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2010 September

Low Budget Review – More Best Texas BBQ

On September 25, 2010, in Low Budget Review, by admin

The Friday lunch quests continues of reviewing Texas best BBQ joints through out North Texas.  Today’s stop takes us to the tiny town of Abbott, Texas. The population sign says 300….some around here would better know this place as the birth place of old and wacky weed singer, Willie Nelson. (He know resides in Briarcliff, Texas). This little town is on Interstate 35, and overcrowded line connecting San Antonio, Austin, Waco and DFW. To this effect, there is a lot of traffic passing by.

Another of Texas Best BBQ

Up In Smoke, Abbott Texas

Up In Smoke is another of these joints with countless billboards leading to the location. This location took over a long time standing favorite on I-35, the Turkey Shop…which had been in business since I first came to Texas in the mid 70’s.  Up In Smoke has been at this location for a few years now. They did a fine job of decorating the restaurant in a Texas theme, that is not overdone. The joint is a BBQ restaurant, with a separately branded desert place inside called Sugar Babies.  You can see separate billboards for this, so not sure if they sublease space or part of the BBQ ownership.  Despite the name confusing that with a strip joint, Sugar Babies serves pies and other sweets to finish your BBQ dinner. Up In Smoke has a serving line, like most BBQ joints where you place your order and get your sides cafeteria style. Today I ordered brisket and ribs. Now it always pisses me off when the BBQ joints feel the need to weigh the meat in front of the customer. Up In Smoke does this, so my attitude started out rough about this joint. Maybe one or two less billboards, and you will not feel the need to weigh the meat (which smacks of cost control).  There were plenty of sides to choose. Cold salads included slaw, potato, and an interesting pea salad. Warm sides included several fried options: okra and something I got which I did not know what it was, but it was really good. Nice reviewer, eh? I also had the green pea salad, which was good as well.

The star of the meat was the ribs.  Fall of the bone meat with a decent smokey taste.  Not much else to say but that this was one of the better ribs I have tasted. Brisket? Not so much. For a BBQ  joint named Up In Smoke, it was ironic that the smoke flavor was largely missing. The ring was weak. I could barely detect the smoke of Mesquite wood. Now the cut was nice, and reasonably cooked to tenderness. So this part was good. As many of you know from prior reviews, this has been an issue at some of the joints. The total cost for this outing was $11.73. This included a medium drink. The pricing is fairly standard for BBQ joints.

Overall, I liked this place.  I give it 8 out of 10 boots. I may not be back, however, since most of the time, I drive the back roads home on Fridays…and it was all I could do to take I-35 home today just to review this BBQ joint.

Eat on.


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Low Budget Review BBQ Tour Continues

On September 23, 2010, in Low Budget Review, by admin

Texas Best BBQ Ride Continues

Dixie's Little Stop in Little Mt Calm Texas

Our Texas best BBQ trail continues.  Today, it brings us to the small little hamlet of Mt. Calm, Texas.  Population is less than 400. Along the rather busy state highwy that runs through this village is Dixie’s Little Stop. Now, I know what your thinking. What does the “Fried Pies” have to do with Texas best BBQ?  Turns out, very little.  But being a Damn Yankee, I had to stop to learn. What the hell is a “fried pie” and why is Dixie famous for them?  Oh yeah, I had BBQ as well. More on that later. Well my northern and Russian spamming friends, (I have taught you Russians a shit load about Texas, USA so far…so stay with me….I can stand the spamming, I just wipe you out) a fried pie is little more than a dough covered fruit pie. Think McDonald’s, Whataburger (local chain for you Russians), etc.  These are much better however, and I had to get one for desert.  People were coming into the joint purchasing these things by the dozen.  With a calorie count no less than 500, that is easily a 6000 calorie purchase. No wonder we have so many Texas in electric chairs who need them not…they all go to Dixie’s and order a dozen pies. Now they had interesting flavors.  All the fruits you can imagine, plus, pecan pie, chocolate, date, you name it.  So there is your other big challenge, go in there and order up one of everything.  There was at least 8 different flavors. Yes, they were 500 Calorie plus good.

Now the BBQ, well, remember, this is not a BBQ place really. They are more of a home cooking type restaurant offering a menu of just about everything from Mexican food to grits. Probably a little too much offering to excel at anything, really. My attempt at BBQ, to rate the best BBQ as I try to do in these posts, was met with BBQ my mother used to make in the crock pot.  OK. Literally. That is where they served the chopped BBQ from.  Bottom line, this is a chopped beef sandwich, doused in likely store bought BBQ sauce, and slow cooked in a crock pot.  So there is no smoking here.  This really is not BBQ. It was pleasant tasting enough, but not what I am on a mission from God to find.

So for the Texas Best BBQ review, I give it a boot count of, well, N/A.  I cannot rate BBQ that is not meant to be BBQ. On the pies, I give it 7 boots. These are worth trying. Oh yeah, in the 30 minutes I sat there, about 15 customers came in. I was the only one sitting and eating, the others, came in to buy pies.

The quest continues….

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Unless you have been dwelling in a dingy hole somewhere, hard rock fans, you should know by now that the Uproar Tour, 2010, sported one of the best line ups of the summer. Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Stone Sour, Halestorm, Hellyeah, Airbourne and others made up for one roaring kick in the ass good time in Dallas on Friday, September 10. The Uproar Tour is no different than other commercially driven (ah, that would be sponsored) event.  This was set up as a festival in the hot Texas sun, starting around 3:30p.  There were two stages: the main and a large side stage. The bands began on the side stage.  I did not arrive until a bit later in the afternoon….and after the necessary beers in the parking lot, we went in and unfortunately missed half of the first band: Airbourne.  I really wanted to see their whole set…oh well, two parking lot beers too many apparently.


Airbourne in the Air

Airbourne is an Australian outfit that brings back a sound from the metal 80’s. Sounding like a mix of Motley Crue and early AC/DC, these guys have received moderate airplay in the last year.  This is no easy task for this type of band in today’s fragmented and ailing popular music scene. Their set was tight, the songs recognizable, and the antics were in your face. Really, maybe just a bit too much, too contrived. The lead singer seemed to graduate from Headbanger University teaching lead singers the 10 sound bites to say on stage.  He passed, A+.  He needed a bit more creativity.  Overall, still, I liked these guys and look forward to more beyond the Uproar Tour.

Hellyeah. This band is always a Dallas favorite because of its roots here with drummer Vinnie Paul. It does not hurt to have the Pantera legacy as well.  Every time I see these guys I think the same thing.  Consistent. Enjoyable. Crowd pleasing. These guys are a little more grunge in approach.  Recently they have enjoyed air play as well.  But the songs that get air play really are kind of flat on a Hellyeah set. Performance wise, they are tight. This is a cohesive group. Not one of my personal favorites, but I do enjoy seeing them.  I just would not go see them as a headliner. They are best suited on bills like the Uproar Tour.

Halestorm. Brother/sister act Halestorm proved to be more than the title song of Voyuers everywhere (I Get Off ). Upon stage arrival, it took a a few minutes to get over the fact that Lizzi Hale looks (and sounds) like she could be the daughter of Pat Benetar. Nice looks.  But Lizzi needs to just say “no” to spandex.  A somewhat squatty lower body made this a bad look. But the tunes were good.

Halestorm on Stage

Loose The Spandex Lizzi

In fact, I down loaded some to my iPod. As a band, it is clear they are young and a bit raw. Stage presence was decent, and even understated until they did what I consider a really bad sign….a drum solo.  Let me explain. This band had a 30 minute slot to play and impress.  They used over 5 of it for a useless drum solo. Tells me they are short on music…at least rock music that fits the flavor of the Uproar Tour. The brother drummer was also a pretty boy. Clearly, part of the act is to sell looks for this group. Give them a listen.  A decent group, that, if they solve their apparent playlist issue and get even more airplay, they will be touring alot on shows such as this.

Stone Sour. This is a group I struggle to understand.  First, how does lead Corey Taylor strike gold twice with Slipknot and Stone Sour?  Why not translate the music to Slipknot, he just need a reason to get rid of the on stage outfit?  This questions will never get answered. This is the fourth time seeing Stone Sour. They have a no nonsense stage approach, with the sparse stage back drop to match.  They do not, however, loose any energy.  Sound wise, their harder stuff blends a little too much together.  Could be mixing. But I cannot separate any specific guitar work from voice, bass, etc.  You get the picture. As a lead without the get up, Taylor makes for an odd front man. He offsets his nakedness by running back and forth as if possessed, but in a friendly sort of way

Corey Taylor of Stone Sour

Taylor without the Slipknot Get Up

Ironically, Stone Sour’s most popular songs, judging by airplay and audience expectation are softer, acoustic guitar based songs. Melodic, and with striking lyrics.  Those songs do not translate well in a show with this bill.  So they left one of them on the table.  Their new song received decent acceptance, less than I thought it would given the airplay it now gets. Overall, this was just an average outing for a group that has a lot of talent. They were better on other nights that I have seen them…but still, do not pass a chance to go see them.

Disturbed. Right up front, I do not like these guys, never did.  I was not here to see them. And it is not like I have not seen them before, this is the fifth time to see them. One thing is for certain, they sure do have a lot of recognizable songs from massive airplay. All I will say about this performance is that their act has gone a bit more mainstream.  More corporate, if you will. It is less edgy as in the past, and the audience reaction followed suit. Not taking anything away from hard core fans, again, this is just my personal tastes.

Avenged Sevenfold. This is the group I was here to see. This is the first tour after the loss of their drummer, DOA for who knows what reason.  Replaced by Dream Theaters drummer, they march on. Lead guy M Shadows voice was in great form. Recall they had to cancel a tour mid way two years back due to voice issues. Their brand of rock is very difficult to pull off. Listen to their music on iTunes or CDs, it is very complex, almost Kansas like in machine gun musical directions within one song. It takes a talented group to pull this off live, and they most certainly do,

Avenged Sevenfold Stage

Yes, Avenged Sevenfold Knows Death First Hand Recently

Avenged Sevenfold Stage

Welcome To Hell

Blessed with an elaborate stage set up that changed it flavors several times throughout the one hour set, the group did not miss a beat in playing or energy. They are musically a superior band.  Audience reaction was great as well.  In fact, we thought Avenged Sevenfold was the headliner as billed. They must switch nights with Disturbed on headlining.  Bad news for Disturbed when they are headlining as in tonight as audience reaction is much stronger for Avenged Sevenfold, and 20% of the audience left before Disturbed closed the night. This group has never been more popular as witnessed by their hit “Nightmare” which charted at #2 in the overall singles chart recently….yes the overall charts, not just the rock charts.  Go see this band.  They are curious.  Their themes are dark. Their personality matches.  Yet their lyrics are lace with interesting religious implications. This was my third time seeing them, and this was the best.

Business Results. As many of you know, I like to summarize the business side of the concerts I attend.  There is no doubt this has been one of the most difficult concert seasons in years with cancellations, low attendance, etc. Tonight was no different. I believe this line up was stellar (sans Disturbed). This venue holds 20,000. Tonight I estimate that there were 11,000 in attendance on a Friday night. As with festivals that are sponsored, it is difficult to assess the sponsorship money.  The festival approach yields a myriad of vendor tents selling things to concert goers.  Then there is the alcohol….bottom line, I estimate this event grossed less than $600,000. There was not the normal bullshit $15 charge for parking.  My pit ticket cost $105 with all the Ticketmaster bullshit fees. The hillside lawns were about $40. Clearly organizers were hoping for more, and it just depneds on the sponsorship money to know whether this floated the costs of the event.

Go see these bands.  This is a great tour.

Up Next: Uproar Tour Review

On September 15, 2010, in Uncategorized, by admin

Up Next: A review of the Uproar Tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Stone Sour, Halestorm, Hellyeah, Airbourne.  This tour came through Dallas Texas on Friday, September 10.  A complete review will be posted here on redd granite no later than tomorrow.  Catch it.

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Best BBQ: More Central Texas Travels

On September 13, 2010, in Travel, Uncategorized, by admin

Continuing our series on Texas Best BBQ, last Friday’s lunch stop in Central Texas took us to Corsicana, Texas.  Corsicana is a city of about 25,000 in Central/North Texas.  Along I-45, 2/3 the way from Houston to Dallas, Corsicana is a stop for many travelers making the 245 mile trip. Our stop ended at Clyde’s BBQ:

Clydes BBQ, Corsicana, Texas

When it comes to Texas best BBQ, many times a minimalist attitude is king.  Many of the best joints are holes-in-the-wall. Clyde’s BBQ in Corsicana, Texas fits the bill. As you can see from the pic above, it almost looks as if it was converted from a double wide.  Inside, a sparse, but functional interior compliments this minimalist approach to best BBQ. There are about 6 tables to enjoy your lunch for those who wish to eat in.  Plates are not served here.  It is all to go containers, even if you eat in.  The menu is limited. Again, very minimalist. Ribs, Brisket, and links are the only offerings.  Same for the sides.  Baked and Ranch Style Beans, Slaw, and Potato Salad.  I stuck with my review menu (for this site at least) and had sliced Brisket with Ranch Style Beans and Potato Salad.

The Brisket was prepared wonderfully. Very, very tender, which tells me they take the time to slow cook as Brisket should.  The smoke ring was not real defined: interesting, with the fact that it tasted great and Mesquite smokey.  But the ring was not nearly as defined as it should be. The sauce was another interesting point. There really was not a BBQ sauce to speak of.  It seems as if it was marinaded or cooked in this sauce-type au jois. I personally loved the approach.  It was superbly tastey, without drowning the brisket in ancillary sauce. There are those hard cores which would tell you this is closer to what BBQ should be.  Too many confuse BBQ with sauce….but it really is the Brisket and the process of cooking/smoking the meat. The serving of Brisket was overly healthy in portions. Good thing, I may have had to purchase seconds if it was not as large of a serving.

The sides were mixed.  The Ranch Style Beans were OK. Not sure if they were store bought or not, they could have been. The potato salad, however, was a different story. Clearly home it was home made. A different tasting mustard style potato salad which was nearly the consistency of mashed potatoes. Very tasty. As I devoured my late lunch, one of the family brought in two huge buckets of the potato salad, confirming that it was home made, likely by a family member.  This is no corporate resturaunt operation, but a true minimalist BBQ operation that can stand with most.  Again, if you want the sauce, go elsewhere. But for more true BBQ lovers, this does qualify as one of Texas Best BBQ.

There were not many guest on this Friday. This is unfortunate.  They are just 1/10 of a mile beyond all of the fast food joints on HWY 31 off of I-45. With just a little knowledge of this place (read hwy billboard), I am certain many would bypass the fast food hell and end up at Clyde’s.  And the price, oh yeah, about 20% less than most BBQ joints (which are all over priced).

So try them out if you are ever in this area. I give Clyde’s bBQ, Corsicana, Texas a total of 8 out of 10 boots…..(I really need to find a boot icon for this portion of the post)

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Best Las Vegas Travel Planning Websites

On September 6, 2010, in Travel, by admin

Continuing with our obsession for Las Vegas travel, we turn now to Vegas travel planning.  For those not familiar with Las Vegas, planning a trip to maximize your time there becomes important.  Las Vegas is much more than gambling. So where do you go?  You Google ‘Las Vegas Travel” and you get over 53M results. Google “Vegas Travel Planning” and you get 478K results. All of the usual hitters come up as well. Fodors, Govegas, Travelocity….the many choices.

There are a few websites that I like to focus when planning Vegas travel planning. Lasvegas.com and vegas.com are good sites.  As you may tell by the names they are related, owned by the same company. So the format and content is largely the same for both. Lasvegas.com focuses a bit more on things to do outside of Las Vegas, but otherwise they are the same.  You can book your room here.  Plan your dinners, nightclubs, etc. I like the feature  to search restaurants based upon price and location.  They should have extended the search feature to include food type.  In order to find a good steak house, you have to search through all the listings. The nightclub listings are very informative, and you will need this, as the top clubs in Vegas can be challenging and intimidating to get into for those not familiar.

If you are looking more into what to do, my preferred website is Lasvegasadvisor.com. This is a very comprehensive listing of things to do in Vegas.  A slick website that is easily navigated to target your subject area. It also includes reviews from users on hotels, restaurants, clubs, etc. While reviews from users can be all over the map, these seem to be as informative as they are opinionated. Their listing includes many off strip locations as well.  Although along that line, they did not list a couple of great off strip resturaunts that really should be included in any website on Vegas. (Pasta Mia, Thai Spice, and Rosemary’s). This shows that no website can cover it all. This site also offers good hotel information, and most importantly, it keeps its data up to current status.  Changes in the entertainment or dining scene are quickly updated on this site. This often can be an issue when using the web to gather good information.

One site you may be tempted to click because it ranks high in the Google search engines is VisitLasVegas.com.  This site is owned by the convention and travel bureau of Las Vegas.  Because of this, they do not put specific hotel property or other true travel information that you require when planning Las Vegas travel.  They do go the extra mile to give general information on what to do in Las Vegas, but even this is not as useful as  the other sites listed above.

Of course, you can visit a number of sites when planning your Las Vegas travel.  There is pleasure in this as well.  So go out and visit sites for yourself. Currently the Google ads on this site have links to Las Vegas as well.  Some of these are informative sites as well so you can check them out.

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