Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Well, clear your schedules, folks, because this review is, unlike me, not short. I guess it’s fitting that this is out longest review ever, considering this outing set a Man-Up record: 18 people. Getting 18 people to any outing is impressive enough, but getting 18 people to leave town at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning and travel 54 miles to eat BBQ at 9 a.m. is straight strong. If that doesn’t quality as manning up, what does?
A few thoughts of my own, before getting to all the reviews and scores: Kerry and everyone at Snow’s were great hosts, as always. I think I speak for everyone when I say that it was enjoyable sitting around chatting with Kerry – and swapping koozies! The chicken was, again, very good; the brisket (of which I had just 1 bite) was even better; but the pork stole the show. I got the first (outside) cut of a pork shoulder just in from the smoker, and it was truly phenomenal. Piping hot, smoky flavor, a slight, crispy outside layer, with a soft, moist inside. To me, the best bite of the day, although you could (and some will) make a case for some other items.
If you’ve never had outstanding Texas BBQ first thing in the morning, do it once, before you die. This outing was simply outstanding: a beautiful, early-morning drive to meet a big group of friends in a tiny Texas town for top-notch Texas BBQ. Other than perpetual World Series championships for the Red Sox and the ability to smoke cigars anywhere you please, what more can you ask for?
On to the reviews…
Jen, one of several who joined us for the first time, kicks us off: “First trip out to Snow’s, and I can say that it was worth getting up at 7:30am on a Saturday for it! Brisket was good, especially the first couple of bites while the meat was still hot. As the meat cooled though (I got distracted with tasting the pork ribs and fighting Harmon for the chicken), I noticed the meat wasn’t quite as tender. I would have given the brisket an 8.5 or 9, but decided to bump the score up a little because of the fat on the brisket. Oh the fat. I normally trim off as much fat as possible, since it makes me feel full (and gross) much too quickly. But I have to tell you, I ate just about all the fat on the brisket! The brisket meat was certainly tasty, but the fat itself was so incredibly smoky…it felt wrong to waste it. The ribs were okay – not bad, but just okay. The half chicken was very good – I usually avoid wasting money on barbecued chicken because it often ends up being too dry and I have to douse it in BBQ sauce. But no sauce needed for Snow’s chicken. The meat wasn’t dry at all, and completely fell apart with just a slight tug of my fork. Simple but delicious and no sauce necessary. Service, atmosphere and overall experience were great. Kerry was nice enough to make his rounds and chat with everyone at the table, and the koozies added a fun touch. Other staff members outside by the pits were equally friendly and helpful. Enjoyed my first experience with the Man Up BBQ group – look forward to the next!”
Leticia gets to the point: “Brisket: Probably the best brisket I have ever had. Chicken: I just tried a bite of this from someone else and it was already cold. Had a good flavor though. Would try it again. Overall experience: GREAT food, great place, definitely worth the drive”
Jason comments: “I like Snow’s there’s no doubt about that; the first time I went I enjoyed what I had; and I was hoping for more of the same Saturday. I got there late; so I asked the crew what was good; and of course took every recommendation! Brisket – skinny side and the ends. I always order pork ribs; and the chicken was recommended as well. The brisket was good; looked amazing when they were cutting it; but we opted to sit outside; and there lies the problem…. It was a bit chilly and this in turn; dried out my meat (very quickly) so it was very hard to judge…Next time I will eat inside…The brisket was a little too dry for me just after 5 min of sitting outside; I had to use the sauce.. (which rocks btw) my score on the brisket is not accurate due to weather. Chicken – was excellent; both dark and white were juicy and moist; probably the best bbq chicken I’ve had to date. Pork rib – was good; good flavor; and very tender at places… skin was a bit rough and jerky like. I like it soft all the way around. Loved the beans – great flavor and bean juice was good. Great atmosphere; great company; great weather! *note did have some leftovers and did heat up the brisket and it was pretty moist still after the reheat… so that was good.”
Ashley writes: “Brisket: the best I've had; Chicken: it was good, but I still like Schoepf's better (theirs is seasoned better) - but I didn't have much of the chicken, just a taste, so I can't judge it very well; Sauce: pretty good, a little watery- but again didn't have much since it was unnecessary because the brisket was so dang good; Beans: GREAT - I loved them; Service: they were all very nice and let me take pictures of everything; Atmosphere: loved the company and being outside.”
Mark weighs in: "Brisket: never had better. They were juicy, tender, and delicious from start to finish. I didn't even realize til I was almost done that I hadn't used any sauce... no need to! Sauce: very good, but the brisket was so good by itself that the sauce didn't do too much to enhance it. Tasted great with the chicken, though. Chicken: again, some of the best I've had, but it wasn't very big, so not that meaty. But what meat there was was peppered just right and flavorful throughout. Iced tea: really good tea, but it's still not Big Red. Big Red = BBQ tradition. Environment: ots of my favorite peeps, all coming together and driving an hour and a half out of the way to enjoy some great food. Sat outside next to the pit and soaked up some good smells while we ate. Several of us brought dogs and let 'em run around. Also ran into my ConLaw professor from law school. Overall: I think last time I gave it a 9.95, but I started to second-guess giving it such a high score as I tried other places. Not only do I not regret that score now, but I think it wasn't quite high enough. I dare anyone in the state to beat this place."
Rex says: “Brisket: I enjoyed the brisket thoroughly...very moist and tender! Pork ribs: Good, tender ribs but a little bland. I prefer a little seasoning. Pork: By far my favorite meat of the day! Great flavor and very tender. Chicken: Only had a bite, but was definitely moist & chicken is usually a hit or miss. I believe the Snow's BBQ experience is worth its weight in brisket!”
Brad’s gotta get something off his chest, so he can get on with his review: “Gosh I almost feel rebellious here like one of those artsy fartsy emo kids that thinks it’s cool to wear skinny jeans, but I have to say (and I'm just being honest here) that my brisket was not a 10! In fact I'm not sure I can give it a 9. I can only assume from the reaction of those sitting around me and acting as if they had just discovered the next best thing to toilet paper -- I must have received a lousy cut of meat! (which proves our theory why are scoring system holds its integrity over what some look at as the standard (published in a certain magazine that I won't mention the name of on here -- but rhymes with exas onthly). But to be fair I did get an inside cut and it was pretty dry compared to the group consensus -- who I note had a very moist outside cut. I will be back to Snow's and I'll be sure to request the outside next time. All though I will say that I have had inside cuts of other briskets and it seems to maintain its moistness. Alright I feel better now. Now the Pork! That's something I can get behind! By far the best thing I had and how I expected my brisket to be. As far as the rest of my experience at Snows it was almost euphoric. The early morning drive at 8 in the AM made it feel like a dream -- mainly because I was still asleep -- but also I never knew BBQ could taste so good that early in the morning. Beautiful drive, beautiful weather, and the smell of smoke billowing out of an authentic BBQ venue that could almost be mistaken as a barn. Pork ribs: pretty decent - flavor was not overwhelming. Chicken: not a big chicken fan, but this was goooood. Service: right on.”
And, now, let’s pause for a minute or two. Take a bathroom break, if you need to. Refill your drink. Change into something comfortable, because here comes Chris’ review, the single longest review in Man Up Texas BBQ history:
“Seeing as how I'd already been to Snow's, I'll refer back to my original scoring of Snow's when Jason, Russell and I went. There are a couple of adjustments though since circumstances change.
Brisket - Previous review: 9.93. I'm going to go ahead and come clean by saying that brisket is not my favorite BBQ meat. However, I do know it's the hardest to cook well, so I appreciate a good one. I also know that this brisket was maybe the best I've ever had (although I've never been to Louie Mueller's). I've had plenty of brisket that falls more on the dry side, but that wasn't the case at Snow's. It was so tender that when I reached to get some from the tray with my fork, it would fall apart where I stabbed at it. That's how tender it was. It was also incredibly moist and flavorful throughout and perfectly cooked on the outside. Current review: I've been to Louie Mueller's since the original writing. And Snow's is better than Louie Mueller's. After eating the brisket again, I feel my original 9.93 score is low (which is crazy to consider). The best part is that it melts in your mouth and tastes incredible, but then that second kick where the smokiness and full flavor comes out happens and you can't help but acknowledge that Snow's is the best brisket ever consumed.
Pork - Previous review: 9.79. I put some on my plate/butcher paper and was skeptical. At first glance it looked dry, slightly tough and a little bland, but that changed once I actually tasted it. Not only was it surprisingly moist, but the flavor of the pork stayed and it was tender. Not as tender as the brisket, but it was still my second favorite of the day. Current review: That all is still true. Originally I graded it a 9.79, but I think the pork was more moist than my first trip to Snow's and seemed to have better flavor. It really was a great cut of meat.
Pork Ribs - Previous review: 8.9. The pork ribs actually disappointed me. The first bite I took was dry and not very good, although every other bite I took tasted fine. The difference is that while it tasted good, it didn't taste exceptional. Probably the worst meat we had. Current review: No need to change the rating, although I feel bad for saying the pork ribs were the worst meat I had on my first visit. I think the pork ribs suffer from being overshadowed by the pork and brisket, which is a shame. They're good, but they're just not awesome. Plus I got a cross cut of the ribs to where I had several bones instead of just one to work around, so that made it slightly annoyingly more difficult to eat than normal.
Sausage/Chicken: N/A. After rereading my reviews of the sausage and chicken, I'm disappointed I didn't have any of either on the second visit. Especially since I think I helped convince Leticia that the sausage wasn't worth getting. Whoops. Sorry about that one. Guess we'll have to go to Snow's again at some point to make up for that.
Dr. Pepper - Previous review: 10. I had a Dr. Pepper instead of tea because I love Dr. Pepper. It's the beverage of Texas and always delicious. Plus the can matched well with the meats on the tray. Current review: I mean, it's Dr. Pepper. It might be the best drink on this planet.
Beans - Previous review: 9.86. I grew up eating pinto beans, fried potatoes and cornbread almost every Saturday because my parents are both from rural north Texas and like to cook. That was our easy, go-to Saturday night meal. As a result, I feel like I know what makes pinto beans good or not. There are a couple of key things. The first is that the juice can't be too thin. It needs to be thick and slightly soupy, not brothy. The second is that it must have bacon, but the bacon needs to be cut small enough to where it doesn't get in the way of your spoon as you're trying to get to the beans. Snow's nailed both of these perfectly. The consistency was the right thickness, and I had no issues with pulling my spoon out only to find some chunk of bacon or meat in place of beans. The beans could probably have had just a touch more flavor, but combined with everything you really couldn't ask for much more out of pinto beans. Plus they're free. Current review: That all still holds. Weirdly enough, I think House Park has the best beans I've had (weird because their brisket and pork tenderloin are both horrible cuts of meat not worth ordering).
Overall experience - Previous review: 9.69. It was a little cold, so we ended up sitting inside. Although inside is small, there were still a decent amount of seats, and the table was big enough. The ladies behind the counter who prepped our order were all friendly, and I enjoyed the fact that our sauce came in an Ozarka bottle. The big pot of beans was easily accessible, as were the to-go lids and bowls, napkins and drinks. A fraction of a point does get deducted because when we weren't at the table eating, I constantly felt like I was standing in somebody's way because of how the line snaked and where the tables were. I doubt this would be an issue if we ate outside though. As Russell mentioned, listening to Kerry talk about his BBQ was enjoyable, and the people at Snow's were great. Current review: It was probably colder than last time, yet ironically we ate outside. That's all good though because it was a record crowd and a great time. Plus Kerry gave us all a koozie and business card. I appreciated him coming and talking to us even though we didn't really initialize it. Also, the ladies inside were incredibly nice and patient with us with regards to what meats we wanted and how much of each. Made it a lot less stressful with ordering everything. Quality service right there. I think it being a slightly slower day for the last weekend of the month helped relax and improve the atmosphere too. Throw all that together with a Polaroid photo at the end of everyone together, and I'm not really sure what beats it to be honest.”
Angel’s scores – Brisket: 9.85; Pork ribs: 9.4; Pork: 9.8; Chicken: 9.8; Service: 10; Atmosphere: 9.8; Overall experience: 9.9
Jen’s scores – Brisket: 9.3; Pork ribs: 7; Chicken: 9.5; Sauce: 7.5; Service: 9.5; Atmosphere: 9.5; Overall experience: 9.5
Leticia’s scores – Brisket: 9.9; Chicken: 8.5; Service: 9.5; Atmosphere: 9.5; Ambiance: 9.5; Overall experience: 9.75
Jason’s scores – Brisket: 8.5; Chicken: 9.7; Pork rib: 8.5; Beans: 9.5; Overall experience: 8.9
Amir’s scores – Brisket: 10; Pork ribs: 9; Pork: 9; Chicken: 9.5; Service: 10; Atmosphere: 9; Overall experience: 10
Ashley’s scores – Brisket: 10; Chicken: 8.75; Sauce: 8.5; Beans: 9.75; Tea: 9.5; Service: 10; Atmosphere: 9.5; Overall experience: 9.5
Mark's scores – Brisket: 10; Sauce: 9.4; Chicken: 9.55; Tea: 9.75; Atmosphere: 10; Overall experience: 9.96
Rex’s scores – Brisket: 9.75; Pork ribs: 9.25; Pork: 9.8; Chicken: 9.6; Service: 9.5; Atmosphere: 9.75; Overall experience: 9.8
Drew’s scores – Pork: 9.92; Chicken: 9.7; Atmosphere: 10; Overall experience: 9.91
Brad’s scores – Brisket: 8.25; Pork ribs: 8.75; Pork: 9.75; Chicken: 9; Service: 9.75; Atmosphere: 10; Overall experience: 9.35
Chris’ scores – Brisket: 9.97; Pork: 9.85; Pork ribs: 8.9; Beans: 9.86; Dr. Pepper: 10; Overall experience: 9.98
Overall Man-Up Score: 9.686