In case you’d rather just scroll through all my food reviews vs. individual pages:
Restaurant Name: Lyles BBQ
Address: 3101 Clays Mill Road, Lexington, KY 40503
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The 2019 Bang Bang BBQ Tour comes to an end and Lyles BBQ in Lexington, KY is the restaurant in the clean-up position. Will they hit it out of the park or will one of the earlier five places take home the championship for best BBQ experience in Kentucky & Tennessee? Let’s find out!
Lyles BBQ sits in a street facing storefront off of Clays Mill Road on the southwest side of Lexington and only a few miles away from the University of Kentucky. On the outside they have a cool looking sign with an American flag hanging just below it. I found out the place was started by a veteran so that was awesome to hear!
For my final meal of the trip I went with a classic! Beef brisket sandwich, baked beans, and mac & cheese. I also ordered an extra side of hushpuppies. My friends with me ordered the pulled pork sandwich, beef brisket, same sides as me, but we also split a 1/2 pound of burnt ends.
When my food came out, the very first thing I noticed was a FULL PLATE of food! Every square inch of the metal tray pretty much covered with food or had food within an inch of it which makes the meal even more delicious when it comes to me. They do say that you eat with your eyes before you do your mouth and this plate didn’t disappoint.
The brisket sandwich was really good. It had a great tenderness that wasn’t falling apart and it surprisingly had a really good smoke flavor even though the brisket slices really didn’t have a smoke ring that we typically see with smoked brisket. The baked beans actually had chunks of brisket in it which was an intriguing add to beans as it’s very common to see pulled pork added to it. I will say the brisket did add a nice texture to the beans that was different in a good way. It added the smokey flavor I like in beans and overall the beans were tasty. The mac & cheese was really good but lacked the creaminess I like in mac & cheese. The choice to use shells in lieu of macaroni was a nice twist. There was a subtle hint of smoke to the mac & cheese as well. I just wish the cheese portion was more creamy vs. sticky. The hushpuppies were FIRE! Near PERFECT! I like my hush puppies to have a crunch on the outside and a fluffy, airy, soft inside and these hush puppies were super super close to reaching that. I’m thinking 10 more seconds in the fryer and they would’ve been 100% spot on to the best hush puppies I’ve ever had.
Lyles has an array of sauces at the table and 1 sauce on ice near the counter you order at. The highlight of this meal was the Alabama white sauce…the sauce at the counter that was on ice. If you’re unfamiliar with the Alabama white sauce and why it’d be on ice you should know the base of this sauce is mayonnaise vs. vinegar or tomatoes but has horseradish and a few other spices mixed into it for a creamy and robust flavorful sauce. The white sauce at Lyles was awesome. I put it on the brisket sandwich, burnt ends, brisket, and hush puppies and it made every bite even better.
The only “negative” I have about this meal I had mentioned earlier and it was the lack of a smoke ring on the brisket. Not sure if the meat just “grayed” on them or not as it was still smokey but just not visually speaking smokey.
Lyles BBQ was a place that interacted with me on Instagram when I mentioned I was coming and they said they were looking forward to having me there and they’re product performed excellently. The experience was so good it earned them the championship of the 2019 Bang Bang BBQ Tour! They scored an adjusted BGI (BBQ Guru Index) of 4.617 points out of 5 possible points running away by .367 points to Knoxville based Sweet P’s BBQ. Congrats Lyles BBQ!
Restaurant Name: Archer’s BBQ (West Knox)
Address: 10205 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37922
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Our original plan for Sunday’s dinner was to journey up to Lexington, KY and enjoy Lyle’s BBQ. We ended up doing a round of sporting clays at Chilhowee Sportsman Club right at the foot of the Smokey Mountains and it was AWESOME! A great scenic view pretty much on every station. This round of sporting clays took us longer than usual and we weren’t going to be able to make it to Lyle’s in time for dinner so we pushed that place to lunch tomorrow.
Our dinner tonight featured another place highly touted in the Knoxville, TN area for really good BBQ and that’s Archer’s BBQ. Archer’s has 4 locations in the Knoxville, TN area and since time was short, we went to the West Knox location. If I could’ve done a little bit more research I would’ve chosen a different location as this location doesn’t cook any meats on site, instead they’re delivered each morning which means the meats are all kept in warmers all day and that poses some challenges to smoked meats.
My friends and I each ordered the meat trio plate which consisted of some pulled pork, some pulled chicken, and about 3 pork ribs. My plate had sides of collard greens and the BBQ baked beans.
When you order at the counter the food is plated in front of you very similar to Sweet P’s BBQ. When I look at my plate it looks like a typical weekend BBQ cookout with your friends plate…but I did notice the very fine attention to plating that the people at Archers BBQ did as they kind of layered the meats on top of each other. The bottom of the plate was a thick cut piece of Texas toast with half of it covered in pulled pork and the other half covered in the pulled chicken with the trio of pork ribs on top. That attention to detail gives me hope that the food is just as good as their detail.
The food was pretty tasty. My favorite had to be the ribs. They were seasoned very well and didn’t have any sauce which let me try a variety of their house made sauces all themed in different regions like Memphis and Kansas City. The best sauce though was 1000% the Carolina mustard sauce. That sauce was the BOSS! The ribs were good, the pulled pork was good, the chicken wasn’t up to my par…it was saved though by the mustard sauce. I put the mustard sauce on every meat and it complimented every single bite. The beans had really good flavor, but not the texture I like. I like my beans thick & chunky and almost sticky but they were full of flavors of smoke and their rubs.
I was disappointed in the chicken. It could’ve just been a bad batch or could’ve just been because it was the end of the day sitting in a warmer but the chicken that I had was dry and no visual hint that it had even been smoked. As I mentioned earlier, the Carolina mustard sauce saved the chicken. The collard greens were good but I think they needed to be chopped a little bit more. They were really tender but each bite ended up being a lot of greens and I just prefer them a little more chopped up.
For a last-minute, on the go, change of plans place Archer’s BBQ held strong especially for a location that doesn’t do cooking in house. Next time I’m in Knoxville, TN I’ll definitely try to visit one of their locations that has a full kitchen and pit and see if it’s the same or not. The West Knox location I’d definitely recommend for lunch as I’m assuming they get everything a little bit before 11 AM when they open and those meats are prolly only an hour or so off the pit.
Restaurant Name: Sweet P’s BBQ (Downtown Dive)
Address: 410 W. Jackson Ave, Knoxville, TN 37902
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Lunch today took us to downtown Knoxville, TN to Sweet P’s BBQ. Me and my friend Ryan passed through Knoxville on our East Coast BBQ Tour in 2015 and had a really good experience at Dead End BBQ. Since I had already revisited a place on a previous tour (Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ) on this tour, I wanted to try something new and Sweet P’s BBQ came up on a lot of lists of people’s favorite BBQ joints in Knoxville.
At Sweet P’s, I ordered the chicken plate dinner which consisted of a chicken quarter, a side of mac & cheese, a side of smoked pinto beans, and a slice of cornbread. I added a BBQ burrito and a bacon chocolate chip cookie for dessert. My friends ordered a two meat plate of ribs & brisket with mac & cheese and one ordered a pulled pork sandwich a side of mac & cheese and slaw and a ¼ rack of ribs.
You order at the counter at Sweet P’s and they assemble your plate in front of you. One thing I thought that was really unique to Sweet P’s vs. other BBQ restaurants I’ve been to is they apply a finishing rub to all their smoked meats. The meats appear to be smoked low and slow and not sauced but finished with a fresh application of their house rub. The finisher rub really makes the meat pop on the plate which is always good. The mac & cheese has some of the charred top in it which adds a nice visual color change. The pinto beans were OK to the eye and looked like beans. They were out of the “greens and things” that I was really hoping to try. The cornbread comes already cut and saran wrapped along with the bacon chocolate chip cookie. You could see the bits and pieces of bacon in the cookie though so that was appealing to the eye. The burrito is wrapped in foil so no seeing the finished product until you roll it out.
Taste wise, big fan of the chicken quarter, mac & cheese, and the burrito. The chicken was smoked perfectly and had a very balanced flavor of smoke and the rub and best of all, CHICKEN! Chicken is a tough meat to BBQ as it’s easy to lose the flavor of chicken with all the rubs and sauces that people add to it but Sweet P’s lets the smoke & the rub compliment the natural flavor of the chicken. The chicken was also really moist & tender. The skin though not bite through like a competition was really tasty when I ate it. The mac & cheese was delicious and dreamy! The noodles had a really good chew and the cheese mixture was really creamy. You could eat the mac & cheese with either a fork or a knife and you would’ve been able to get a really good bite. The burritto was simply a BBQ plate wrapped up in a tortilla. It had a really “explosion” of flavor from the smoked meat, the beans, the slaw, and the BBQ sauce all conglomerating together into a single bite and it was really good.
The pinto beans I wasn’t a big fan of. They seemed a little dry but they were a little smokey so that was something going for it. The cornbread I could’ve done without. It was very dry and no butter around…probably just a bad batch but it wasn’t appealing for me. I had high hopes for the bacon chocolate chip cookie but it ended up tasting mostly like a chocolate chip cookie. There were some subtle “salty” enhancements I think from the bacon pieces but I was expecting a little bit more bacon flavor than what I got.
All in all, Sweet P’s BBQ in Knoxville, TN was a great visit and you should visit it too if you’re in town. They have a cool looking chalkboard menu and a great “part of the neighborhood” feel and the food backs it up.
Restaurant Name: Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ
Address: 2265 S. Third Street, Memphis, TN 38109
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While looking in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee for some of the best BBQ around we had to swing through Memphis. Probably the most staple of a BBQ city in the state there’s always a trio of places to visit when looking for BBQ in Memphis. A lot of people will talk about the ribs at Rendezvous or the crazy rubs at Central BBQ, but when looking for the best “overall” BBQ experience, I had to go to Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ.
Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ is actually a place that I visited on my very first BBQ Tour back in 2014 with my friends Ryan and Jon. Since the original visit, Interstate BBQ has grown into a couple more locations include the airport in Memphis, but the one we visited was the one on the west side of town. The building appears to have had some refinishing done to it as the giant mural I had a picture with on my first trip was gone. The building may have had a little bit of a facelift, but the food was tried & true just as I remembered.
On my first trip, my friends and I were in the hunt for the best ribs in the country. On this trip, my friends and I are looking for the best overall BBQ experience so we each got a spread of our own food and we like to sample different meats and sides. I went with an order of the rib tips with a side of baked beans and potato salad and a side of BBQ spaghetti. Yes, you read that right…BBQ spaghetti! My friends both ordered the sampler platter which had pulled pork, brisket, smoked sausage, pork ribs, & beef ribs with sides of BBQ spaghetti, coleslaw, & beans.
I REALLY liked the food I ordered! The rib tips look AMAZING when it comes out to you. About a dozen tips, each one probably 2 ounces each sitting in a bed of the house sauce covered in the house sauce and smelling smokey delicious and they definitely were. The meat itself if you get your fingers into it, which you have to do in order to really investigate them, has a nice smoke ring to it, is super tender, and the sauce compliments the meat so well. The sauce is sort of tangy and a little runny but it is definitely NOT lacking in flavor.
The sides of potato salad and baked beans were good and traditional sides. The beans did have a good smokey flavor as well so if you like that hit of smoke in your BBQ baked beans definitely order them. The BBQ Spaghetti…the one thing I was definitely looking forward to because it caught me so off guard from when I first came here 6 years ago and it still is uniquely delicious. Your first thought when you read “BBQ Spaghetti” is probably one of “Huh?” or “What the?” and I was in that boat when i first read it on the menu 6 years ago. I ordered a 4 oz side of it last year, i did a 12 oz entree of it this year and it brought back all the feels of when I first put my taste buds to the experience. It’s a simple dish: spaghetti noodles, pulled pork, BBQ sauce, and dry rub…mix it all together…and it’s DELICIOUS! It is a little spicy, but it’s nothing crazy.
This place really makes it difficult to find anything “not quite as I expected” as it was all excellent. Our server was great. The food was phenomenal. The only thing I could knock them on is the presentation of the food. I love my smoked meats and sauce, but maybe not everything completely smothered in it. It’s nit picking I know but had to come up with something.
In summary, this go around at Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ was a GREAT experience! I loved the food and the atmosphere and it’s definitely a place that I recommend everyone visit if you’re in Memphis or passing through it. The saying of “everything is good” is so true when it comes to the smoked meats. You MUST MUST MUST try the BBQ spaghetti if you visit, even if it’s the small 4 oz side portion. It’s a great experience that I know every taste bud would love to go on.
Restaurant Name: Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, Inc.
Address: 2840 West Parish Avenue, Owensboro, KY 42301
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Our first stop for dinner for the 2019 Bang Bang BBQ Tour took us to a restaurant that I saw in an episode of BBQ Pitmasters called Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn.
Moonlite is located on the west side of Owensboro, KY in beautiful rustic red brick building. The restaurant is a majority of the building but there is also a general store type of place on the side that sells sauces, rubs, shirts, and a few other southern themed trinkets. The restaurant side has a “fancy” restaurant in the wild outdoors woods type of theme with some nice dim lights, a wood burning fireplace (thankfully not on because it’s summer time), and an atmosphere that is true southern hospitality.
The most unique thing about Moonlite is that it has a true legit all you can eat BBQ buffet!?!?!?!?!?! That’s right…a buffet…of BBQ smoked meats! The BBQ smoked meats on the buffet featured the staples: chicken, pork, brisket, and spare ribs. The buffet also featured a Kentucky BBQ staple: mutton! If you don’t know what mutton is look it up. It’s very unique and quite tasty too.
This plate is a bit messy but it is a plate of literally every smoked meat on the buffet. There’s a chicken leg on the top, a spare rib right next to it, some pork chunks between the rib & the chicken leg and the fried cornbread muffin, beef brisket slices on the lower left and the chopped mutton on the right. This plate was awesome. I can’t quite tell if I was still giddy from the fact that I could go back and get more of this food or from the sheer size of this meat plate.
Some quick thoughts on this plate: The mutton was delicious! It was interestingly enough more “beefy” in flavor than I expected but it was good to not have a gamey flavored lamb meat. The chicken leg was sweet & tender. The pork chunks with sauce were moist & delicious, but if it didn’t have sauce it was a little dry. The spare rib was fall apart so overdone but the sauce saved it and I’m pretty sure I was still giddy at the fact that I was eating at a BBQ buffet. The brisket was ON POINT! The slices were perfect tenderness. A good pull test qualifier each time with a visible smoke ring showed that it was truly cooked low and slow.
My second plate at the BBQ buffet did feature some sides. I went back for more BBQ pork chunks and chicken as they were tasty, but added a side of baked beans and mac and cheese. The beans were average…they had a little bit of smoke flavor but nothing really took it over the top for me. The mac and cheese had a really nice burnt crust on it and it was super creamy!
My third plate at the buffet (who’s counting?!?!?!) I only got more brisket but tried sides of green beans, ham & beans, and the creamed corn. Of these side dishes the creamed corn stood out the most as it was creamy but it was also using like baby kernels of corn which added a little twist to the texture of each bite. I do want to note that the cornbread muffins were LEGIT! I couldn’t get this confirmed but I’m almost 100% certain they bake them to about 90% doneness and then drop them into the deep fryer until done as the outer crust was CRUNCHY!
After three plates of smoked meats, sides, and cornbread muffins…I found room for dessert! I didn’t finish them though even though there were really tasty. The picture above features a peanut butter pie in the middle, chocolate covered pecan pie on the right, and a blackberry cobbler with ice cream on the left. All three were good caps to a delicious meal. My favorite was the peanut butter pie. It was light, creamy, and peanut buttery delicious and a great call on the Oreo crust! The cobbler and the chocolate covered pecan pie were also good, but I just couldn’t stuff it all in so had to tap out.
The service at Moonlite BBQ is great! I don’t think my sweet tea ever got less than 1/3 of my glass. Our server Bryan was on his game this evening. He had a very delicate balance of present but not like breathing down our necks. He was always offering to get us more of this or can I get this out of the way so kudos to the staff on training your employees to take care of their tables!
Buffets are some of my favorite places to go and most buffets these days rely on quantity of food vs. quality of food. Going into my first BBQ buffet I had mixed hopes honestly…I was thinking I’d have a large quantity of some of my favorite smoked meats that were prolly leftovers from the night before just reheated in a pit, and placed on a warmer but I was genuinely surprised to see all the meats are freshly smoked and Moonlite provides a really excellent product when it comes to BBQ to feed the masses for a buffet.
Restaurant Name: Feast BBQ
Address: 909 E. Market Street, Suite 100, Louisville, KY 40206
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The 2019 Bang Bang BBQ Tour is here! Me and my friends Adam and Jacob are on the prowl again for some of the best BBQ around. Last year we did a “Best of St. Louis” trip and after much debate we decided to do a Best of Kentucky & Tennessee trip this year.
Feast BBQ is located just east of downtown Louisville in the East Market district. It’s in a really cool looking storefront with an open air, exposed ceiling, backyard patio night-time type of vibe. The black painted exposed structure and rope light bulbs provide a nice homey type atmosphere when you walk in. They have a very cool looking bar area with a wide variety of craft beers from all over the area along with BOURBON milk shakes! We didn’t partake in any of the shakes because we had a round of sporting clays to do at Indian Creek Shooting Center shortly after lunch and as responsible gun owners we don’t mix firearms and alcohol.
When it comes to the food I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with a side of collard greens and a brisket taco on the side. Jacob ordered the pulled pork sandwich as well but had the baked beans as his side and some fried mac n cheese balls as well. Adam went with a half rack of ribs, mac n cheese, and baked beans.
My food review is going to be focusing on my specific meal. Let me start with the appearance of the food when it comes out. I liked the metal tray with butcher paper, it’s a nice step up from the plastic tray that a lot of BBQ places are notorious for. I liked the “open face” on the sandwich which highlighted some of the smoke on the pulled pork. The red onion slices had a nice color pop along with the cole slaw and green onion on top of the brisket taco.
The pulled pork sandwich was good. It had a nice amount of smokey flavors in it and mixed with any of their three sauces was a really nice bite every time. The bark pieces were totally delightful. The pulled pork itself was moist, tender, and smokey. I wish the bun would’ve had a little bit of char on it to get some firmness as the sandwich got a little soggy at the end.
The brisket taco was SPOT ON ON FIRE! When I return to Feast BBQ in the future, a trio of brisket tacos are definitely coming to my taste buds. This was my favorite part of the meal. The tacos just scream “I want to eat more of these ASAP!” and I really did want to order more after finishing this first one. I did the American style taco which had cole slaw, green onion, and BBQ sauce on top of the chopped brisket and every bite was awesome. Very balanced flavors and textures. I would’ve liked to have seen sliced brisket but I do understand tacos tend to go better with chopped brisket and I typically prefer flour tortillas over corn tortillas but they doubled up the shell so it held up well.
I will admit that I wasn’t a big fan at all of the collard greens. They smelled really good too but sadly didn’t deliver to my flavor pallet. The greens themselves were cooked to a good doneness, but they were really salty. There was a good amount of pulled pork in the greens too which probably added to the saltiness but overall I wasn’t impressed with the greens. I would recommend the beans or the mac n cheese.
Feast BBQ was a really good experience. Classic yet trendy atmosphere with legit smoked meats and scratch made sides. They had the big hole to fill of being the first stop on the 2019 Bang Bang BBQ Tour. They set the bar for the next few days worth of BBQ. We’ll see how they stack up!
In 2017, I did my annual BBQ Tour Trip and focused on just the state of Indiana. Visited six of the highest rated places outside of Indianapolis (my hometown) and the winner was Bombers BBQ in northwest Indiana in Munster. I didn’t have the food blog back then so I didn’t write about the winner, but I recently revisited this place coming back from the Chicago Auto Show with some college students from MyChurch Indy.
Bombers BBQ recently moved. I will admit that when I pulled up to their original location and saw a bunch of white paper signs posted on the glass I thought the worst had happened and the health department shut them down. I was very relieved when I walked up to the signs to see them simply say they’ve moved just down the street. Inside the restaurant it’s got a great open concept and cafeteria style tables so you can sit with new people and enjoy BBQ together! The exposed ceiling with pendant lighting is on point and really provides a warm feel to the place. The wall decorations showcase the Air Force and has a few jackets from past wars and some neat articles. The dining area has views into the kitchen where they assemble all the food so that’s cool.
Top Left: Baby Back Ribs & Fries
Top Right Top: Alligator Eggs = Deep Fried Oreos
Top Right Bottom: Beef Brisket, Coleslaw, & Mac & Cheese
Bottom: Brisket Burnt Ends, Mac & Cheese, & Fries
Brisket Burnt End Sandwich with smoked beans
Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
The three students I took with me on this trip each ordered a good array of BBQ. One student ordered a full rack of baby back ribs. They were super tender (too tender for competition) and flavorful with a good amount of smoke. The beef brisket just melted in your mouth. It was super tender as well (too tender for competition again using the tug method) and had a very solid smoke ring. The burnt ends were delicious. I’m used to them being sweeter so they needed a little bit of sauce but if you’re a fan of just straight salt & pepper flavor on your beef then Bombers burnt ends are on point. The sides were good. Mac & Cheese was the guys favorite and it was good. Creamy and I liked the fact that they used shells vs. macaroni…always a nice unique twist to the dish.
I ordered the brisket burnt end sandwich with beans and the bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers. Let me start this review talking about the appearance and the plating of the food. The food comes out on metal tray on plastic paper so that’s a good middle of the road plating. The bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers looked AWESOME! I could tell that the bacon was crispy which is an absolute must for me.
Having been at this place before, I set the bar pretty high and Bombers BBQ met it and in the grand scheme of the overall BBQ experience exceeded it. Sticking to just the review of the food I had, the burnt end sandwich was EXCELLENTLY done. The burnt ends as I mentioned earlier are simple (salt & pepper & smoke) and really allows the beef to do the talking. The burnt end chunks are a little larger than I typically see on a sandwich which caused a few pieces to fall off the sandwich. No biggie, as I got to eat those individually later.
The sandwich is served on a pretzel bun which is GENIUS! Past burnt end or brisket sandwiches I see a standard bun and if it’s not at least toasted some always makes the last few bites of the sandwich soggy. The pretzel bun, even though it wasn’t toasted any or at least didn’t appear to have been toasted any, held up very well to the moist brisket burnt ends.
The beans were good and had some of the pulled pork in it so it provided a good smokey flavor. The beans used were a little larger than I typically see for BBQ beans or baked beans which was a nice twist and they even provided a better texture as the beans were a little “meatier” so to say. The bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers weren’t nearly as spicy as I thought they’d be. Perhaps too much cheese? Regardless, it still tasted phenomenal and the bacon on the outside was SUPER CRISPY which is always a plus.
The only negative I’d have to say about the food is just the appearance and plating of the sandwich. The plate had too much “dead space” and made the sandwich look a little small. I think some red onion and pickle slices would’ve been a nice touch to the plate that could simply be used as garnish or could be used on the sandwich. It’d also provide some color that pops out to the eye.
Bombers BBQ in Munster, IN won the BBQ Tour in 2017 for a reason and it didn’t disappoint again. It’s a great overall BBQ experience that everyone should try if they’re passing through Chicago area. The place is a few miles off of the interstate so it’d be a good detour well worth it.
Restaurant Name: Peg Leg Porker BBQ
Address: 903 Gleaves Street, Nashville, TN 37203
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The end of 2018 ended pretty high for me. God did some AMAZING things in many areas of my life and I got to spend a few days out of town in Nashville, TN for the Music City Bowl where my beloved Purdue Boilermakers would play (if that’s what you called it) against the Auburn Tigers. Since the game really is of nothing to discuss, I’ll focus this post on the night before the games dinner that me and my two friends, ironically both named Matt, had at the Peg Leg Porker BBQ.
Peg Leg Porker BBQ is tucked just south and west of the infamous Broadway of downtown Nashville and Peg Leg Porker BBQ is worth the walk over. The building is old-school as they call it and it fits the bill but does have some modern touches. Upper level dining area for reservations, main level dining area for first come first serve seating along with an outdoor patio that’s covered. Not a lot of flash or flare on the main level dining area but the open concept and view into the kitchen is nice. The wall decorations are of country music stars and their visits to the restaurant.
BBQ Nachos – tortilla chips, pulled pork, nacho cheese, jalapeños
1/2 Rack of Ribs with french fries & smoked beans
Half chicken with green beans and mac ‘n cheese
The two Matt’s and I shared an order of the BBQ nachos. I ordered a half rack of ribs with fries and beans, one Matt ordered a half rack of ribs with fries & coleslaw (not pictured), and the other Matt ordered the half chicken with green beans & mac ‘n cheese.
Let me start this review talking about the appearance and the plating of the food. The food comes out on plastic baskets, which if y’all followed my posts from my 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour in St. Louis, MO you know this is a turn-off, but I understand the convenience of it all. The next thing about appearance and plating is the fact that the BBQ is not sauced or dry rubbed only. I did like the look of the ribs and the chicken from an outward appearance as it is always good to be able to see some rub on the meats. The jalapeños on the nachos add some contrasting colors.
I will admit that I was a little bit nervous when the meat came out just dry rubbed and not sauced. Most places don’t do this because it is difficult to keep the meat moist during the cooking process but Peg Leg Porker BBQ did a fabulous job. The ribs and the chicken were full of flavor but also moist and not dry at all! The ribs and chicken were a bit past the tenderness that I like as I was able to tear the meat off straight from the ribs or chicken and I like a little tug in my smoked meats. The side dishes were good. Fries are crispy but a little too salt. The Mac ‘n Cheese is very creamy, but the portion that I got was small in my opinion even for a side dish. I love the choice to use shells for their noodles as it’s a nice twist to macaroni. The green beans were a little bland.
The BBQ Nachos were excellent! The main thing I liked about them…ACTUAL NACHO CHEESE! Most places that do BBQ nachos just put some shredded cheese on top and pop it in the oven to melt the cheese, but Peg Leg Porker uses free flowing nacho cheese and get’s a big thumbs up for that.
The only negative I’d have to say about the food is the beans. Both the BBQ beans and the green beans seemed bland. Perhaps it was a bad batch or the bottom of a batch, but there just wasn’t must that really stood out about those side dishes. I think some pulled pork in both the BBQ beans the green beans would add a nice smokey depth of flavor complimentary to the smoked meats.
In closing, Peg Leg Porker BBQ is an absolute MUST VISIT if you’re passing through the Music City of Nashville, TN. They’re smoking meats the right way and if you’re looking for a flavor adventure of dry rubbed meats this is the place to get it from. If you’ve got time to spend a few hours in the downtown area take a stroll through Broadway and step in a few honky tonks and listen sit back and relax to the southern and country tunes of old and some new ones.
BAHN MI – NOVEMBER 9, 2018
Moontown Brewery is a place that I frequently visit. My work built the place, my boss is an owner of the place, they have dankly delicious beer, live music a lot of times, and of course very tasty food. I love the fact that they rotate their menu. Sometimes some of my favorite items are always there (Brisket Sandwich and Porky the Pig Flatbread) but sometimes some of my favorite things go away for a season like the pretzel nuggets and beer cheese. They did replace it with a a whole pretzel twist so that’s good.
One item that has been added to the menu for the fall is ‘Bahn Mi”. If you’ve never had Bahn Mi before YOU ARE MISSING OUT!
I ordered the Bahn Mi as soon as I saw it was added to the fall menu. As a lover of all things BBQ and smoked meats and especially pork belly, this was a no brainer for me to order and try. Decided to get this tasty sandwich with a side of french fries and dank glass of the Cecil IPA.
Let’s start with the fries real quick…freshly cut and fried to a good level of crispiness. One thing when it comes to fries that’s a big turn off is soft NOT crispy fries. These fries are on point, dash of salt, and go very well with the sandwich.
The Bahn Mi…at first glance comes open faced and looks amazing. The cucumbers obviously jump out as it kinda covers everything underneath it, but the color is nice on the eyes and the tray looks very full and not really empty which is always good when you’re getting a meal. If you take the cucumbers off the view of the sandwich is AMAZING! You can see all the components of the sandwich and even more colors come out with some orange from the carrots and yellows from the kimchi aioli.
Biting into this sandwich is a lot of fun. Great choice on the bread with a slight toast and crisp to it really makes the sandwich hold up well and the bread doesn’t get soggy. Each bite gives you a journey of flavors that your taste buds better have a passport. Smokey pork belly, sweet and sour kimchi, spicy jalapenos, and even the veggies compliment the flavors and add an added level of crunch in the middle of the sandwich. Great balanced flavors and decent portions of the sandwich components.
The only thing I’d really like to see changed to this sandwich is to have some of the cucumbers removed when the dish comes out so that I could see all the components of the sandwich before I bite into it. More pork belly? Perhaps too much to ask? A couple strips or thick cut pieces is nice, but can you really have too much pork belly? Maybe a flash frying of the pork belly would add a really neat texture dynamic. I can’t be too critical of this sandwich because it is amazingly balanced and quite the adventure for the taste buds. A must try for anyone visiting Moontown!
Restaurant Name: Beast Craft BBQ
Address: 20 South Belt West, Belleville, IL 6220
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September 3, 2018 – Wagyu Beef Brisket & Pork Belly
The final stop of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour took me and my friends back across the Missouri River to Belleville, IL to Beast Craft BBQ. We made a change to this location vs. another BBQ joint because of multiple referrals from other managers and pitmasters we got to talk to at various locations over this trip.
Beast Craft BBQ Co. has a nice joint near a fairly major intersection in Belleville, IL a few miles off of the interstate. Lots of signage so you can’t miss it. Once you step inside you have a bar area to the right and a restaurant area to the left. The bar area is pretty nice, didn’t sit over there so can’t talk too much about it but it is pretty open and modern looking. The dining area has wood lined walls, storefront windows, and a really cool map of the different cuts of meat from a cow, pig, and chicken that we pitmasters cook.
Wagyu beef brisket, pork belly, potato salad, belly brussel sprouts
Pork steak, chicken wings, and bread pudding
Wagyu beef brisket & candied bacon
At this point in the trip our taste buds and stomachs are pretty full and starting to get used to the flavors of BBQ. Beast Craft BBQ’s menu is pretty unique as everything is cooked a la carte. I ordered the wagyu beef brisket (yes…wagyu beef), pork belly, potato salad, and the brussel sprouts with pork belly chunks. My friends ordered the pork steak, chicken wings, bread pudding, wagyu beef brisket (yes again…wagyu beef), and candied bacon. All plates are served with warm flour tortillas.
The look at these plates screams flavor and BBQ. Smoke rings, well placed garnishes, and look of tender, juicy, and delicious smoked meats. The pickles and okra are nice colors additions. The wagyu beef brisket has a very nice amount of char and visible smoke ring. The chicken wings had a nice crust on the skin implying a little bit of frying took place. The pork belly had some serious bark…seriously good bark that is. The potato salad had good size chunks of potato and I really liked the dill garnish. The brussel sprouts had a very balanced amount of green and char and pork belly chunks.
My favorite thing to eat at Beast Craft BBQ was the pork belly. It’s thick cut, smokey, tender, and juicy goodness and always an adventure for the taste buds. I really liked the potato salad as well. The perfect amount of dill garnish really enhanced the flavors. The brussel sprouts mixed with some pork belly chunks was a really good touch. The sprouts were super tender, not super fall apart soft, but not tough to bite through…exactly how I like my brussel sprouts. I had some of the candied bacon, pork steak, and bread pudding and they were all tasty too.
I will admit that I had high expectations for the wagyu beef brisket but this batch of brisket fell a little short in my opinion. I probably should have ordered the leaner brisket as the slices I got were really fatty. I like some fat on my brisket slices but when I do a pull test on a slice of brisket and my fingers are drenched in beef fat I think it’s a bit much (perfect pull though for the brisket so it was a really good tenderness). The flavors were great but amount of fat was a turnoff.
In short, Beast Craft BBQ Co. was a nice addition to the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour. It had a tough seat being our last joint but gave it a good fight. The pitmaster has experience in fine dining and makes the transition to BBQ really well. Looking forward to visiting this place again if I’m in town.
Restaurant Name: Salt & Smoke
Address: 6525 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130
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September 3, 2018 – Pulled Pork & Brisket Burnt Ends
Day #3 of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour had lunch take me to the Forest Park area of St. Louis just west of downtown. Tucked in the middle of Delmar Blvd, Salt & Smoke is fixed at the corner next to a statue of Chuck Berry!
Salt & Smoke was a really neat and trendy place. Outside it’s a typical storefront look with a bright yellow canopy so it stands out some. Inside it’s a modernized and contemporary restaurant. Wood floors and an array of wall coverings from painted plaster/drywall, chalk board paint, cedar planks, and a really cool crate storage wall structure. The lighting was alright…we went on a very sunny day so it was very well lit inside. When some clouds would get in the way of the sun it got a little dark but nothing too crazy. A very nice selection of bourbons and wines were on a very cool looking shelf above the bar.
The menu at Salt & Smoke is a very well balanced menu with a big emphasis on BBQ and smoked meats. I ordered a 2 meat plate with two sides and ordered the brisket burnt ends and pulled pork with sides of baked beans and mac n cheese. My friends ordered a pulled pork plate with the same sides and a 2 meat plate of chicken wings and ribs with the same sides as me. Each entree came with a bacon & cheddar roll or “popover” as they call it. We also ordered an appetizer of deep fried chicken skins with a side of honey mustard.
We finally found a BBQ joint that delivered the food on actual plates!!!!! I think the very first thing you notice when the entrees come out is the size of the popover. It’s huge! Typically put in the middle of the plate it does tend to hide the rest of the contents of the plate. A simple move to the left or right and you get a beautiful plate of smoked meats and side dishes (sides also in actual dishes and not styrofoam cups). The pulled pork and the burn ends had a nicely noticeable smoke ring. The baked beans were lighter in color than the last few places we visited and had a fairly unique flavor. The mac n cheese is actually shells and white cheddar cheese vs. yellow cheddar. It also has a breadcrumb crust which I think is some of the popover remnants.
Flavor wise, let me first start with the deep fried chicken skins. FLAT…OUT…AWESOME! Pretty much the number one thing my mom told me not to eat growing up when we ordered fried chicken is the very thing that Salt & Smoke drops into the fryer and pairs it with a tangy and sweet honey mustard sauce. Fried to a crisp, these guys have the texture you want from something fried and the tasty flavors that comes with chicken skins.
Let me talk about the meats now. The pulled pork was really great. Definitely one of the best pulled porks I’ve ever had. I never needed to sauce the pulled pork. The meat was tender, moist, and juicy. Very balanced smoke flavor and subtle hints of sweet, heat, and savory. The burnt ends were juicy and tender. A little larger cuts than expected but each cut was jam packed full of flavor.
The mac n cheese was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had. I liked the move to use shells vs. standard macaroni noodles. It was also really awesome to use white cheddar vs. traditional yellow cheddar. The dish was super creamy. Paired with the breadcrumbs on top with some char to them provided a really great texture in every bite. Something gritty to start, creamy in the middle, and soft/tender in between. Deliciousness in every single bite.
The baked beans weren’t as dark as other baked beans we’ve had on this trip and they had a very distinct taste. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one that really jumped out as good in my opinion. It was almost like the beans were trying to be every single flavor possible. There were hints of savory, lots of sweet, lots of smoke, and it felt very unbalanced. Could’ve just been a bad batch or just something my taste buds didn’t enjoy.
Overall, Salt & Smoke is a mighty tasty joint in a very modernized and trendy part of the city. Great smoked meats that are juicy, tender, and flavorful. Sides, for the most part, that are excellent. A place that goes above the traditional and merges it with a modern yet classical feel. A must visit if in the St. Louis, MO area.
Restaurant Name: Pappy’s Smokehouse
Address: 3106 Olive Street, St. Louis, MO 63103
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September 1, 2018 – The “Adam Bomb”
Day #2 of the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour had lunch return me to the champion of the very first BBQ Tour I did back in 2014…Pappy’s Smokehouse! Pappy’s was the baby back rib champion in the 2014 BBQ Tour, let’s see how they’ll stack up for their overall experience.
Located just north of downtown St. Louis and near St. Louis University, Pappy’s Smokehouse has been featured on Food Network and in many BBQ magazines and online articles as one of the best BBQ places in the country. The restaurant sits at a corner and is easily seen from the street. ARRIVE EARLY! A line will form very quickly, but it is worth the wait. We were fortunate to only have about 40 people ahead of us. We reviewed the menu and were thinking of getting a bunch of individual stuff but it was recommended to us to order the “Adam Bomb”. The combo meal included a full rack of baby back ribs, a 1/4 chicken, a pulled pork sandwich, a burnt end sandwich, three ears of deep fried corn on the cob, a side of BBQ baked beans, and a dish called the Frito Pie with hot link sausage.
The food is served once again on a plastic basket with wax paper. A typical staple for a BBQ joint, but I’d still like something a little classier but I digress again. First look at this meal is yet again “LOOK AT ALL THIS MEAT!”. The ribs and chicken look amazing. You could see moisture and the juiciness of the meats from the very beginning. The deep fried corn on the cob had that charred look and was coated with a nice amount of butter and salt. The Frito Pie with the hot link sausage looked the absolute best. It was a great presentation with the very balanced layers of Frito corn chips, bbq baked beans, shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced red onions. This dish had some serious pop and eye appeal and looked absolutely DELICIOUS!
A quick rundown of all this delicious food. The baby back ribs were as I remembered from 5 years ago. Smokey, tender, and tasty. Near perfect competition style tenderness. A very visible smoke ring on the meat. Didn’t really need sauce as it had a thin coating on it already. The two sandwiches (pulled pork & burnt ends) were very well sized. The pulled pork did get a little bit dry but it was most likely due to waiting when to eat it as we had so many decisions and it’s so difficult where to start. The burnt ends were a little larger than expected but super tender and flavorful. The deep fried corn on the cob has a very unique texture. Party crispy yet juicy and buttery and salty all in one bite. The beans were good too. Too small of a sample to really get in depth with it though.
The Frito Pie with the Hot Link Sausage is gonna get its own paragraph. This dish was the highlight of the meal. It was just awesome. BBQ, salty, sweet, tangy, and a super wide array of flavors in every bite. I think the red onion was a super smart choice as it added some sweetness to the dish and some really eye catching color to the plate.
Once again the plastic basket and wax paper presentation was tough to see but was easily overlooked as the food was awesome. I would’ve liked to have seen the buns for the sandwiches have a little bit of toasting to them as they got a little soggy. The pulled pork was surprisingly a little dry so it needed some sauce.
Overall, Pappy’s Smokehouse exceeded my last visit and will continue to be a staple place to eat at everytime I’m in St. Louis or when friends ask me where to go in St. Louis to get good BBQ. For only being in business 10 years they’ve grown into a local staple with national notoriety.
August 31, 2018 – Pulled Pork Sandwich
The annual BBQ tour took a bit of a twist into a Bang Bang BBQ Tour. In years past I’ve done regions of the country and have done a specific meat at each place. Twisting things up, I’m doing a city specific place and judging “best of show”. Taking into account the ambiance of the restaurant, the appearance of the food when it gets delivered, and the overall taste profile which will be a combination of smoke, tenderness, and overall flavors. The destination this year is the greater St. Louis, MO area.
Our lunch destination took us to central Illinois and this wood cabin looking place, Witt’s Smokehouse. Tucked about 2 miles off of the interstate in Effingham, IL, Witt’s Smokehouse has a great look of it going with the log cabin atmosphere. The interior of the restaurant has some galvanized metal look along with the rustic of a log cabin so it’s pretty cool.
For my lunch I ordered the pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac n cheese. The food comes out in a plastic basket on some wax paper so pretty standard for a BBQ joint. The pulled pork sandwich has a good amount of meat on it. The meat is sauced which is a little bit of a turnoff for me but not a deal breaker typically. The basket does look a little “empty” when you get it. The pickle is a nice garnish and provides a color contrast to the basket. The sandwich bun was on top of the meat so it was a tannish bun color and the yellow of mac n cheese when you first look at the plate looks bland at first glance.
The food itself was pretty good. The pulled pork sandwich had a really balanced flavor. I did have to add some sauce but mostly to try the array of sauces Witt’s has available. Side plug for the garlic BBQ sauce…very tasty and a noticeable garlic flavor…almost too much but I enjoy that flavor with BBQ. Very good move on the cooks to toast the buns as sauced pulled pork can tend to soak into a sandwich bun and make the bun really soggy but the toasting of the bun put a nice crust so it held up really well. The mac n cheese was probably one of the creamiest I’ve ever had. Noodles were cooked really well. My friends that joined me on this trip got sides of baked beans and they were OK. A little too sweet for my taste.
Negatives wise, I’m not a big fan of sauced pulled pork as it can be used to mask stuff. I was a little disappointed in the lack of smokiness in the pulled pork. With it being sauced it made it very difficult to see any smoke ring and it was difficult to taste any smoke in the pulled pork. Some garnish like green onion or bacon bits to the mac n cheese would’ve been a nice eye appeal and provide some additional pop to the plate.
Overall, Witt’s Smokehouse set the bar for the 2018 Bang Bang BBQ Tour. Good flavors and some culinary skills were on display. May try to request the pulled pork not be sauced but I think that’s how they cook it. The brisket that one of my friends ordered looked really good and near burnt end style.
Restaurant Name: Late Harvest Kitchen
Address: 8605 River Crossing Blvd, Indianapolis, IN 46240
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Pork Chop – May 3, 2018
Earlier this week, my parents came down to Indy to celebrate my birthday. I always enjoy a nice fancy type of dinner every now and then and especially for my birthday so I got my folks and I a reservation to Late Harvest Kitchen. Tucked near the Keystone at the Crossing and Fashion Mall area, this restaurant is a little bit hidden, but quite the gem of a place.
My mom ordered the General Tso’s Pork Belly over a bed of stir fry vegetables. My dad got the salmon. We shared sides of “Potatoes Minneapolis” and the Korean Fried Broccolini. Both sides tasted fabulous. The deep fried broccoli was super crispy which made the dish AWESOME! You won’t hear me say that too often about a vegetable, but it was really good. The bread was great and had a really nice garlic butter to go with the wide array of breads.
My main dish was the pork chop. The pork chop was accompanied with some baked beans, vinegar peppers, bacon marmalade, and a house kraut. When the dish comes out it looks very complex. You see beans, you see the pork chop, some kraut, the mound of bacon marmalade, and a pool of pork chop juices and it can be difficult to decide where to begin.
Let me start with the accessories to the pork chop. All were complimentary and tasty by themselves, but the bacon marmalade was my definite favorite. I would take a slice of the chop and put some of the marmalade on it and it was like a pork on pork explosion which was mighty tasty. The beans, peppers, and kraut were good on the eye and unique on the tastebuds. Complimentary but not outstanding individually.
The pork chop itself was grilled PERFECTLY! A slight bit of pink in the center which for pork is acceptable to me. I want to tip the hat to the chef as their grill mark game was SPOT ON! The meat was tender but not fork apart tender which was good. It had a simple rub and traditional pork chop flavor and really allowed you to utilize the accessory foods for a fun array of flavors. Salty and sweet with the kraut, salty and heat with the peppers, salty and smokey with the baked beans. All delicious adventures for the taste buds.
The only “negative” about the dish would be maybe too much pork chop juice can make the plate look a little messy and disorganized. Some brighter colors to make the dish pop some I think would also be a nice addition. The green chives are good and all, but don’t quite pop as what maybe some red onion would.
Overall, this plate was great. Full of flavor and easy to eat. A fun adventure of flavor with the array of complimentary sides on the pork chop. Definitely a must try if you visit Late Harvest Kitchen.
Meatballs Part 1 – April 29, 2018
Earlier this week I met up with a former student of mine for some catching up time. A good meet in the middle type of place that we both had never been to before is this place called Mimi Blue. Most famous for their meatballs, but plenty of other things on the menu, I had to try first them first hand.
If you explore the menu they have an option for 4 meatballs of any kind or 3 meatballs of just one kind. It was a no brainer for me to go with the any 4 meatballs and sauces to make sure I get a good spread of flavors and textures.
I ended up ordering a classic meatball with marinara sauce (top left), another classic meatball but with a bourbon bbq sauce (top right), a beef meatball with a spicy bolognese sauce (lower left), and lastly a turkey meatball with the honey Sriracha sauce (lower right).
Looking at the four meatballs and their accompanying sauces, I was very intrigued to see which one I would enjoy the most. All four meatballs and sauces were delicious, but my favorite meatball was actually the turkey meatball with the honey Sriracha sauce. I want to say it was more the sauce than the meatball, but I don’t take one without the other as they’re complimentary to each other.
The meatball was very well cooked and perfect size. Not too large where I have to fork and knife the whole thing, but not too small where I can eat the whole meatball in one bite. The meatball is tender enough it could be sliced with a fork, no knife needed. The sauce is OH MY GOODNESS AWESOME! A great balance of heat and sweet is the combo of honey and Sriracha sauce. Taste bud explosion right off the bat, with a salty flavor meatball middle and another punch of heat and sweet to end it.
The meatballs are a must try and all the sauces were good, but this first post will focus on the turkey meatball with the honey Sriracha sauce. Future posts will discuss the others, but seriously…go and try them!
Side note…the deep fried brussels sprouts are also worth getting. I don’t usually talk much about vegetables, but you know they’ve gotta be good if I’m showcasing them.
I must also give a shout out to fellow foodie Samantha at In The Midst Blog for her recommendation on getting the Banana Mousse. It was a creamy deliciousness that I will admit I should’ve gotten some other photos as this one below doesn’t fully give it justice. The crushed vanilla wafers in the middle add a really awesome texture and flavor depth to the banana flavors and creaminess of this dish.
All in all my first experience at Mimi’s was AMAZING! I’ll definitely visit again and try a new spread of meatballs and sauces. You should do it too!
BRISKET SANDWICH – APRIL 9, 2018
Tucked away in the suburban city of Whitestown, IN was an old high school gymnasium. For many many years it sat abandoned, empty, and deteriorating. Debuting a few months ago after an extensive interior and exterior renovation, Moontown Brewing Company was born and opened. This place has a special level of value as my work did the renovation. So this may be my first food review, but it definitely won’t be the last!
The menu at Moontown Brewing Company is very diverse and very tasty. They’ve got small bites, big bites, flatbreads, the pit aka BBQ, desserts, and side dishes. The first meal that I enjoyed from this awesome looking brew pub is the Brisket Sandwich. The brisket is served on a brioche bun and accompanied with a house made horseradish aioli and white onions. This sandwich comes with a side dish and for this particular visit I got the smoked beans.
The brisket sandwich, and most of the dishes, come out on a metal tray lined with paper and is plated very well. The sandwich, side dish (in this case smoked beans), and a pickle provide a good sized spread that doesn’t get dwarfed by the size of the tray. A couple things jump out when this dish comes out. First is the infamous smoke ring on the beef brisket slices. It’s red and thick but not too thick and easily visible. The white onion slices are a very nice eye appeal as well when the tray is set in front of you. The smoked beans have one major thing that makes it stand out…the MASSIVE CHUNK OF PORK BELLY in it!
Flavors of this plate are AWESOME and everything you’d expect from a BBQ sandwich. Smokey, sweet, salty, and even a little bit of tang. The buttered brioche bun is a great texture to start the sandwich. The little bit of toasting of the buns adds a nice little crunch to this sandwich too. The brisket itself was thick cut and super tender. A good amount of smoke was not only visible but also evident in each bite. The brisket slices were juicy too, but not so juicy that they made the buns soggy.
The smoked beans were a great complimentary dish to this sandwich. Really can’t complain about the beans when a massive chunk of pork belly is in it. Takes the depth of flavor to a new level not just in taste but in texture too.
If I had to find something “negative” on this dish I would have to go with the brisket being almost too tender. This is probably me just being like a BBQ judge and having a specific tenderness that’s not quite fall apart but has some stiffness to it but still easy to eat through.
A brisket is a tough cut of meat to BBQ and smoke properly. Moontown Brewing Company does a great job of smoking the meat and pairing it with very complimentary sides and flavors for a totally enjoyable taste bud experience.
The Meat Sampler – March 23, 2018
Last weekend I did a quick 48-hour trip down to Orlando, Florida to watch a few rounds of the Arnold Palmer Invitational with my dad. I flew down first thing Saturday morning, we watched pretty much all day, ate dinner at STK – Orlando, and repeated the same thing Sunday. When the invitational was complete, my parents wanted to get dinner before I flew back and we decided BBQ was our choice. We weren’t near a 4 Rivers Smokehouse so I opened up the Yelp! app and did some researched and Cecil’s BBQ was only a few minutes away.
Looking over the menu and seeing the nice variety of smoked meats they had, my dad and I decided getting the Meat Sampler was the best way to go to get a good sampling of all the smoked meats they had.
The meat sampler included four side dishes so we got baked beans, jalapeno mashed potatoes, collard greens, and potato salad.
I will admit that the appearance of the plates of food looked AMAZING! Starting with the sides, everything had your traditional look and they just looked delicious. The meat platter looks like a lot of food and if I’m being honest was a lot of food for my dad and I (my mom had a few pieces). When I inspected each meat individually you could for the most part see the infamous “smoke ring” that BBQ is known for. Some meats had it more than others.
Taste wise…the sides didn’t disappoint in any fashion. The Texas Toast was buttery and crispy. The greens, with a little hot sauce added to them, were spicy and salty. The jalapeno mashed potatoes were actually very complimentary flavors. I hadn’t seen many/any restaurants do that mixture but Cecil’s did a really good balance of jalapeno heat and earthiness of the mashed potatoes. The potato salad was also really good. I find myself going back and forth between white or yellow potato salad. Sometimes my flavor pallet fancies the creamier white and sometimes it’s the tangy of the yellow mustard potato salad. Cecil’s may be tipping the scale in the white potato salad as it was good sized but soft chunks of red potatoes and a balanced amount of cream. The baked beans I wasn’t overly impressed with which was a little bit disheartening as BBQ and baked beans are typically hand in hand.
The meats flavor ranged from excellent to just OK. If I had to rank the meats in order of my most favorite to least favorite it would be: pulled pork, ham, sausages, spare ribs, turkey, & chicken. I’m going to put the emphasis of this post on the pulled pork as it was excellent! It had a strong but not too strong smokey flavor, tender, and still moist without having to drown it in sauce. It had the smoke ring on some of the bark pieces which were mighty tasty. The portion that we had was still very easily pulled apart even more implying the tenderness was super all while still maintaining a good level of moisture with the meat. The ham, sausages, and spare ribs were good but not great. Hints of smoke were evident in the taste but needed some sauce. These three meats were moist but these are also difficult meats to dry out.
I was disappointed in the chicken and the turkey though. They were dry and needed some sauce. The turkey slices looked great as they had a solid bark on the outside, but the meat was dry still and made it difficult to taste the smoke as I had to use sauce with nearly every bite. Chicken and turkey are tough birds to BBQ and keep moist so it’s understandable and I’ve been there.
All in all, I enjoyed my visit to Cecil’s. I’d return for sure for the pulled pork. Maybe try it on a sandwich and topped with some coleslaw like my BBQ friends in the Carolina’s do. Accompany it with some potato salad or the collard greens and it’ll be a fine lunch hour.
Super BLT – March 9, 2018
Yesterday I wrote about Jamaican food joint Island Friday’s in Cincinnati, OH which is what I and a coworker had for dinner. Between meetings with different subcontractors and suppliers we grabbed lunch at the Lucky Dog Grille and I enjoyed this tasty classic of a BLT.
This dish was so tasty! Before I get into flavors, let me share about the appearance of the plate. It’s a very well organized plate with half of it covered in the sandwich itself and then the other half covered in the fried onion petals. The rye bread was an excellent choice as it provides a darker tone and some color depth to the plate.
When I think about a BLT…I think that the most important thing is of course the BACON!!!! I’m quite picky when it comes to eating bacon whether it be by itself or as part of a dish. To me bacon needs to be crispy and near burnt but not fully burnt obviously. I like the crunch and the sound of a strip of bacon snapping when I bite into it. Throw in some brown sugar and black pepper coated around each strip of bacon it’s like candy.
This dish is taken over the top with the fact that it has 12 STRIPS OF BACON in it! This sandwich is essentially 3 strips wide by 4 strips tall and the bacon was on point delicious. The rye bread was a nice bitter flavor to go with the sweet and salty bacon. The lettuce and tomato are nice color compliments but don’t overpower the sandwich by any means and the focus is really on the BACON!
The only downside to this sandwich was the lack of mayo! I was caught off guard as I dove more and more into the sandwich and didn’t get the smooth, creamy, and unique taste that mayonnaise brings to this sandwich. I would’ve liked to have had some mayo but I guess the exorbitant amount of bacon will counter this knock on this sandwich.
Overall, this is a mighty tasty sandwich. The bacon is 100% on point and definitely takes the sandwich up a notch. Some mayo would’ve been a nice add, but the fact that this sandwich has 12 STRIPS OF BACON in it is definitely a must try. Maybe ask for a side of mayo and then add it on your own.
Jerk Chicken Dinner – March 8, 2018
Today and really this whole week I’ve been traveling for work and by traveling I literally mean I’ve been driving all over much more than usual. This past Tuesday I had a pre-construction meeting at a project in Lafayette which isn’t really too bad because it’s near my alma mater of Purdue. Wednesday I ventured up to St. John, IN for a pre-bid meeting and then hurried back for Wednesday Night Youth Service at Club 365. Today I woke up early and hit the road at 7:00 AM to go to a northern suburb of Cincinnati, OH known as Mason for a full day of meeting with subcontractors and suppliers.
With my evening plans freeing up, it opened up the opportunity to return to my absolute favorite place to get 100% legit and authentic Jamaican food at Island Friday’s. You may have heard about this place near the University of Cincinnati as it was featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-in’s, & Dive’s”. When you think about Jamaican food you may jump right to the exotic of curry goat or a fish dish, but for me I think of Jerk Chicken.
Let me begin this review with the “appearance” review. Obviously, you can’t score really high when your meal is served in a styrofoam container. I’m not hating on places that do, but when it comes to appearance of the dish to me a styrofoam container doesn’t look appealing. When you open the container though the Jamaican greens jump out and the shine of the jerk sauce on the chicken. Not even taking into account the flavor of the steam that hits your nostrils is amazing!
Taste…where to begin when it comes to the taste of this dinner. The jerk seasoning/marinate is AWESOME! So awesome I bought two jars of it as I was leaving. I like to consider myself as a person who likes hot and spicy foods, but I don’t like hot just because I can and burn your face off hot. I prefer hot but robust and flavorful hot and the jerk seasoning and sauce here bring it 100%. I do love the choice to use bone-in chicken thighs as thighs are meatier and typically easier to keep moist. The chicken wasn’t dry except for maybe in a few spots where the skin may had been peeled back, but overall the meat itself was moist. But obviously the jerk seasoning and the sauce is what makes this dish come alive. It is so full of flavors your tastebuds will be getting stamps all over its passport in each bite.
The jerk seasoning sauce (also known as “Island Magic”) has ingredients like habaneros, onions, scallions, garlic, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, pimento, seasoning salt, soya sauce, & vinegar as it’s primary ingredients. Seeing this list it speaks ROBUST FLAVORS all the way. Hints of sweet, savory, salt, bitter, and then a nice little jab of heat in every single bite. If you’re looking for melt your face off hot, this sauce isn’t it, but if you’re looking for a tastebud adventure it’s a must try flavor profile.
The sides were all really good too. The Jamaican greens were tasty…didn’t need any hot sauce as I typically do with most greens but they were a good accent to the dish. The red beans and rice were awesome especially the portions that got some of the jerk seasoning sauce on it! Mighty tasty bites there. Fried plantains are unique. They don’t have a distinct flavor that blows my mind, but they do provide a nice subtle sweetness to the dish.
Negatives of this dish…really just come in the presentation. I think most of their customers get their food to go, but it’d be nice if for people dining in to get their food a plate of some sort vs. a styrofoam container. The food itself I wouldn’t change a thing!
Overall, jerk chicken is one of my favorite flavor profiles. It’s a whirlwind of flavors in every bite that really is good on anything…just so happens to be commonly on chicken. Great choice to use chicken thighs and perfectly cooked side dishes were complimentary flavors to the focal flavor of the jerk chicken.
21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING – JANUARY 28, 2018
It’s the start of a new year and one thing I’ve done the past 7 or 8 years with some friends is spend 21 days in January and do a fast of some sort. In the past I’ve fasted from social media, sports radio, secular music, soda, and other things. This year the challenge posed from some friends was that I should do a fast from meat. After praying, thinking, and trying to talk myself out of it I knew it would be a good challenge so I decided to take it on.
Now, before I get too deep into this post about my 21 day experience, if anyone reading this is unsure about fasting or doesn’t really know a lot about it let me give you a quick rundown about it. Fasting is a spiritual discipline where you simply sacrifice something that you usually do everyday and you replace the time you would be doing that thing and spend some time with God reading the Bible, in prayer, worship, or a myriad of other spiritual disciplines. Fasting is NOT about losing weight and it’s NOT about becoming a “better” Christian than others. It’s about developing self-control and discipline.
So what was my journey like? What does a meat prepper, cooker, and eater like myself do when I withhold the amazing texture, flavor, taste of meat from myself? Well, I did eat a lot more pasta and I ate a lot of breakfast foods. I had some salads. Some veggie pizzas. More chocolate and sweets.
It was a really fun fast. It forced me to get creative with what I eat when I eat at home. It made me learn some new things about restaurants and making sure there was something that I could eat. I have a new and improved appreciation for spices and sauces…especially Sriracha sauce! Been a life saver for eggs and breakfast quesadillas as they all start to taste the same after a few days.
In the times of prayer and worship and other spiritual disciplines I was able to hammer down some new goals for this year, reflect on the great year that 2017 was, and discover some new songs for praise & worship. In my years of being a Christian, following Jesus, applying principles from the Bible like pray and obey, I’ve found a great truth to be true throughout it all…GOD IS FAITHFUL! Through all the times of my life…the good times and the bad times, God has always been there for me, He’s surrounded me with awesome people, and never allowed fear to overtake me.
2 Meat Plate – January 6, 2018
The first blog post from my 10-day Christmas & New Years vacation that took place Christmas Eve 2017 and ended January 2, 2018. This years vacation I visited my aunt, cousin, and grandma in Florida for four days and then ventured back to my 2nd home of Birmingham, Alabama to see friends there for five day.
I first lived in Birmingham back in 2005 and a portion of 2006 and it was such a life-changing experience that it always holds a special place for me. There’s always friends there to see and it’s super easy to relax and of course when in the south, there’s always going to be good food!
Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ is probably my favorite place in Birmingham to eat. It was one of the first places that I ate out at when I moved there the first time in 2005 and I’m always excited to return here every time I go back to Birmingham to visit.
When the plate comes to the table it looks very busy and looks like there’s a lot going on. It does that because this is A LOT of food! Easily a 1/3 LB of pulled pork, three pork sausage hot links, a side of mac n cheese, and a side of greens. The main thing that jumped out to me was the sausage hot links. That deep red color catches the eye so quickly. The pickle garnish on the pulled pork and the sausage is nice as well.
Flavor wise…this dish didn’t disappoint. I’ll start with my favorite dish on here…the hot link sausage. Flavorful, smokey, and a good crunch to the casing. Not a ton of visible seasoning in the sausage compared to other smoked sausage I’ve had, but it doesn’t hold back on flavor.
The pulled pork had a really solid smoke flavor to it. You could see the smoke ring “pink” color and taste it. It was moist and appealing to the eye. The pickles and the house BBQ sauce made for a very tangy, sweet, and smokey flavor experience in every bite.
When it comes to the side dishes…mac n cheese is a traditional BBQ side dish and greens is as well, but usually only down in the south. The sides tasted good and complimented the meats very well. Whether it be the saltiness of the greens or the creaminess of the mac n cheese, it was a great compliment to the BBQ. The greens had some pulled pork mixed in it for some additional flavor and the mac n cheese had some cheddar cheese sprinkled on top and melted for a nice contrasting color.
If I had to find a negative about this dish…I’d have to say the pulled pork was almost too moist. There was a good amount of juices in every bite which I guess you want, but it seemed like each bite would almost drip some juices. The mac n cheese could have used a contrasting texture of some sort like some bread crumbs or something else in the mac n cheese. Some grill and char marks on the hot links would’ve been nice to see as well.
Overall, Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ is a joint that will deliver quality and true BBQ that is full of flavor. When in Birmingham it is a MUST visit! Oh yeah…I forgot to mention they have some absolutely killer CHEDDAR BISCUITS!
December 26, 2017 – STK Orlando
Traveling by airplane can make Christmas present difficult to distribute, so a common go to for me is taking people out for some nice fine dining that they wouldn’t normally experience. I’ve been blessed lately at my job and that blessing is never meant for me to keep to myself but to also be a blessing and bring an experience that people may not usually get to enjoy. So taking my aunt and cousin to STK popped up on my radar as “Fine Dining Near Disney”.
The outdoor seating while we waited for our table to be cleaned was great and comfortable and a nice vibe overall. The perfect temperature and clear sky was a plus as well for the Disney Springs atmosphere. The menu at STK is traditional steakhouse, but they offer a variety of toppers and sauces. The bleu buttered sourdough bread was very tasty and got the taste buds salivating early. The special oil that came with it was unique and added some additional depth of flavor as well.
I ordered us a side of the double smoked bacon which was basically cubed up pork belly that was smoked twice and came with some dates, tomatoes, & a very sweet BBQ sauce. It was an amazing explosion of flavors for the taste buds. My aunt ordered the coconut grilled shrimp, my cousin ordered the 12 oz New York Strip with the red wine sauce. I went for one of my favorite cuts of beef…the Filet Mignon. Got it with the bleu butter and some grilled asparagus.
This plate looked a little empty at first because it was just the filet and the dish of bleu butter as the asparagus came on its own plate. I moved the asparagus to the plate with the filet and looked better but failed to get a pic before cutting into the filet which came out PERFECTLY for medium-rare doneness (look at that center!?!?!?!).
The seared crust on the filet was solid but not tough and definitely flavor packed. The knives that came with the steak made cutting each slice of filet easy. The meat was tender, juicy, and the bleu butter sauce wasn’t necessary by any means, but definitely added the unique flavor that bleu cheese and butter can do to beef.
Very tough to find something “wrong” with this dish as it was pretty near perfect. Maybe the “emptiness” of the plate when it came out. A side of potatoes or a risotto of some sort would’ve been a good compliment to the plate and have it jump out more.
STK Orlando is one of the best steak houses I’ve been to and I’ll definitely be coming back. It’s pricey…fine dining will do that, but when you celebrate and want to really treat family or guests or friends or a date or whomever to someplace special with a contemporary atmosphere and solid food, STK Orlando won’t disappoint.
Pitmaster Combo – December 26, 2017
T’was the day after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except my tastebuds after eating lunch at this place with my aunt and cousin while on Christmas vacation in Florida.
With a few locations in the Orlando area, we ventured to the one in Winter Garden just north of Orlando. I kinda knew this place was going to be pretty legit as you could smell smoke and BBQ down the street. 4 Rivers Smokehouse offers a full spectrum of BBQ with traditional sides and even a few unique BBQ’d meats that aren’t too common like tri-tip and prime rib. For our lunch, the three of us decided to enjoy the Pitmaster Combo which features probably 1/3 LB of four meats, 2 sides, and some biscuits.
Our Pitmaster Combo featured beef brisket, pulled pork, sausage, tri-tip, mac n cheese, baked beans, and additional side of greens. The first look at the plate, well tray, of food is pretty much going to be “WOW! THAT’S A LOT OF FOOD!”. Sure we ordered an extra pint of the mac n cheese and an extra pint of the baked beans, but still…this was a lot of food for three people. The layout of the tray and the colors are consistent with most BBQ joints…predominant red colors, a few contrasting ones for some “pop” but the focus an emphasis is on the meat. For the most part you could see some smoke rings on all the meats. The sausage had the most visible amount of smoke but ironically didn’t have the most smoke flavor. More on that later on in this review…
I must give a shout out for the side dishes. All three sides were amazing and the baked beans and mac n cheese are definitely one of my favorite sides from a BBQ joint. The greens had the traditional texture and flavor you’d expect, but I think there was some apple cider vinegar or something vinegar based as a left hook type of tangy flavor hits you at the end. The baked beans were FIRE! With some pulled pork and BBQ sauce integrated into it, you get that smokey and sweet flavor added to the beans and it was awesome. The mac n cheese rivaled my absolute favorite mac n cheese made by my friend Krista back home. It was a traditional mac n cheese nothing super fancy or special added to it, but it was the absolute CREAMIEST mac n cheese I’ve ever had…especially from a BBQ restaurant. Every spoon full the cheese was just dripping over the spoon…that’s how creamy the cheese was!
If I had to rank the meats from my favorite to least favorite it’d go: Tri-tip, Sausage, Pulled Pork, & then Brisket. All the meats tasted good and nothing was bad.
I will admit this was my first time having smoked tri-tip. If you’re unfamiliar with what tri-tip is, it’s basically the bottom portion of the sirloin steak. Most sirloin steaks you get the store or restaurant are the top sirloin…the bottom sirloin or the tri-tip is commonly passed over because it is traditionally a much fattier cut of meat but to most pitmasters and BBQ’ers out there, fat = flavor and the smoked tri-tip didn’t disappoint. If you want tender, juicy, smokey meat…tri-tip is where it’s at. The medium rare doneness was spot on. Add a dash of salt and the traditional 4 Rivers Smokehouse BBQ sauce and you’ve got an amazing journey for your tastebuds.
The smoked sausage is quickly becoming one of my favorite things to cook and to eat. It’s a perfect picture of simple, flavorful, and quick! Simple because it’s ground up pork, mixed with an array of seasonings, and typically gets cooked in about 3-4 hours on a smoker. The smoked sausage at 4 Rivers Smokehouse was exactly what I expected it to be. Juicy, smokey, and flavorful and it fit that bill in every bite. A nice crust/casing on the outside too…sometimes sausages can have really rigid and tough to bite through casings or be really chewy casings, but 4 Rivers Smokehouse did it right.
The pulled pork was tasty and had a little bit of a smoke ring on some of the end pieces. It needed some sauce though if you didn’t have one of the end pieces as it was a little bit dry. The meat could’ve dried out because I was enjoying the tri-tip and the sausage first, but it was still good and tasted and felt like pulled pork. Some of the pieces I was able to do some additional pulling and it pulled really easily.
Brisket is a tough cut to cook right so it definitely has its fair share of challenges for every pitmaster out there. The smoke ring was solid and the taste of smoke was most evident in the brisket compared to the other meats.
If I had to choose some negatives about this platter it’d have to be the pulled pork was a little bit dry, the brisket was a little bit over done as the slices were thicker than expected, and the mac n cheese as creamy and delicious as it was would’ve been over the top if some jalapenos or green chiles were mixed in it for some zing or maybe some breadcrumbs on top for a texture change.
All in all…4 Rivers Smokehouse is an absolute MUST visit if you’re near one. They have other locations throughout Florida and recently opened a location in Atlanta, GA. Check out their website at http://www.4rsmokehouse.com for a full list of locations.
I almost forgot to write about this dessert known as the “Hello Dolly”. We call my aunt who lives in Florida “Dolly” so I had to get it. This brownie bite thing was phenomenal. With chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and coconut flakes it was a sweet end to a great lunch.
Christmas 2017 – New York Strip Steaks (December 25, 2017)
This year for Christmas is a milestone year as this is my first Christmas not being with my parents. As my parents are out of country enjoying the retired life I had my options for where to go for Christmas. Florida, Iowa, Alabama, Indiana, etc…I decided to head south and enjoy some warmer temperatures with my aunt, cousin, and grandma in Florida. I’ll be doing a five day swing through my 2nd home known at Birmingham, AL, but more on that later.
With my aunt knowing I was coming into town for a few days for Christmas, she wanted to experience what the IndyBBQGuru could do so she bought some New York Strip steaks and said “have at ’em boy!”. Even though I didn’t have the ideal equipment to cook the steaks on, I did my best and put out some pretty good food. Here’s the adventure…
It started by getting a pound of bacon going in a cast iron skillet to get things started. After a solid 20-30 minutes of some of the best sizzle you’ll ever hear the cast iron skillet was greased and ready for the steaks. The super crispy bacon wasn’t bad either:
With the cast iron skillet all greased up and ready to go, four ribeye steaks got salted and black peppered and dropped on the skillet.
While the New York Strips steaks were going…I used the remaining bacon to build a bacon weave and as soon as I got a decent crust on one of the steaks I put that steak on the bacon weave and covered the steak entirely in bacon.
With three regular steaks and one bacon wrapped steak on the cast iron skillet…it was just a little bit more time to get that solid looking crust that cast iron skillet cooking can do.
All in all, the steaks were cooked to a medium doneness (a hair more than I prefer) and were juicy and tender as ever with a good hint of bacon flavor in almost every bite.
Throw in some baked asparagus with mushrooms and onions and a dinner roll and a diet coke and you’ve got my first plate of Christmas dinner.
PORK MAC – December 17, 2017
This evening I had the privilege to take out for dinner my pastors, youth staff at Club 365, and the parents of the students at Club 365 for a little Christmas party, appreciation, dinner. The night featured a full spread of appetizers ranging from the chipotle rubbed and smoked chicken wings, buffalo chicken wings, and pulled pork nachos. Desserts galore including chocolate brownies and strawberry lemon cheesecake. Entrees ranged from ribeye steaks to portobello mushroom tacos to flatbread and to the item I partook in and will feature in this first review of Blind Owl Brewery: The Pork Mac Mac n Cheese.
Traditionally when I go to Blind Owl Brewery for food, pasta isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but I was feeling adventurous this evening and took Blind Owl Brewery’s take on macaroni & cheese topped with some delicious BBQ pulled pork. When the plate comes out to you the portion looks a little deceptive as it initially doesn’t look like a lot of mac n cheese but the dish is quite deep and the dish will be very filling. The pulled pork on top is piled in one location with some additional sauce drizzled over the pork and the color does stand out vs. the mac n cheese. The additions of red pepper, jalapeno, and green onions do add some additional color to the dish besides the pulled pork.
I decided to spread around the pulled pork as I really wanted to make sure I got some of that smokey BBQ flavor in every bite of the mac n cheese. By doing this, the flavor profile is very unique in a good way. You get that traditional cheese flavor (in Blind Owl’s case a four-cheese blend) followed by some heat from the jalapeno peppers, and then you get some smokey sweetness from the pulled pork.
The really unique thing about this dish is the array of textures you’ll experience in this dish. You get some creaminess because of the cheese, some crunchy because of the red pepper, and a little bit of chewy because of the pulled pork. The pulled pork itself was “smoked” and I’ll put it in quotes as it was difficult to tell if it was truly smoked in a pit or just cooked in an oven and had some smoke added to it. It didn’t have the traditional texture of pulled pork, but it did taste good.
All in all, this dish successfully makes the taste buds encounter new flavors and textures in every bite. If you’re looking for non-traditional pub food at Blind Owl Brewery, give the Pork Mac and a try and see what your taste buds have to say!
Grilled “Backyard” Wings (December 12, 2017)
The last time I went to Top Golf it was this past Friday with a coworker and one of our concrete suppliers (Sagamore Ready-Mix). We started the weekend a little early and did some Top Golf, food, and drinks for a few hours. Looking over the “Apps + Shareables” as the menu describes it I wanted to get an order of the grilled “Backyard” wings as they sounded amazing.
When these wings come to the table it surprisingly seemed less than I was expecting. Initial look even of the picture above you can locate maybe 6 or 7 wings in this dish. Not exactly the most appealing from a quantity standpoint, but from a food standpoint the wings do look great and you can tell they’ve been grilled vs. deep fried as the char marks on the wings really comes out. The tin container that holds everything is nice and keeps everything close. If you don’t like your carrots & celery touching the wings right off the bat, don’t order these.
Reading the food description of these wings the flavors the taste buds will experience should be amazing and it definitely was. You can tell the wings have been brined as the citrus flavors of lemon, orange, and maybe even a hint of grapefruit (just guessing on the brine) come out and the strong garlic flavor really compliments the citrus on these wings. The grilled wings were near fall apart tender which is good because I like to actually bite into the wings and not have all the meat fall off of them before hand. You get a nice hint of smokey flavor as well, kind of like a left hook at the end after the first punch to your taste buds is the citrus and garlic, which is always good for grilled food.
The number one thing I really didn’t like about the grilled “Backyard” wings was the skin texture. Definitely not appealing at all. It was definitely more chewy and a little tougher to finish bites while my teeth are grinding away at the skin. Grilled wings are always going to have the challenge when compared to traditional deep fried wings to have the skin be crispy and crunchy vs. soft & chewy. I’ve had a fair share of grilled wings and this is the main pitfall that grilled wings face. If I grill chicken wings I usually try to direct sear and grill the skin crispy at the beginning and then offset cook the wings on grill while I load in some mesquite, hickory, or apple wood chunks to get some smoke while cranking up the heat to about 450.
All in all, the grilled “Backyard” wings are delicious to eat and full of flavor if you can get past the texture of non-crispy chicken wings. I definitely recommend people eat them, but maybe not at the same time as the Topgolf Wings which are fried. I do wish they’d offer the zesty garlic vinaigrette for the top golf wings but they don’t right now.
December 2, 2017 – Family Worship Center Greeters Ministry Christmas Party
Today I had the awesome opportunity to cook for the Greeter’s Ministry at Family Worship Center in Kokomo, IN. My parents are the department heads of the ministry and for their Christmas Party they invited me to prepare 120 chicken wings and about 50 LBs of pork loin medallions for about 45 people attending the event. My good friend Nate Lewis was my “Assistant to the Pit Master” for the day and it was a great time being with him and showing him the ropes of the art of BBQ.
We utilized my big rig cooker to everything. Loaded up early this morning and got on site around 9:30 AM and had food prepped and on the cooker by 11:00 AM. Once the chicken wings and the pork loins were all rubbed and prepped ready for smoking and we were waiting on the cooker to get up to temperature we fired up the grill portion of my cooker and made some breakfast. I did forget the eggs so we just had sausage and bacon…darn! Once we put all 120 chicken wings and 6 pork loins on the smoker and loaded up some hickory wood into the firebox we fired up some more coals to cook our lunch and we had a lunch of champions…CHILI CHEESEBURGERS ON A PRETZEL BUN!
Just standard 80/20 ground beef from the grocery store…the thing that kicked this burger up was the leftover chili I had from a work contest that I ended up finishing 4th out 8. I reheated the chili in a foil dish on the smoker so it got some additional smoke flavor, but once I got done grilling up the burgers on the grill, I tossed on my cast iron skillet and got it hot, dropped the burgers on there for some sizzle action, topped the burgers with the leftover chili, and then topped each burger with a slice of white cheddar cheese and let that get melty gooey delicious. Utilized a pretzel bun because I don’t want the bun to get soggy because of the chili and so I charred up the pretzel bun a little bit as well and it was straight FIRE!
After lunch we relaxed, tossed the football around, watched Netflix, and just let the cooker do it’s thing. We maintained a temperature of 225 degrees to 250 degrees for the duration of the 6 hours of cooking until it was carving and saucing time.
The finished products were AMAZING! The chicken wings were on point, tender, smokey, juicy, and sweet. The pork loin medallions were moist, smokey, and bursting with flavors especially if my balsamic vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar glaze or finisher sauce was used. There were some leftovers which I was able to sell for additional money which is always a good thing. Stuck around for some Christmas carols and catching up with old friends and returned home safely around 9:00 PM. T’was a good day…and totally BEAUTIFUL WEATHER!
My catering menu is updated…check it out here:
Below is a list of foods available for your upcoming event. Please CONTACT us if you have any questions or would like a formal proposal for your event.
- Chicken Wings
- Country Style Pork Rib Bites
- Pork Belly Burnt Ends
- Beef Brisket Burnt Ends
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Bites (Various finisher sauces available)
- Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Chorizo Meatballs
- Steaks (Any Cut)
- Chicken (Any part, quarter, half, or whole bird)
- Pork Chops
- Pork Ribs (Baby Back, St. Louis Style, or Spare)
- Pork Loin or Tenderloin
- Pulled Pork BBQ
- Burgers (Beef, Pork, or Turkey)
- Sausages & Brats
- Beef Brisket BBQ
- Potato Salad
- Pasta Salad
- BBQ Baked Beans
- Reece Cup Cupcake Bites
- Grilled Peanut Butter Banana & Chocolate Chip Sandwiches
- Grilled Salted Watermelon
November 25, 2017
Today my high school youth pastor and I continued our tradition of going to the Old Oaken Bucket game that pits my alma mater of Purdue University against our most hated rival Indiana University. My high school youth pastor, Pastor Lucien, is a die-hard IU fan and obviously I’m a Purdue fan. This guy has been super influential in my life and really being one of the guys God has used to really shape who I am today. There’s many people in life that affect and influence us, but I think there’s only a handful of people that are truly shapers of our life and Pastor Lu has been that for me.
One thing that Pastor Lu and I have in common is our love for really good food and we do our tailgate big! I did our appetizers which consisted of cheddar cheese stuffed bacon wrapped Italian sausage meatballs and some pork rib bites with a root beer glaze and Pastor Lu handled the hand-crafted burgers packed with onions and peppers, stadium style brats, and potato salad.
At the end of the day, Purdue wins the game, wins the Old Oaken Bucket for the 74th time (This was the 121st meeting), becomes bowl eligible, keeps our hated rival from any post season games, eat deliciously awesome food, and get to hang out with a great mentor and friend. Can’t beat it!
Restaurant Name: Nada Indianapolis
Address: 11 West Maryland Street, Indianapolis, IN
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Day after Thanksgiving is typically filled with recipes creating wonderful dishes with Thanksgiving leftovers. Well, in my family we do distribute leftovers but we traditionally will go Black Friday shopping and stay at a hotel in downtown Indianapolis and eat out for dinner. This past Black Friday we visited a sweet little join just south of the Circle City Mall called Nada and after scrolling through the menu decided I must try this:
I know this dish has a lot going on and if you’ve ever been to Nada before you know that everything is pretty much al a carte style so the sides were all bought individually but an order of tacos does come with three tacos so that’s cool. If you wanted to get some friends together and share some tacos that’s a genius idea and I definitely recommend it as they have a wide array of tacos and other sides from the menu here:
Back to the critique of my meal, let me quickly write about the side dishes. The chili-glazed crispy potatoes were my favorite. The sweet chili sauce reminds me of the sauce my mom uses on her egg rolls (or lumpia to stick to my Filipino roots) and it’s sweet and spicy and crispy but a dabble of crema does good for those who don’t like “spicy” things. The beans and rice and the cucumber salad were good, but nothing jumped out from the flavors standpoint but they were very complimentary to the dish.
The crispy pork belly tacos themselves were salivatingly tasty! If you’ve never had pork belly or not sure what it is…in short, pork belly is the part of the pig where we get BACON. Pork belly is ideally cooked two ways…smoked in a BBQ pit or simply deep-fried to be crispy and tender. When this plate came out the fried pork belly strips jump out and the pickled peppers and onions are a nice contrasting color. The rectangular plate is a nice touch and does make handling the plate itself easy as sometimes the plates even for tacos can be scolding hot at other restaurants. The dishes the sides come in are pretty sleek…very shallow, but of good size and easy handling.
The pork belly was definitely crispy which is how I like my bacon and so that’s how I like my pork belly. Not really any smoke flavor which is always complimentary to pork belly but that’s OK as crispy is still really good and Nada does it PERFECTLY! There’s a crispy crunchy first bite with a good healthy amount of “chew” to the pork belly. As your tastebuds navigate through the pork belly they encounter a sweet and tangy flavor from the pickled peppers and onions, and then a little bit of a hit and from the guajillo peppers and cilantro for an amazing bite each and every time. I like the flour tortillas because of a smoother texture, but if you don’t like flour tortillas they do offer their tacos in corn tortillas, but I think it’d be too much of a gritty type of texture as the crispy pork belly has that to it.
The downside to this dish and specifically to the crispy pork belly tacos, besides there only being three of them, is I wasn’t too particularly fond of the size of the tortilla’s. I get that they’re “taco” sized tortillas, but I think they could be a little bit larger. Tacos are meant to fit in your hand and these definitely do, but they do way too easily in my opinion. I think if they were to increase the tortillas it’d be a nice touch and probably get people fuller faster!
At the end of the day…the crispy pork belly tacos at Nada are full of intense and complimentary flavors. If you’ve never experienced pork belly in this form (bacon is definitely good, but pork belly is like 1/2″ thick cut bacon strips) this would be a great gateway to eating pork belly and enjoying the glorious flavor that cut of meat is.
Burgerhaus – Indianapolis
Address: 335 West 9th Street, Indianapolis, IN
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Today a couple coworkers and I were renewing our CPR, First Aid, and AED certifications near downtown Indianapolis and over our lunch break ventured over to the northern end of the Canal to enjoy this neat little German style burger pub joint. Nestled about 50′ from the canal waters, Burgerhaus has both bar seating, indoor seating, and outdoor patio seating available.
Today I partook in the burger of the month known as the “Jamestown”. This dish was absolutely exploding with flavors in every bite and easily jumps into one of my favorite burgers of all time. From the get go this plate has a lot going on! The burger comes across a little bit looking almost “open face” as the top bun is propped back a little bit and the toppings are visible to the eye and for the most part appealing. The metal wire basket for the sweet potato fries is a really nice contemporary touch to this wild dish. The sweet potato fries are an exceptionally good visual appeal to this burger as standard fries would make the plate have pretty much the same color tones except for the pickle slices in the back and the cranberry relish topping you can see.
Taste wise…there’s definitely no shortage of flavors in this dish. I’ll start with the side of sweet potato fries. The fries were cooked pretty good and if y’all have read any of my other reviews regarding french fries I like my fries crispy and crunchy on the outside but soft and light and almost airy on the inside. These sweet potato fries check that bill hands down. The cinnamon and sugar on top of the fries was a nice twist. I’ve seen this combo before in baked sweet potatoes but never on sweet potato fries so it was a nice addition and I will admit I licked clean my fingers a handful of times!
The Jamestown burger itself was phenomenal from the standpoint of flavors coming through in each bite. I’ve had turkey burgers before and they’re typically nothing super fancy or different compared to a standard hamburger besides they’re a little leaner, less greasy, and obviously don’t taste like beef. The toppings on the Jamestown though take this turkey burger over the top. My first thought after eating it all was that it’s almost like Thanksgiving in your mouth. Thanksgiving is in a couple days and so everyone has turkey on the brain and this burger was a good introduction to the classic Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not a full Thanksgiving spread with mashed potatoes & gravy, corn, stuffing, or green beans, but the topping additions and the placement of the toppings is genius. I like the red wine mayo and spinach on the bottom bun as the other toppings are a little messy and runny so it’d really soften up the spinach and prolly wash off the red wine mayo. The turkey burger patty was cooked great. I didn’t get a chance to see if there were any grill marks on it or if the patty was cooked on a flattop. Either way, the burger was still moist which is a challenge for turkey burgers. The toppings here on out put this burger up there with the Duane Pervis All American Burger at Triple XXX Family Diner in West Lafayette, IN. The cranberry relish and the caramel apples compliment each other as they are both sweet but the cranberry adds some sour to the burger and the caramel apples adds the savory to the burger. Mix in the potato sticks and your salty flavor taste buds are appeased. The pretzel bun is an absolute must for a burger with this much going on. The toppings can get a little messy in your hands but the pretzel bun stands true and firm and slowly absorbs the moisture of the toppings without making the bun soft and sticky.
As great as this dish was…a couple things I think could use improving. The wooden toothpick to hold the burger “together” was “OK…I get it, but c’mon!” and I think the knife should’ve been used instead. Some of the caramel apples weren’t on the burger and made it look a little more messy. More pickles would’ve been nice as two don’t really cover any surface area on a burger of this size. The turkey burger patty could use some char to it to provide a more stable texture to the burger. The patty would fall apart in some bites.
All in all, this burger was honestly awesome! I had read a little bit about this place prior to today but not much else. The Jamestown is a burger for the adventurous and ones who like to go outside the box. Similar to the Duane Pervis but it’s own flare as it’s more sweeter in accent flavors when the Duane Pervis is more salty in accent flavors. I’ll definitely be coming back to taste the rest of the burgers they have there!
Address: 5515 West 86th Street, Indianapolis, IN
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
My construction day job has me located on the northwest side of Indy and this BBQ joint is a staple place for me and coworkers to visit pretty much weekly. On my most recent visit I took one of our new office interns and another coworker there for lunch and enjoyed this dish: The Squealer Favorite.
This BBQ sandwich is hands down one of my absolute favorite sandwiches to get and probably in the top 5 of all pulled pork sandwiches I’ve ever had. So let’s begin this critique analyzing the APPEARANCE of this dish. A pulled pork sandwich doesn’t typically jump out to the eyes but this particular dish has a few eye catching features that are quite nice to the eye. The thin line of the smokey sweet BBQ sauce on the pulled pork and the side dish of collard greens do provide some color to the eyes at first glance. The plate is well covered with food but they do hide the onions and pickles that accompany the sandwich.
Taste wise…let me start with the sides. The kettle chips aren’t anything too fancy, but it is great to know that they are made in the restaurant and not bought at the grocery store. The collard greens were cooked to the perfection that I like which is a little bit of crunch or rigidness to the leafs and not mushy. The greens have some smoked meat and onions in it for accent flavors which is a nice touch. I typically eat my collard greens with Tabasco sauce but watching my sodium intake on this particular day I laid off on the hot sauce and the greens were “salty” enough. Of course I’d like to have more greens than chips, but side dishes are what they are.
The sandwich itself is a sesame seed bun, pulled pork meat, and creamy coleslaw. The bun is sufficient for the sandwich and both the pulled pork and coleslaw aren’t really runny so the buns typically stay dry. The pulled pork is a good combination of smokey, tender, and flavorful. The coleslaw is a great sweet touch left hook kind of topper that really accents the sandwich as a whole. I usually get the hot BBQ sauce and let the creaminess of the coleslaw cool down the tastebuds but I went with the smokey sweet sauce this time around and it was still delicious. I did add the fresh onions and pickles that were buried under the kettle chips and had truly amazing bites pretty much each and every time.
Negatives about this dish…I would’ve toasted the buns a little bit to get a little bit of a crunchy texture to the sandwich. The little sliver of sauce on the sandwich could definitely be more as well (need to ask for a side of sauce typically). The chips to greens ratio was a little heavy on the chips side, but as I mentioned earlier side dishes are what they are…side dishes and not the main thing.
Overall, the Squealer Favorite is one of my favorite BBQ sandwiches I’ve ever had! Coleslaw and pulled pork are complimentary foods. If you’re a little more daring, ask for a vinegar based sauce instead of the smokey sweet, mixed, or hot sauce. The tangy zing of a vinegar based sauce accented with the sweet creaminess of the coleslaw will make for another must have BBQ sandwich.
Triple XXX Family Restaurant/Diner
Address: 2 North Salisbury Street, West Lafayette, IN
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
The 2017 & 2018 college basketball season has started and I ventured up to my alma mater, Purdue University, and visited a staple restaurant and favorite of mine The Triple XXX Family Restaurant/Diner.
Nestled on the far east side of campus near an area known as the “Levy”, this eclectic joint has “old school” written all over it. Bar top stool seating, cash only, and nothing but Purdue Boilermaker nostalgia all over the walls. The absolute must try each and every time dish here is known as the “Duane Pervis All American Burger” named after All American running back/full back and track & field athlete Duane Pervis.
This burger falls under the category of you either “LOVE IT” or absolutely “HATE IT”. I happen to be on the absolutely LOVE IT category! Let’s begin with talking about what comes on this platter. Simply put…no frills or anything super exciting, but sticking to the true diner style of a basket with the burger and fries. The fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle & onion layered on top of the beef patty and cheese do provide some additional colors but not too much.
The appearance of this dish isn’t anything for the eyes…as it’s 100% for the taste buds. The fries that come from Triple XXX are how french fries should be…crispy & crunchy outside and soft almost fluffy on the inside. The burger itself is a true work of art and genius in my opinion. The sesame seed bun is slightly toasted so there’s a firmness to the buns and a slight crisp or crunch texture. The chop steak, cheese, and standard toppings are nothing out of the ordinary for a cheeseburger, but it’s the creamy peanut butter on the bottom bun that takes this burger to the top and is hands down my favorite hamburger. That’s not just the boilermaker in me coming out either…I truly do enjoy the flavor profile of every bite of this burger.
The peanut butter is what trips everyone up and is the main culprit to why you will either LOVE this burger or HATE it. I think the peanut butter adds an earthy twist to the sandwich and the placement of the spread is PERFECT! You would think putting it on the top bun would be best and treating the peanut butter like mayo, but at Triple XXX they put it on the bottom bun so the creamy peanut butter can gel with the salt chop steak patty making it DELICIOUS!
Being true to my word about my reviews…I gotta find something “negative”. This sandwich’s flavor profile is SPOT ON and the absolute best, but the toppings could use some work. The lettuce, tomato, and onions don’t appear to be super duper fresh and the colors just don’t jump out as I’d like to see. I would also like to see the option for a crunchy peanut butter in lieu of the creamy peanut butter. I think that crunchy peanut butter adds another depth of texture while still keeping the awesome flavor profile.
All in all, the Duane Pervis All American Burger is a heavenly flavor profile in every bite for a twist on a traditional diner favorite known as the cheeseburger. This burger may take you outside of your comfort zone, but aren’t some of the greatest things in our life experienced when we dare to try something new and get out of the ordinary and “just like everybody else” mentality? Unless you’re allergic to nuts this is a must try burger. If you do go, let me know as I’m always down for throwing one of these bad burgers down!
Upland Brewing Company Carmel Tap House
Address: 820 East 116th Street, Carmel, IN
Social Media: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
A coworker and I took off early on a Friday to enjoy shooting some guns at the local gun range and then enjoy some food and drinks nearby at Upland Brewery’s Tap House in Carmel, IN. Upland Brewing Company is actually based out of Bloomington, IN but this tap house in Carmel is a nice little getaway as not only do they have delicious craft beer but great food too! On this particular visit we shared two dishes. This review is focused on the Upland Nachos with Pulled Pork.
To start my review let me begin with the APPEARANCE of this dish. I will be honest that my first thought was “Wow, that’s a lot of tomatoes!” and the thought had crossed my mind that there was just way too many vegetables on this plate. As I look at the picture above and refresh my memory of the plate the look of the nachos is very eye appealing as the tomatoes have a fresh and vibrant red color and the placement of the fresh jalapenos really jumps out too.
Nachos are a tough dish to review because there’s two main trains of thought on the cheese. One train says to use runny nacho cheese and pour it over all the chips and stuff. The second train says to use shredded cheese and melt it at the end. I tend to lean more towards the first train when it comes to nachos…nacho cheese that’s gooey and sticky and that unique after taste that nacho cheese has over cheddar, mozzarella, or colby jack cheese. So putting my “preference” aside on how I like my nachos, the overall flavor profile of this plate is quite astonishing. The pulled pork topping is definitely a bonus, but the nachos by themselves without the pulled pork are still worth a taste. If you get a little bit of everything on a chip then it will EXPLODE your taste buds. The veggies are crisp, the chip is crunchy, you do taste the cheese, the black beans add a really good texture and a bit of a salty salivating left hook of flavor. Depending on if you have the jalapenos in the middle, bottom or top will determine when the heat and bite of the jalepeno come in but it’s a great accent flavor to the bite. The pulled pork was more sweet than tangy for pulled pork which was a good compliment to the bite and heat of the jalapeno. The sides of guacamole, pico de galo, and sour cream are available if you’d like but it will make for a very messy chip if you try to get all three of those on top of what already usually comes on a chip.
The only “negative” I could come up with is a challenge that every order of nachos has…getting cheese on every chip. The chips on the bottom middle of the plate are always bare by the time I get to them. The struggle is real for the nachos out there…all the chips just aren’t getting treated fairly. The ones on top get everything…but those on the bottom get nearly nothing besides the scraps the chips on top leave for them.
Overall…the Upland Nachos at Upland Brewing Company Carmel Tap House are great for an individual or sharing with friends. Pair it with a nice craft beer of your choice and you’ve got great food, great drinks, great friends, and a great time!
Address: 10 South Main Street, Zionsville, IN
Social Media:Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
This morning I met with my coworker Adrian for breakfast and we decided to venture to downtown Zionsville, IN and enjoy the food at Rosie’s Place. The last time we went here (before this blog was started) I had their breakfast taco’s and they were AMAZING! Surprisingly both the breakfast taco’s I had last time and the meal I’m about to review had no meat in it!?!?! Crazy right? You’d think a site like this is 100% into just meat, which is a majority of this sites emphasis, but ultimately this site is all about really good food.
So let me start with the APPEARANCE of this once it hit the table…GREAT looking plate and glass! Splitting the sandwich in half and showcasing the components of the sandwich makes it stand out and not be in the same tone of color as the country potatoes. The berry wedges on the top of the yogurt parfait glass really make it pop and the layering of the yogurt, granola, and fruit really makes you want to eat the whole thing in one sitting (which I almost did). Good size plate that wasn’t too small or too large and an easy enough plate to handle. The portions were spot on and in fact, as I’m writing this post which is about 5 hours after I ate this I’m still pretty full and skipping on my lunch today which is rare. I don’t care if my food touches so that’s fine with me…if you don’t like your food touching then you may need to request that.
The sandwich in of itself speaks one main word really loud and it’s the word “FRESH!”. The bread is freshly baked and the components of the sandwich are prepped that morning and the flavors of the avocado and the herb cream really compliment the eggs, spinach, and tomato. Every bite is full of those flavors with not any one flavor overpowering the other and it’s not a messy sandwich to eat as in no drippings of the herb cream as it’s a perfect amount and the ciabatta bread has a little bit of a crunch to it so that helps absorb any moisture from the herb cream.
Finding a negative to this dish is difficult. Really the only thing that I could critique negatively would be the amount of the scrambled egg white hanging over. If you look back at the picture above there’s about 1.5″ to 2″ of egg white extending beyond the bread which can make it difficult to grab at first. I’ve got big hands though so I was able to manage well. Not really sure how Rosie’s Place could alleviate that outside of cutting the scrambled egg whites after they’re cooked.
All in all, the California Egg Sandwich at Rosie’s Place in Zionsville is an absolute must try for breakfast, brunch, or lunch. Great balance of flavors and freshness take this dish over the top.