Lyles BBQ – Lexington, KY

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!

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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. 

SUMMARY

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!

Archer’s BBQ – Knoxville, TN

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. 

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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. 

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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. 

SUMMARY

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.

Sweet P’s BBQ – Knoxville, TN

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. 

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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. 

SUMMARY

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.  

Jim Neely’s Interstate BBQ – Memphis, TN

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.

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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. 

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BBQ Spaghetti!

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. 

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Sampler Platter

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. 

SUMMARY

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.

Moonlite BBQ Inn – Owensboro, KY

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.

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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.

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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! 

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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! 

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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!

SUMMARY

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.

Feast BBQ – Louisville, KY

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

SUMMARY

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!

Peg Leg Porker BBQ – Nashville, TN

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.

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BBQ Nachos – tortilla chips, pulled pork, nacho cheese, jalapeños

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1/2 Rack of Ribs with french fries & smoked beans

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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.

SUMMARY

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. 

Beast Craft BBQ Co.

Restaurant Name: Beast Craft BBQ
Address: 20 South Belt West, Belleville, IL 6220
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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.

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Wagyu beef brisket, pork belly, potato salad, belly brussel sprouts

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Pork steak, chicken wings, and bread pudding

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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.

SUMMARY

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.

Salt & Smoke

Restaurant Name: Salt & Smoke
Address: 6525 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130
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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. 

SUMMARY

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.

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