pit that they use on occassion and plenty of patio seating.  Inside, the front wall is graced with a huge bar, TV’s, beer, and spirits, including Peg Leg Porker bourbon.  But that’s a topic for another time.  At the back of the place, a counter sits in front of the open kitchen.  Like any good BBQ joint, the menu is simple and displayed above the register.

Being familiar with Peg Leg Porker, there was no doubt that I was having the dry ribs.  So I ordered up a 1/2 a rack with a couple of sides, a glass of sweet tea, and settled down to enjoy me some Tennessee BBQ.  And, I was not disappointed.  The ribs were just the way I remembered them and my only regret is that I only ordered a 1/2 a rack.

When I finished, I bought a trucker hat with the Peg Leg Porker logo and headed back to meet up with the family.  Carey was out of town this particular weekend, so we didn’t get a chance to reconnect.  I did get a chance to talk with one of his crew that I’d met before.  

I’m not sure how this college search will turn out, but I’m pulling for Belmont Unviversity.  That would keep me in Nashville and good BBQ for the next 4 years!

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Fire & Smoke – O’fallon, IL

I’m going to tip my hand right away and say this about my trip to Fire-N-Smoke.  I don’t care if you trim your brisket before or after you cook it, but for the love of BBQ trim it before you serve it.  A litte fat on a brisket is expected, but this was waaaay too much.  Sorry for the rant, now let’s talk about the rest of my visit.

Fire-N-Smoke opened recently in a location that has been a couple of different restaurants over the past few years.  Luckily for them, the shopping area round the location seems to have reached critical mass and there’s enough traffic flow that they should be able to make a go of it.  Not to mention, the facility lends itself nicely to being a BBQ joint.

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Like most BBQ  joints these days it seems, the menu is a giant chalkboard and orders are placed at the counter.  I was pleased to see that they seemed to have all of the bases covered, as well as having a long list of salads, sandwiches, etc.  I ordered the 2 meat platter (like I normally do when I’m trying a new place), and the Mrs. ordered her usual pulled pork sandwich with baked beans.

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The food was delivered quickly and looked awesome.  I was pleased to seee a nice smoke ring on the brisket and see that the pork was truly pulled and not chopped.  The side dishes were served uniquely in individual sized pie tins, and the whole mess was piled on a large tray covered with butcher paper.  In the case of the platter, bread & butter also accompanied the meal.

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The brisket was my favorite, despite my earlier comments about it needing to be trimmed.  The pulled pork was good, although it suffered a little from being re-heated.  The Mrs. liked the addition of cole slaw to the sandwich.  That’s the way a pulled pork sandwich should be served after all.  The beans were good, if only dressed up canned beans, but the sweet potato dish was outstanding.  There was a thin sauce spread across the meat on the platter and a little bit on the sandwich.  My wife’s only complaint was that she’d like to have had a little more sauce, though oddly enough there was no bottle of sauce on the table.  In this day & age, most places overwhelm you with sauce choices so it was odd not to find any at all on the table. Zip, Zilch, Nada.

I was a little surprised at the light crowd at 1:00pm on a Saturday, but I think Fire-N-Smoke should do just fine.  As I said, they definitely have a good location, although there is plenty of competition from other restaurants as well.

Here’s how I’d rate my trip to Fire-N-Smoke in O’fallon, IL.

  • BBQ – B-
  • Side Dishes – A
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – B
  • Overall – B+

I’d recommend this place and I’m sure I’ll eat there again.  Here’s the specifics on Fire-N-Smoke.

Fire-N-Smoke Wood Fired Kitchen

1214 Central Park Dr.

O’fallon, IL 62269

Open 11:00am-9:00pm

Cheers,
Braddog

Review: Gobblestop Smokehouse

This is unique.  A BBQ joint that specializes in chicken & turkey.  You won’t find pork & brisket on the menu at the Gobble Stop Smokehouse, just poultry.  And darned good poultry too.

I headed over for lunch today after spotting it on Google Maps recently.  I found it in an older shopping plaza, like a lot of good BBQ joints these days.  It’s a pretty unassuming place, but behind the counter they’re making some magic!

I ordered one of the house specialties, smoked chikcen wings with a side order of BBQ beans at the counter.  A short while later, they delivered a plate of 8 large, meaty wings with sliced white bread, my side of beans, and a side of BBQ sauce to my table.

The wings were meaty, and smokey, and delicious!  They were lightly seasoned and smoked to perfection.  After the first taste, the sauce and sides were nearly forgotten.  However, I did get around to trying both.  The beans?  Well, they were jazzed up beans from a can.  And the sauce?  Probably right out of a bottle.

But I didn’t care.  Did I mention how good the wings were?  And the folks running the place were super friendly and took great care of not only me, but the other lunch patrons as well.

Here’s my score card for the Gobble Stop Smokehouse:

So here’s how I’d rate Hill Country BBQ:

  • BBQ – A
  • Side Dishes – C
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – A
  • Service – A
  • Overall – B+

If you get to north-west St Louis county, you can find them here:gobblestopsmokehouse.net1227 Castillons Arcade Plz, Creve Coeur, MO 63141(314) 878-5586

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Hill Country BBQ – New York City

I caught a wiff of wood smoke while I was still more than a block away, and my mouth began to water.  You see, I’ve never eaten BBQ in Texas so this opportunity to eat at Hill Country BBQ in New York City was as close as I’ve been.  

When work took me to the city, I began to scout for one of the BBQ joints that have sprung up there that I’ve read about.  Then, I realized that Hill Country BBQ was only a dozen or so blocks from where I was staying.  Immediately, I began to plot a night to myself when I could make the walk for dinner.

Hill Country BBQ – 26th St & 6th Ave – NYC

Hill Country BBQ is a tribute to the central Texas markets that began serving BBQ over the counter, by the pound, wrapped in butcher paper, and served with saltine crackers.  Just like those markets turned BBQ joints, Hill Country serves the BBQ the same way; over the counter and by the pound.

The meat counter at Hill Country BBQ

The menu consisted not only of beef, but also pork, chicken, and sausage from Kreuz Market in Texas.  At Hill Country, you order your meat at the counter and specify the amount (by weight) that you’d like or in the case of ribs, how many bones.  I opted for 1/3 lb. of lean brisket (that’s cut from the brisket flat, but you can also order “moist” brisket cut from the point) and a single pork rib.  They cut the meat, weighed it on a butcher scale, wrapped it in brown butcher paper, and handed it over with a half sleeve of saltines.

Then, I headed over to the counter where they served sides.  Sweet Potato Bourbon Mashed caught my eye so I ordered that and a side of green bean casserole.  The server was at my table when I got there and my order was complete with a glass of sweet tea.

I’ll cut to the chase and say that the food was excellent.  In fact, this is probably the best brisket (from a restaurant anyway) that I’ve eaten.  The pork rib was pretty good.  A little tougher than I expected but it had a great flavor.  And the sides?  Fuggetaboutit!  I could go  back and just eat side items.  The sweet potato dish was amazing, and I loved the comfort food style green beans.  There were plenty of other sides as well as desserts, but frankly I can’t eat that much.

Really, the only negative comment I have about my experience at Hill Country BBQ is the cost.  I mean, I know I was eating in New York City, but brisket at $26/lb?  That seems excessive.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, my dinner (for only me) was ~$39.  That’s with nothing from the bar or dessert.

So here’s how I’d rate Hill Country BBQ:

  • BBQ – A
  • Side Dishes – A
  • Atmosphere – A
  • Value – C
  • Service – A
  • Overall – A-

No doubt about it, this is one of the best BBQ joints I’ve eaten at.  Frankly, I didnt’ expect that to be the case.  If you get to New York, here’s where you can find Hill Country BBQ:

30 West 26th Street
New York, NY 10010

They also have locations in Brooklyn and Washington, DC.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Beast Craft BBQ – Belleville, IL

BBQ joints seem to be opening every other week in my area.  Recently, Beast Craft BBQ opened up in the location of a former diner.  I’ve been anxious to try it out, and today I finally had a chance.  

A friend and I agreed to meet for lunch at 11:30.  The parking lot was pretty full when we arrived and when we went inside, the line was 20+ people long and there were no empty tables.  I figured this was a good sign.  However, nearly every table in one of the dining areas were waiting for their food and the line hardly moved.  In fact, more than a few potential customers in line behind and ahead of us chose to go elsewhere based on the slow service.

All that aside, how was the BBQ?  Pretty darned good.  I had the brisket sandwich and hand cut fries, while my lunch mate had the pulled pork sandwich and corn on the cob.  All the items were very tasty.  The brisket sandwich was served with grilled onions and a house mustard.  The pulled pork was served with slaw on the sandwich (as it should be).

Brisket Sandwich with Hand-cut Fries

Pulled Pork Sandwich w/Slaw & Grilled Corn

Beast Craft is bucking one of the most common trends in BBQ joints these days.  There was “1”, count ’em, “1” bottle of BBQ sauce on the table.  And, it was very good.  In fact, it might be my favorite part of the meal.  I saw no evidence that they’re bottling and selling this sauce, but they should.

I also like that they are selling soft drinks from a local bottler and not the big guys.  However, no self-respecting BBQ joint should ever sell sweet tea that is mango flavored.  That’s just wrong.

If they can address their customer flow and service issues (and lose the mango flavored tea), I believe that they’ll do just fine.  Here’s my report card for my visit to Beast Craft BBQ:

  • BBQ – B+
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – B
  • Service – C
  • Overall – B-

And, here’s their location & contact info:

Beast Craft BBQ

20 S Belt W Belleville, IL 62220

Give ’em a shot, I think you’ll like it,

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Sugarfire Smokehouse – St. Louis, MO

I’m not a huge fan of chain restaurants, even if they are BBQ joints. Which is why I had not noticed that the Dickey’s BBQ near my office had suddenly been converted to Sugarfire Smokehouse. I figured it was a good sign that they always seemed to be busy at lunch time. In fact, too busy for me to try the place. But this weekend, I happened by there just after they opened and was finally able to try it out.

I was encouraged by the Ole Hickory smoker sitting on the patio right by the front door. Thats an odd place for your pit, but I’ve eaten some really food BBQ out of one of those pits, so i took it as another good sign. There a few remnants of the former Dickey’s, but I was encouraged to see the place rearranged with the kitchen in full view and lots of employees busily prepping for the lunch crowd.

Like a lot of classic BBQ joints, the menu was written in chalk at the order station. That’s not a bad thing, unless you use a lot of unique names for your menu items. There’s no place on the chalkboard to describe what a “Big Muddy” sand which is for example.

Nonetheless, I ordered up the 2 meat platter and watched as the guy at the counter pulled out a large tray covered with butcher paper and piled on pulled pork and freshly sliced brisket. Down the cafeteria-style line I went, adding bbq beans and hand cut fries to my meal. And like any self respecting BBQ joint, sweet tea completed my order.

I grabbed a seat at one of the tables left over from the days as a Dickey’s franchise and eyed the four bottles of clearly homemade sauces that seem to be a requirement for any BBQ joint these days. I got what I expected from the Texas Hot, Sweet BBQ, & White Sauces. But I cautiously tried the “Cherry” sauce as indicated (as they all were) by the handwritten masking tape label. Let me just say that I hope that’s not a regular sauce and just an experiment, cause it was not good.

Other than my dislike of the Cherry sauce, I didn’t find another thing that wasn’t good. The pork & brisket were moist and tender, the bark was tasty, and the sides were very good. The portions were very generous, and I found the meal to be a good value overall.

Here’s how I’d rate my visit to Sugarfire Smokehouse:

BBQ – A

Side Dishes –

Atmosphere – B-

Value – A-

Overall – A

I keep a list of the best BBQ joints in St Louis. Since I’m the resident BBQ snob among my friends & family, I’m often asked where to get good BBQ. Sugarfire Smokehouse just made the short list. If you’re interested, here’s their particulars:

Sugarfire Smokehouse
http://www.sugarfiresmokehouse.com
9200 Olive Blvd.
Olivette, MO 63132
St. Louis, MO, USA

Business Hours:
11am – 9PM Daily

Cheers,
Braddog