Tag: review

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: Ro-Man Pork Puller

while ago, I wrote about a prototype pork puller that I created based on a product that I’d seen on the web.  My DIY pork puller worked okay, but the materials weren’t all that substation.  I used a rotissiere rod and clamp from a Weber gas grill inserted into a cordless drill.  While that worked fine for light use at home, it just didn’t hold up over time.

This is my DIY version

I considered building another one on my own but considering the investment had already made and the cost to do it again, I decided that I’d just spring for the product that my design was based on, the Ro-Man Pork Puller.

To clarify, Santa Claus brought me the Pork Puller and I’ve used it all spring.  Now that I’ve had a chance to evaluate it extensively, I thought I’d document my observations.

The significantly more substantial Ro-Man Pork Puller

In short, this thing is WAY better than my DIY model.  The stainless stell tines and the disk that they are welded too are significantly sturdier than my rotissiere based model.  The shaft that is inserted into a cordless drill is also substantial, and it’s long enough to easily reach to the bottom of a large stock pot.

Is it worth $68.95?  Well, I’ll answer that a couple of ways.  If you cook a lot of pulled pork and have to pull more than 2 at a time, then absolutley.  Secondly, you’re talking to a guy that spent $90 on a quick read thermometer.  I’ve spent this much money on lesser products, that’s for sure.  For me, it as well worth the investment and believe that I’ve gotten my money’s worth just using it for the graduation parties that I cooked for this spring.

Check out the videos and links over at http://www.porkpuller.com and pick one up for yourself.  

Cheers,
Braddog

Review: iGrill Mini

Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of wireless thermometers.  But they’ve always left a lot to be desired in terms of reliability of the connection between the probe and the monitor.  Each time I try one of these gadgets, I’m hopeful that this will be the one.

Well, this may finally be the one.  I received an iGrill Mini for Christmas, but only recently got around to trying it out.  I unboxed it and had it set up in a a matter of minutes.  Man!  This thing is really small.  

Next, I simply downloaded the app from iTunes and powered up the Mini and I was all set.

I inserted the probe in a packer brisket in my Backwoods cooker, and used the magnetic base to stick the sending unit to the side of the pit.  Over the next couple of hours, I wondered around the house while the app on my iPhone kept me up to date on the progres of my brisket.

If I ventured outside of the wireless range, the app quickly re-paired itself to the probe when I got back in range.  This took no action on my part.  The app graphed the progress over time and I was able to set a target temp.  When the brisket hit that temperature, the app alerted me accordingly.

One of the other near things about the app is the ability to see other users of iGrill devices via the iPhones location services.

I only have 2 complaints.  First, although the battery life is stated at 150 hrs, mine died in the middle of my second cook.  Second, I should have waited for the 4 probe version due out later this year.  I’d also be interested in picking up one of the ambient temperature probes to monitor the cooking temp of the pit.

Overall, I’m optimisitc and will continue to use the Mini to see if the battery life continues to be poor.  I’ll provide an update as I learn more.

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

Review: Hutchens BBQ – Benton, KY

Every spring, I head down to Kentucky Lake for some spring fishing with my dad and my brother.  We have a good time fishing, laughing, and eating.  A couple of times, we’ve stumbled across BBQ joints that I would have never found otherwise.  Such was the case this year when we happened upon Hutchens BBQ in Benton, KY.

Untitled

This was clearly a local joint serving lots more than BBQ, but BBQ is what we were there for.  There were a good number of locals in the place, but we were welcomed right off and offered up sweet tea while we looked over the menu (I love sweet tea).  I realized that we had arrived only 20 minutes before closing time, so we placed our orders quickly and learned a little about the history of the place.

In 1947, W.C. Hutchens purchased a building in downtown Benton, Kentucky to open a new restaurant. The first menu included a variety of items such as BBQ sandwiches, hamburgers, cokes, fountain drinks, coffee, BLTs, hot ham and cheese, country ham sandwiches, hot dogs, and lots of ice cream and milkshakes.

Since then the restaurant has grown into a full-service dining experience but still values the importance of taste, good service, and hospitality. We still make a world-class BBQ sandwich as well. 

My brother and I ordered the large BBQ sandwich and dad order the turkey.  We were served up really large sandwiches with our choice of mild, medium, or hot BBQ sauce.  I had the medium.  It was a thin sauce with a nice kick.  The pork was very tender and while it had a definite smoke ring, there was an absence of any other seasoning as far as I could tell.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the BBQ and would recommend the place.

I love finding little BBQ joints like Hutchens in the places that I visit.  These joints have a long history in their communities and are obviously doing something right or they wouldn’t last as long as they have.  

Here’s how I’d rate my visit to Hutchens BBQ:

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

If you find yourself in Benton, KY for a little fishing or boating, make your way over to Hutchens BBQ.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  I know I wasn’t, and I look forward to stopping in again when we make the trip next year.

Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Sonny’s BBQ – Cape Coral, FL

I recently visited my folks in Southwest Florida.  They know that I’d rather eat BBQ than just about anything else, and they also like to share their discoveries with me.  So, when it came time to grab lunch they steered us towards the Sonny’s BBQin Cape Coral.  

Sonny’s is a BBQ franchise with locations in 9 states.  A quick look at their website find ~125 locations listed.  With that kind of succes, you’d think they must do something right.  Turns out, they do.

The place was pretty nice and business was a bit slow given that we were late for lunch and early for dinner.  Nonetheless, we ordered up some sweet tea and took a look at the menu.  It was extensive.  I opted for a trip to the salad bar and the brisket plate with a couple of sides.  Turns out, I should have skipped the salad bar.  The brisket portion was generous, and the side dishes were large as well.

The brisket was sliced thin and had a good flavor.  I had a little more fat on my plate than I’d prefer, but it was tastey.  There was a variety of sauces on the table, all original Sonny’s flavors.  They were all pretty good, but I opted to enjoy my brisket without sauce.  My folks went for the sweet sauce and enjoyed it as well.

They had a decent selection of side dishes.  I opted for cole slaw and green beans since I’ve been trying to watch my diet a little.  They were both very good, but I was sure wishing for that I’d ordered some of the BBQ beans or baked sweet potato that my folks enjoyed.  They looked great.

Here’s how I’d rate my trip to Sonny’s:

  • BBQ – B
  • Side Dishes – B
  • Atmosphere – B
  • Value – B
  • Overall – B

Overall, a solid joint that I’d enjoy eating at again.  And, given their growing footprint that’s highly likely.


Cheers,
Braddog 

Review: Tommy Bahama Blackberry Brandy BBQ Sauce

It’s Christmas time, and as usual there were a couple of BBQ and foodie items under the tree this year.  One of them, was a bottle of Tommy Bahama Blackberry Brandy BBQ Sauce.  The label states is great for pork, so I fired up the grill and grilled up some boneless pork loin chops to give it a try.

The sauce was thinner than I expected it to be.  It was nearly as thin as Worcestershire sauce.  And frankly, it wasn’t as flavorful as I’d hoped.  It didn’t get sticky and create the glaze I was hoping for.  I did enjoy the flavor, althought I can’t say it was necessarily blackberry or brandy flavored.  It turns out, that the sauce was better as a dipping sauce than as a cooking sauce.  

I definitely enoyed it enough to finish the bottle, but I don’t think I’ll be buying any more of this novelty sauce.

Cheers,
Braddog