Texas BBQ Road Continues

On August 5, 2013, in Texas Best BBQ Review, by admin

Another addition from our portly purveyor of Texas BBQ:

Today’s journey takes us to Chappell Hill, about 8 miles east on Highway 290 from Brenham ,TX.    We have passed the Chappell Hill Bakery and Smokehouse numerous times over the years and kept saying, “one of these days….”.  As we were in the area for the Chappell Hill Bluebonnet Festival, we left the festival tired and hungry and decided, this was going to be that day.  Walking in, you are faced with two entry doors.  The first, on the right, leads to the Bakery side and the left leads to the restaurant side.  There is only one large room inside , filled with tables and a few booths, with very little decoration outside of some old photos of the area from many years past.   Heading over to the restaurant side we were immediately dismayed at the long line we found ourselves in.  The line snaked past the cafeteria style servers carving BBQ meats and placing side orders on plates.  But the line moved steadily, and the wait gave us the chance to read the chalk menu board with the options and daily specials.  It also gave us time to look at the orders of folks walking past the cashier’s area, plates filled with food.

As usual at a new BBQ place, we ordered the two-meat special, with brisket, sausage, and two sides.  Then came our first big decision-what kind of sausage?  They offer 3 types, regular, jalapeno, and garlic.  We chose the garlic as it was not as spicy, and very unusual option on the BBQ Road.  The sides offered were plentiful, from Mac-n-cheese, to mustard greens, and several types of beans, but we chose the traditional potato salad and Cole slaw.  We got pickles on the side, no onions.  Sauce came on the side as well, which is a great choice for most people, who are usually on one side or the other on the great BBQ Sauce or non-BBQ-Sauce debate.  We were asked if we wanted bread, and said yes.  We received two large thick-sliced made-in-the-store slabs of warm bread, fresh from the oven.  Wonderful!

The sides were good, not great.  The mustard potato salad had a large dill pickle contribution, which made the salad tangy and crunchy.  The Cole slaw was fresh, but a little soupy.   The BBQ sauce was thin, molasses/ketchup based, with not much else going for it.   How was the meat?   The brisket had a very pronounced smoke ring, but little smoke flavor.  It was not particularly tender.  The sausage was outstanding, sliced thin and piled high, the garlic flavor very present but not overpowering.

For desert, we wandered over to the bakery side, and first passed on Blue Bell Ice Cream (No Blue Bell, from right down the road in Brenham?-Sometimes sacrifices must be made.  We did buy a loaf of bread, still very warm from the oven, and fogging up the bread bag.  We added a dozen Kolaches and off we went for more adventures down the road.

The grade?  Chappell Hill gets a “B”.  Good sides, great sausage, so-so brisket, and BBQ sides best summed up as “meh”.  The grade would have been closer to a “C”, but the Bakery raises the overall grade.  The prices and serving sizes were about average.

The BBQ Road goes ever on…….

 

Joe Bob BBQ gives this a thumbs up for two meats, 3000 calories, and followed, I am sure, by a nap

Today’s establishment asking for entry at the gates of BBQ heaven is a well-known Austin restaurant known as “County Line Barbecue”.  As noted previously, I generally stay away from chains, even small chains, but a friend asked me to dinner there to compare it versus some of the better spots I have encountered on the mission to find great BBQ.   County Line’s website lists 8 locations, plus their sister establishments Cannoli Joe’s, an Italian buffet style place, and Side Door Liquor Store in El Paso.   Eclectic corporate grouping, so far.  Started in Austin in 1975, the County Line has two locations in the Capital City, the original on The Hill, in an old “speakeasy” and the other overlooking a portion of Lake Austin.  This visit was to the lake location.  The huge parking lot had a half-dozen cars parked in front. The large restaurant is cool, the wood interior very relaxing and soothing.  The staff was friendly and helpful, but seemed to be in a hurry to rush us taking orders, checking up numerous times for status and tea refills.  It seemed the vibe was to turn the tables over quickly and get more customers in, and it wasn’t especially crowded.  After the meal, we strolled out to the huge wooden deck, to chat and watch the sun on the immense limestone cliffs looking down on us, and keeping an eye on several dozen turtles lazily hanging around the water.  They have spots for boaters to tie up when they are ready for a break from the lake.  Very cool.

As usual, I ordered the two meat plate, Brisket and Sausage, with Potato Salad, Cole Slaw,  and “baked beans”.   Hot bread, as dark as pumpernickel came first.  Slathered with sweet honey butter, was delicious.  But we weren’t at a bakery, we were there for some serious BBQ.  As our plate dinners came out I was baffled.  The Brisket serving was minimal,  the sausage quite large.  The potato salad was cold, crisp, with just the right amount of mustard.  A winner.  The Baked Beans were hot, but tasted like canned pork-n-beans heated on the stove with a touch of brown sugar.  The coleslaw was fresh but bland, merely acceptable.  The brisket itself, was moderately tender, with a small  smoke ring.  We had the option to use the sauce on the side.  The sauce was well made, moderately dense, a little peppery.  The sausage casing was very thick and difficult to cut through even with silverware.  Plastic knives and forks would have failed miserably.  The sausage flavor was mildly smoky, with some interesting spices.  I did not try the turkey, which several people have raved about.

The County Line Has Nice Surroundings

Overall, I give The County Line a “D” .  This was the most expensive BBQ place I have sampled, and from the amount and quality of the food for the price, a major disappointment.  Maybe they had an off night, it does happen from time to time, but for what they charge, the quality of the food should be the paramount focus, not getting people in and out.   The problem with chain restaurants is often they sacrifice the time necessary to make really great smoked meats and delicious sides, for speed and expediency.  The parking lot was packed when we left, which I could see for the ambiance, but not for the food.  Austin should expect and demand better.

Editors Note:  I too have opinions on this establishment. A location opened in Garland Texas, on Lake Ray Hubbard. Seems they stick with their water view.  Unfortunately, this establishment did not make it even two years, even with a killer unobstructed view of the lake.  The only positive I can say is that the County Line is one of the few BBQ  joints that serve beef ribs.  Not sure why these are not more popular in the bayous of BBQs. But they do a decent job with the beef ribs.  So if you do try one of their locations, I highly recommend those or you will be very dissatisfied.America’s Best BBQ: 100 Recipes from America’s Best Smokehouses, Pits, Shacks, Rib Joints, Roadhouses, and Restaurants

The BBQ Road goes ever on…….

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Chisholm Trail BBQ Lockhart Texas. So everyone boasts to have the best BBQ, especially here in Texas where everyone brags about anything and everything. So when our roaming correspondent and local BBQ expert hit the road once again to ingest some serious calories, they ended up in this central Texas town of Lockhart, about 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas. Here, they claim the best BBQ in the state.  Truly, some of the joynts he mentions go back to the early 1900’s, and Chisholm Trail BBQ to the 70’s, the ‘new kid’ in town. So are they the best?  Well, read on……

Last holiday weekend brought a quick lunch trip down to Lockhart, TX, proclaimed “The BBQ Capital of Texas”.  Pretty strong words, there pardner, but can they back it up?  The answer is…Hell yes!

This small town of approximately 14,000 people, the county seat of Caldwell County has one of the most picturesque County Courthouses in Texas, completed in 1894.  This town was on one of the main trails of the Chisholm Trail, with Cowboys riding herd to drive beef to the railheads in Kansas.  That history of handling beef has taken hold with four BBQ places (and counting) that would be considered among the best in Texas.

After previously trying the better-known BBQ “joints” in town, like Blacks, Smitty’s, and  Kruez, we were determined to try “Chisholm Trail BBQ” right on Hwy  183 in town, but well past the other places mentioned above.  The low-slung, but long building is unimpressive outside, with signs advising of a wide variety of foods including chicken-fried steaks and fajita plates. We found one parking spot available out front—the place was packed. Walking in , there is initial confusion, no real directions to the service line—indeed there were two lines.  After watching a minute and then asking a local, we learned that the left hand line is for “to Go” orders and the right line was for either eat-in or to go.  The floor was commercial tile, the tables, old worn Formica, scattered about several divided rooms.  Old pictures and the occasional stuffed bobcat/coyote were the decorations.  A wide variety of choices then presented themselves—what to eat.  You can order a plate with 1 or more meats and sides, or just order various meats by the pound.  You can get a Styrofoam container to eat in or go, or just have them put it on butcher paper like other places in town.  We quickly decided on the plate lunch, either the 1 or two meat plate came with 3 sides (most places offer two sides) along with bread and onions (which I think must be offered by law in Texas).  In order to compare “apples to apples” when reviewing BBQ,  I usually get the brisket and sausage as I did here.  The sides had over a dozen choices, cottage fries, green beans, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, fried okra, mac and cheese, black eyed peas, green salad, were among those offered.  My companion got green beans and black-eyed peas, and I got the ‘tater salad and coleslaw. (again, pretty standard for comparison sakes).

The green beans tasted like home-grown picked and slow-cooked with ham bits-very good.  The black-eyed peas were met with approval.  The potato salad was delicious, crunchy, firm, with celery and pimento bits included.  The only disappointment was the coleslaw.  While the presentation was good, with carrots chopped and added to the mix for good color, the slaw was bland, almost warm, vinegar-based.  The sweet tea was especially refreshing after a  busy morning.

But let’s talk about the reason for the visit—the slow-cooked meats.  The brisket was very tender, with a beautiful pink smoke ring.  Juicy but lean, it almost melts in your mouth.  The flavor both with and without sauce was close to the best we have had on the BBQ road. (Country Cousins in Centerville—watch out!)  The sausage was very good, the casing was tough to cut, but the meat inside was smoked, with interesting spices.  Not the best sausage we have had, but certainly in top 3 territory.   The brisket could be cut with a small plastic knife with little effort.  BBQ sauce was available on the side(Bonus Points!).  We bought two pounds of sliced brisket to take home with us, something we seldom do.

We found that having three sides with the BBQ plates to be a great value as well as delicious. The prices were the best we have seen on The Barbecue Road.    Great food, great prices, great value—no wonder the locals pack the place! Overall, The Chisholm Trail BBQ gets an “A”, better grades than most of the more famous BBQ brethren in town.  The food is better, the attitude is better, the place was packed with locals—all the visitors hit the other places…but the food—mmmm…..great job, folks, great job.  We will be back!

The Barbecue Road beckons…..

PS: A trip to their website indicates they will ship you meat across the county. Several of the better BBQ joints in Texas have begun to do this.  This is a way, although not the best like being there, to try some of the meats written about regularly on our bohemian site.

 


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When Will The BBQ Monsoon Stop?

On April 21, 2011, in Low Budget Review, by admin

 

We truly hope never. Wow, our man about Texas continues with the BBQ….he is literally giving you his waistline so you may enjoy these great reviews.  OK.  First a note to Google:  Dear Google, please do not cancel my adsense account. Some of the recipes in adds that you have posted as a result of your excellent search engine has literally made me click on my own ads.  Please forgive me, if you search engine was not so great, I would not have pulled off several cool recipes for one of my favorite foods…….on the BBQ Road.

Now to the review.  This place had no photo I could find, so it better be good, but read on……

My last experience on this trip was the next afternoon for a late lunch.  Mike’s Barbecue House in Nacogdoches.   Opened in 1986, the family had worked in another BBQ place across town before going out on their own.  The small parking lot was actually encouraging, but the electric sign out front worried me.  Once we walked in, though, the smell of BBQ and a little smoke was very promising.  The décor was standard Texas BBQ—wooden tables, pictures of country landscapes.  The semi-antique items hung on the walls were at a minimum, thankfully.  Really, people.  We know we are in the country, at a BBQ joint/place.  We don’t need washboards, and old rusty plows and farm implements and pictures of a Marketing Major’s version of Ma and Pa and Uncle Ernie nailed to the walls to remind us.  We know.  Now the food?  Our party ordered several different items, Pork Ribs, tasty and smoky even if not falling-off-the-bone.  The brisket had a very nice smoke ring, tender, the sausage was perhaps underdone.  The sauce was added without asking and it appeared and tasted as if a rub was placed on the meats before the sauce was added. This was similar to another BBQ place we had tried in the same city.  The result was a medium-spicy mixture, quite tasty but unusual.  We had seen that only in this town.   Some in our party did not care for the mixture, I found it different and quite good, even though I am not a spicy-foods person.  The potato salad was outstanding, in the top 3 of what we had tried in all our travels, the Cole slaw was unfortunate. Soggy, vinegar based, not encouraging.  The stuffed jalapeno’s were very spicy. The baked-bean style beans were good with chunks of beef and sauce cooked in.   The staff was pleasant and focused.  The tea was sweet and refreshing.  The blackberry cobbler was also very good.  Mike’s gets a solid B from me, although the rest of the party may not have graded so generously.  But after all, I am writing this, not them, so my grade goes….

 

The Barbecue Road goes ever on….

 

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We do not normally review chains here.  However, if you are part of the Texas landscape, you cannot avoid Dickey’s BBQ.  Hell, if you are paying attention to the Google ads that appear to the right of this post, you will likely see an ad to buy a Dickey’s franchise. Now anyone who sells franchises starting at $59K, well, one wonders about the BBQ quality. Read on.

I am happy that our BBQ expert, (and Rum expert, and Low Budget Review, everything cheap expert) was willing to try Dickeys BBQ Pit.  But make no bones about it, this is not a “BBQ Pit”  OK. With that, we let the true expert lead on with his review.

In Nacogdoches that night, we tried a BBQ place that semi-broke the rules for The Barbecue Road—a chain BBQ restaurant.  Historically, the chains do not match up with the joints, shacks, mom-n-pop, and family-run places we love to try.  But, it was close to our hotel, so, we gave it a try—Dickey’s Barbecue.  Dickey’s is a chain with approx 120 outlets, mostly in the Great Plaines states. With a number of them in Texas.  I believe it may have started in Dallas.  Many years ago, “Back in the day”, a local Dickey’s in Plano was one of our favorite dinner spots.  It had been over 20 years since our last visit.  This Dickey’s was similar to a lot of BBQ places, wood tables, checkerboard plastic tablecloths, bric-a-brac on the walls.  The young staff seemed more interested in quickly getting us served than making sure the order was correct.  Perhaps paying more attention to the customer may be in order, not just paying attention to the plate that is being filled.  Smoke hung heavy in the air—too heavy, they need better ventilation.  We literally had to shower that night to get the smoke smell out of our hair and clothes.  But the food—not bad.  The brisket was good, had a small smoke ring, the sauce was tomato-molasses based, sweet but rich, and melded with the meat very well.  The sauce was poured on the meat entre without asking if we even wanted sauce.  The traditional pickles, onion, and white bread accompanied.  The sausage was OK, smoky with a mild aftertaste of something I couldn’t quite put my finger on, jalapeno, maybe, or red pepper.  The potato salad was bland, pureed to a texture like vanilla ice cream.  Potato Salad should be chunky and funky with mustard.  I want to taste that I am eating actual potatoes, not rehydrated potato flakes.  The Cole Slaw was OK, vinegar based, and chopped very fine.  The tea was commercial brand bland.  Dickey’s gets some extra points for having some unusual items on the menu—pulled pork, not that frequent in the Beef-Universe that is Texas, loaded Baked Potatoes that looked awesome, Virginia-Style Ham, Polish Sausages… They also had a Smokehouse Salad that was the best bargain on the menu. The plate was very  large, with lots of chopped brisket, fresh greens, cheese and fixins.  Very impressive and a great price.  So here is the dilemma, I give them bonus points for some unusual sides (okra) and the salad and taters, for being a great bargain and well presented and prepared. Delicious.  But then I have to penalize them points—for offering a salad in a BBQ place.  Really, a salad?  In a BBQ place?  No matter how good it is… there’s a saying in Texas, “That boy just ain’t right”……Dickey’s gets a C+.

 

 

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In our travels over the great state of Texas seldom do we get a chance to revisit some of our previous BBQ joints and restaurants.  Sometimes, you look at that with trepidation.  Will it be as good as you remember? Did you catch the cooks on a good day or a bad one? Did the cook hate his wife that day or did he get some? All of this counts in Texas, land of the big, best BBQ and triple wide mobile homes. Yes,  consistency is extremely important with good ‘Cue, but there are so many places to try, and so little time….and with the lack of time, it is sometimes difficult to return and check on consistency

Last week, however, we were traveling to East Texas for business and made a point to stop in Centerville, a town of about 900 at the intersection of State Hwy 7 and I-45.  Back in late January we had stopped mid-morning on a cold, rainy day on the way home and shared a sliced beef brisket sandwich, from a semi-permanent trailer/shack called “Country Cousins”.  The sandwich was wonderful and we had promised ourselves that if we ever came back that way we would try more of the menu.  So now the pressure was on.  It was after lunchtime and we were hungry travelers hoping our previous stop was not a mirage.  The place was busy when we pulled up, always a good sign.  We tried the two meat plate, with sliced brisket and sausage, with two sides and tea.  The first mouthful soothed our anxiety. The brisket was melting in our mouth, the sauce, dark, thick and smoky.  It was tomato based with some molasses perhaps, with a touch of kick.  The meat had a good smoke ring and was outstanding.  The sausage was thin sliced and mild, just OK.  The sides were very good, tasty, crunchy potato salad with good texture and flavor, not bland at all.  The beans were pork n beans style with some beef and thick with a sweet cooking sauce, hot, just off the stove delicious.   My companion declared “Country Cousins” the best BBQ found so far on The Barbecue Road.  It was very close to that.  It rates an “A”.  The only reason it didn’t get an A+ was the sausage needs more character, something to make it stand out and not just seem it was Elgin Sausage thrown on the grill for a few minutes.  We may be going back that way in June and will make a point to stop again.  Well Done, “Cousins”, well done!

 

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Green Mesquite. Our latest entry in the never-ending search for the best BBQ leads us to the capital of Texas—Austin.  While Austin is a huge city compared to most of the BBQ places we have reviewed, the “River City” is known more for its Tex-Mex and Margarita’s than BBQ.   As a side note, Austin calls itself, “The Live Music Capital of Texas”.  With its well-known love affair with ‘Rita’s, it is only appropriate that Jimmy Buffet wrote his huge hit, “Margaritaville” when he was in Austin.  But let’s get back to the ‘Cue…

Green Mesquite Has Been Green A Long Time

Taking an out of town visitor to the downtown area, we pondered a bit before deciding on an old standby on Barton Springs Road, near to famous Zilker Park—The Green Mesquite.  I had not been there in perhaps 15 years, and they had suffered a terrible fire, but had rebuilt.  Still funky, still crowded, with a large outdoor seating area for live music—this is Austin, after all.

The menus were handed on a large laminated sheet, with the specials listed on a chalk board next to the draught beers for happy hour.  A good sign.  The staff was very casual, but pleasant and knowledgeable.  No pretense, no attitude, just “what do you need, here’s some suggestions, we’ll get it out to you in a few minutes”, then leave us alone to chat, with the exception of filling our tea glasses.

I tried the three meat plate, brisket, turkey, and sausage, with potato salad and coleslaw.  One companion got the pulled pork sandwich and another got pork ribs and pulled pork.   The meat servings were large, overflowing the plate.  The brisket was good, tender, with a nice smoke ring.  Didn’t have a large smoke flavor but one could tell it had cooked for a while.  The turkey was moist with a touch of pepper.  The sausage was a long, thin link that was disappointing.  It was extremely juicy, greasy, tough to eat, and the flavor was bland.  The ribs were not overly meaty, but had good texture and flavor.  The pulled pork was good as well, but lacked the necessary smoke kick that sets the good apart from the great.  The sauce was tomato based and was on the table in a plastic ketchup bottle.  This sauce was very good, deep, dark, smoky, with a touch of black and red pepper, perhaps?

The sides were well done.  The potato salad, while not outstanding, was good, with generous amount of mustard, which I like.  The coleslaw looked and tasted like it had just been made before being served.  Crisp, flavorful, mayo-blended.  The cabbage was cut in large pieces, somewhat unusual in my experiences so far on the BBQ Road.

For a grade, I give The Green Mesquite a solid B+.  Good Brisket, good turkey, good sides, very good sauce, OK pork ribs and pulled pork.  The only real negative was the sausage.   The prices were very good, especially for the amount of food on the plates.  They even have an “All you can eat” special, that would have been a target in my younger days.  I am tempted to bring some college students with me next time, to see what kind of damage they can do.  The Green Mesquite is worth a repeat visit!

 

The BBQ Road goes ever onward…..

 

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Regular readers know that we focus on all things Texas, specifically the BBQ of this great state. We are passionate about our BBQ. Our BBQ reviews are merely poor excuses to stop by the roadside BBQ pit to try on some great ribs or brisket. We review Texas Best BBQ joints here.  We cook it. We develop our own recipes. We take seriously the art of smoking our meats, developing rubs, marinades, whatever, you name it, we are into it.

But what does BBQ really mean? How does it differ from different states in the US and abroad?  Well, first, let me finish cooking my ribeye with cooked to perfection with the reddgranite rub (nope, you cannot buy it….yet). So, actually, this is what it is about.  We call cooking steaks on the grill “BBQ’ing” here in Texas.  But this has nothing to do with Texas BBQ at all. It is merely cooking out.  In Brazil, the word BBQ means that ‘gaucho’ type restaurant where they serve all kinds of meat on a stick, some of the meats you would rather not know what they are. BBQ in the northern states seem to resemble that of the south in its intention, but the reality is that you may as well pick whatever choice of meat you wish to call BBQ, grill it, smother it with bottled BBQ sauce, and wella, you have the Yankee version of BBQ.  Indeed, while you can buy brisket up there in grocery stores, many have no idea what a brisket is.BBQ in Europe is unheard of.  It something they all wish to try becuase they heard of it on re-runs of ‘who shot JR’.

Then there is the US BBQ bragging rights.  Kansas City believes they have the best. The Carolinas think they have the best. There are different versions of BBQ in pockets of the central US, St Louis, and Memphis.  Both sport a bit of a twist on BBQ as they focus on ribs, and the emphasis is on dry rubs.  In some regions, the best BBQ is considered an ethnic thing.  So my approach is to try them all.  I have traveled quite a bit. The only region where I have not had BBQ is in the Carolinas

Kansas City has good BBQ.  No, KC Masterpiece (all though good bottle sauce) is not BBQ.  Good brisket and ribs in KC.  Avoid the KC Masterpiece brand restaurants, this is not good BBQ.  Find the hidden gems.  Locals will be happy to guide you. The St Louis and Memphis ribs are great, but I do like a little sauce as well.You have read about Texas BBQ at length on this site….we stand by our BBQ  joints, the seedier, it seems the better

And sauces:  many of the Texas BBQ sauces are a thin, vinegary based concoction that does not resemble BBQ sauce as most know it.  It is weaker in taste.  The reason is simple.  Here we focus on the smokey taste of the meat and thick sauces merely mask this.

We will continue to bring reviews of Texas best BBQ in our travels throughout the State of Texas.  Next up will be a review of a long standing Austin BBQ icon: Green Mesquite. Peace

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A Different Look At San Antonio

On February 28, 2011, in Travel, by admin

 

Low Budget Review Guy hit the road again, this time, not to eat Texas BBQ, but to experience one of Texas’ crown jewel cities for travel:  San Antonio.  But while most go for the River Walk, LBR set out to do some different things a bit off the beaten path.  An interesting read indeed. Afterall, it cannot always be about the riverwalk.

Recently we took off down the road to San Antonio, a town much visited in the past. This trip was a little different than most—we were not headed to the famous River Walk and Margaritas.  This is quite unusual for us, as we have often been there to enjoy the Old World-style ambiance of the river.  This trip was focused on visiting the San Antonio Zoo.

 

We traveled down late on an afternoon and found a hotel just outside the 410 Loop.  This was also unusual for us as over the years we had stopped staying overnight in San Antonio, making day trips instead.  Hotels costs in The Alamo City are high, unjustifiably so, even outside of the city core.  Plus San Antonio hits visitors with a hotel tax of approximately 18%.  Outrageous.  I guess they figure to stick-it to all the tourists to help fund city coffers, but what it has done, at least to us, is to cause us to drive down and back the same day—thus the city  loses hotel, restaurant, and gasoline purchases at least from us.

 

After relaxing in the hotel for a while, I started reading the tourist brochures that I always pick up when I hit a new town.  We were not going to the zoo until the next day, so we had some options for the evening.  Instead of the usual River Walk or even El Mercado (great restaurants and shopping), we found a brochure for “Ghost Hunters” in the downtown area.  Having watched the various “Ghost Hunting” TV shows we thought it would be something different and kinda cool.  We had been on one years ago in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and had really enjoyed it.  No ghosts, but great history stories.  So we figured, why not? San Antonio is over 3 hundred years old—gotta have a few ghosts….So reluctantly skipping the siren call from the Bingo Parlor next door to the hotel, we drove downtown San Antonio to meet our Ghost Guides.  Parking was easy, at $10 –not cheap, but easy.  We had a few minutes before meeting the rest of the group, so we stopped at The Menger  Hotel for a drink at the Bar.  For you history buffs, the Menger was where Teddy Roosevelt hung out, while recruiting the hard, tough Texans who would go on to fame as The Rough Riders.  Small, dark, comfy, and with some Teddy memorabilia inside, the Menger Bar is very cool.  Outside of one rowdy Texan at the bar (and how appropriate is that) the crowd at the bar was quiet and relaxed.  A few minutes later, we were out the side door, and down the street, literally along the outside wall of the crumbling Mission De Valero—The Alamo.  Going around the corner into Alamo Plaza, the lighting striking the façade of one of the world’s most recognized buildings was spectacular.  I had seldom seen it at night, and it always takes my breath away.

 

Meeting our guides and the rest of our ghost hunting team, we were issued EVP’s, little electronic devices about the size of a garage remote control.  If the magnetic field nearby changed (supposedly an indicator of ghostly phenomena) it would register.  We were also given infra-red guns, about the size of a large squirt gun, that could measure the temperature of various surfaces.  “Cold Spots” are another phenomena.  Off we went to 13 sites, walking a little over an hour in the downtown area.  The Guide was informative, knowledgeable, and had many great grisly stories of the various locations we visited.  It was thoroughly enjoyable.  Did we see any ghosts?  No, but I did find one “Cold Spot” that registered about 8-9 degrees lower than the surrounding area.  It was in a “hanging tree” –one of several used in Old San Antonio during its wilder days.   I did have a freaky experience with a “Dowsing Rod” –more on that another day.

 

The next day was overcast and cool, good weather for the zoo.  We have visited almost all the zoo’s in Texas, and found that over the years, the San Antonio Zoo was our favorite.  Built into the side of an abandoned rock quarry, the limestone walls served as a natural setting for many of the zoo’s beautiful creatures.  We had not visited the zoo in a number of years, we visited often when our child was young and we were looking forward to see what changes, if any, had occurred.  One thing had not changed, the lack of sign directions on the roads.  If you go, get a map, as the signs, if posted at all, are small and hard to spot.  Located in Brackenridge Park, the zoo’s parking lot abuts the miniature train-ride and tracks that many visitors, especially the young ones, enjoy.  We had gone online and printed a two-for-one coupon, so entrance fee was a bargain.  We got our map with the layout when we entered the zoo, and off we went.  Very little has changed over the years, but it was still quite enjoyable.  My favorites are the cats.  The lions were already crashed and oblivious to the touristas, but the Siberian Tiger came over to  chat.  The cheetah was dozing, with one-eye open then shut, but following our movement with his ears.  I always talk to the cats.  Sometimes they talk back.  The other highlights were the marmosets (like little monkeys), the Rhinos, and the bears.  The zebras were behind an enclosure and could barely be seen.  There were no signs of any giraffes, although they used to have some.

 

After a little over 2 hours, we were done and off to a new experience—the area around the old Pearl Brewery.  They are in the process of turning the area into a really interesting place.  With shops, restaurants, loft apartments, a Cooking School, all in the Brewery area.  It is on the San Antonio River, and they have expanded the River Walk down to that area.  It is almost 2 miles to the main part of the River Walk—that journey will have to wait another day.  We ate lunch at La Gloria, a cool little place with seating overlooking the river.  The menu was mostly interior-Mexico dishes.  Delicious and good value for the price.  I recommend it.  After a short walk after lunch down the River Walk towards downtown, we reluctantly headed back to the car and our trip home.  A different kinda San Antonio trip, but a fun, fascinating time, in a place that Mark Twain called, “One of America’s four unique cities”.

 

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Bone Daddy's Is Smoking Something

The BBQ road takes us to a different destination than the usual. Usually our reviewers seek out the true BBQ joints in Texas, those who smoke up a brisket unique to this region’s great BBQ. On this trip, we review Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke.  This is a limited chain in the Texas area with four total locations throughout the state.  It is owned by a  group that also owns a cajun themed eatery called Razzos. Bone Daddy’s comes with a twist, in that it has a ‘Hooters’ approach to serving BBQ. And like Hooters, it is immensely successful with this concept. You cannot help but wonder if the food is any good or is it simply the female influence?

A stop to this eatery will answer this question. The menu, for a BBQ joint is quite exhaustive.  It ranges in plates that come with all kinds of meats with a limited choices of sides. The thing is, the BBQ is really good.  Not sure how they achieve this.  As you drive up there is no smell of mesquite wood wafting through the air.

Yes, they really do look like this

There is not the run down shack with the old geezer sitting in front inquiring how your day has been.  This is a slick operation. There are also a healthy dose of sandwich offerings, highlighted by the “Flying Pig”.  This thing, with a combination of ham, pulled pork and bacon will light up your taste buds and stop your heart. Top it with some of the BBQ sauce served warm in bottles brought to the tables, and you have a great sandwich which includes fries and a small dish of baked beans, all for $10. The meat plates come with a choice of sides from a limited menu.  The sides are good, but nothing to jump up and down for. The brisket here is done very well.  It is a hight quality brisket prepared slowly to produce a beautifully tender, and tasty plate.  The smoke ring is a bit scant, and the taste is not quite as smoky as one would hope. So the inclusion of their good BBQ sauce is helpful to to top off the experience. Pork ribs are also specifically good here.  Although they are drowned in BBQ sauce before charring in the oven, they are quite tender and tasty.  Once again, the smoky taste here is a bit distant, and of course, further masked by the bath in BBQ sauce before serving.  So this does not make it the true Texas BBQ we are used to, but still, a very tasty, and overall enjoyable plate. There are some specialty menu items as well.  There is the “Beer Can Chicken”  This is a marinated whole chicken with a beer can shoved up its posterior. Please cut around the beer can before jumping into your entree.

No, They Don't Look Like That, I Threw That in For You Perve Puppies

The prices are a bit on the steep side, no doubt due in part, to its branding with babes image. As is the case with most of these establishments, the bar scene is important.  A full, but limited bar is offered, but most of the mainly male population are sucking beers from appears to be about a 32oz. glass. Weaklings will have an issue hoisting a full glass of this, so when you get it to your lips for the first time, cannon ball about half of the glass so you can lift it a second time.

Service is friendly and efficient.  Of course, like all of these female based eateries, the girls go out of the way to be of good service, and tips in excess of 20% are expected and the norm.  Silly males.  We are such dumb shits, but there you go, it is what it is.

Overall, I give this place (for the food) a 6.5 out of 10. Add the chicks in, and well, go there for yourself for those of you local to Dallas area, Austin, and Houston, and judge for yourself

The BBQ Road continues, hopefully back to a true joint next time.

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