Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last pics from shashlik lunch

More shashlik

First shashlik pics

Manning up on Russian shashlik

In keeping with Man Up's tradition of highlighting BBQ any of us has had in another country (but not another state), I'm about to post pics from my first time to have shashlik, Russia's brand of BBQ. Shashlik is basically skewered meat cooked over hot coals. After working up an appetite bargaining with vendors over matrioshka dolls and Russian linens at Ismailova Market, the row of smoky shashlik pits was a welcome sight. Sizzling skewers of pork, beef, chicken, and salmon.

Table service was a surprise. After you place your order, you find a table and chairs and wait for them to bring out your food. Also a surprise (particularly in a place like Russia), you don't pay when you order. Apparently, and to our surprise, they just expect you to come up later and pay. Weird, particularly in such a busy, frenzied place as Ismailova. Did not see the honor system coming.

Amber and I got pork and beef. The pork was good; the beef was great. So was the grilled bread. The sauce is hard to describe. Part cocktail sauce, part marinara, part ketchup. Pics on the way...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fearless Critic's Austin-area BBQ reviews

In case you haven't seen it, here are the Fearless Critic's ratings for 29 Austin-area BBQ joints. Man Up has been to 17 of these, so compare our scores with theirs. FC's top scorers (for food) are Louie Mueller (Taylor) -- Man Up's Best Overall for 2008 -- and City Market (Luling). Both received a 9.4. Their lowest score was the 4.4 they handed out to The Pit (Austin), which wasn't a crowd pleaser for us, either.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cooper's has big plans for Fort Worth

Cooper’s Barbecue is building the behemoth of barbecue joints in Fort Worth. It’s beyond gigantic–this meat market will be 23,000 square feet! And it’s not like Fort Worth lacks for places to eat brisket and ribs, either, what with Angelo’s and the Railhead, to mention just a few. My friend Bud Kennedy, columnist and gadabout for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, says he thinks it’s the biggest bbq joint in the world. He sent me this picture. Here’s my question: Does any self-respecting Texan want to eat barbecue in a brand-new, squeaky-clean, non-smoke-begrimed building? It just ain’t right.

Pat Sharpe, Executive Editor, Texas Monthly (hat tip to Kalese)

Weigh in, folks: Good or bad move for Cooper's?

Behind the counter

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009: Riley's Bar-B-Q (Dripping Springs, Texas)

Our first visit to Riley’s Bar-B-Q in Dripping Springs was our largest outing yet: thirteen of us made the easy, 24-mile drive from Austin out Hwy 290 W. The food was average, at best. This is not your classic pit BBQ place. All of the meats are smoked inside in the same industrial cooker. The pork ribs were meaty. I’ll give them that. But the pork loin was so dry that it was inedible. Worst ever, and we’ve had our share of dry pork loin. Unless you absolutely cannot wait any longer to eat, my recommendation is to pass up Riley’s for The Salt Lick, which is only 9 miles away. Nonetheless, we had a fun time, as always.

Todd weighs in first: “My venture down to Dripping Springs last Saturday was a much needed return to BBQ after a few weeks off. When the group arrived to Riley's, we were immediately handed a raffle ticket by our very own Brad...keep reading to learn what the ticket was for. In my opinion, Riley's is a good-to-average BBQ joint. I ordered my two staples, brisket & pork ribs, and then added a fried chicken leg. The chicken leg was just ok, but then again, I was not expecting a lot from a BBQ joint, so let's just move along. My cut of brisket was average. It was fairly lean which I like, but very dry. The sweet sauce was a much needed (and good) addition. The pork ribs are always my un-official measure of a BBQ joint. I ordered 2 ribs (~1/4 lb). Overall, the ribs were good, however they were missing that "special-something" that gives you a reason to return. The meat was a little tough, perhaps it was cooked a bit too quickly. If you're still reading...the raffle ticket was just a hoax and a complete letdown; I think a small piece of me died that day...haha.”

Lacey says the brisket “wasn't bad, but it wasn't great either...I was not wise enough to order moist so my meat lacked in the flavor department and was a little dry. Sausage: nice texture and pretty good flavor when you added bbq sauce. Fried okra: nice and crisp and flavorful. Sweet tea: quenched my thirst which is all I really ask for in a drink.”

Russell, who spent the better part of his meal debating Anthony about the quality of the brisket, graciously writes, “For you amateurs, here are my scores for Riley’s FYI: I will grant to Anthony and other harsh critics on this trip to Drippin’, that Riley’s was a bit inconsistent and did not adequately disclose that there was an option of ordering moister brisket than most of the group ended up with. That said, I had a great time and really enjoyed the atmosphere. The place has a certain old-time Texas Hill Country feel to it that cannot be overlooked…yet serves Landshark, as well as great sweet tea! What a treat to have such a big group on this trip, including little sister Dana (just arrived from DC) and her friend Cayla from Lubbock, along with a Costa Rican in Rosie! Wow! I think we manned up with like 13 people. Brisket – I was wise enough to expressly order the moist (as I always do) and was not disappointed in the moistness of MY meat. It was not the most flavorful I’ve had, perhaps it could have been smoked better; but I give it a (see below) based primarily on the theory that 'fat is flavor'…and they had plenty of fat on my serving. Pork ribs – The meatiest I have ever seen. Ribs are my recommended item here at Riley’s in Drippin’. Sausage – Good, not great. The jalapeno was better; but both required sauce. Pork loin – Terribly dry and leathery. Barely edible and hardly worth scoring. Sweet tea – Some of the best I’ve had since Miss Mae’s last week (good ice, too). Desert (banana pudding) – Nanner puddin’ was subpar but had a high bar to get over after Miss Mae’s of last week.”

We were pleased to have one of Russell’s little sisters join us for the first time. Dana shares her thoughts on her first time manning up, and she has some fightin’ words for all you Tennessee BBQ enthusiasts out there: “Atmosphere - Definitely knew I was back in Texas!! Brisket – Moist and tender, but not the best I've ever had. Pork ribs – Very meaty, but I'm not a ribs fan. Sauce – The original was wonderful, the sweet was thumbs down! Sausage – Good but required sauce. Pork loin – Dry as a bone. Sweet tea – Okay, but I've drunk a lot of sweet tea in my day! Banana pudding – yum yum! Roadside Texas BBQ still beats the ‘world-class’ Tennessee BBQ we had in Lexington, TN, a few days prior on our VA to TX roadtrip!”

Next up: Mark, the Frisco Kid himself. “Brisket - Not bad, but not as good as Russell makes it out to be. Yes, I did order the leaner, dryer cut of meat, but I had a taste of the fattier, juicier brisket, too. If it weren't for that last taste, the score would've been lower. Chicken - Way too dry and chewy. Didn't even finish mine. Didn't have a bad taste but not much of a good one, either. Sauce - The sweeter sauce is their best. It moistened up the chicken just a bit (but not enough) and went well with the brisket. The regular sauce was just bad. 'Naner puddin' - Very tasty but too airy - like they put too much whipped cream in and not enough of that thick jello-y stuff that gives it substance. Service and Environment - Again not bad, but nothing special. Overall -If I'm in the area I'll eat there again, but nothing to go out of my way for. Had most fun listening to Russell and Anthony question each other's manhood while debating the brisket.”

Brad closes it out: “Brisket – moist and decent flavor; balanced out the missing flavor from the ribs; apparently it depended on the cut -- others commented it was not so moist. Pork ribs – a lot of meat but no flav. I actually got tired of eating it because it required so much effort. Sausage – non memorable. Atmosphere - it was actually really nice inside and almost seemed too nice for a small town BBQ joint. Kind wanted to be a little more disjointed. Overall - Nice drive but a little too far for the quality of Q you get. It was missing the BB.”

Drew’s scores – Brisket: 8.4; Pork ribs: 8.3; Atmosphere: 7; Pork loin: 0; Overall experience: 7

Todd’s scores – Brisket: 7.25; Pork ribs: 7.45; Fried chicken (leg): 7.99; Dinner roll: 7.65; Sweet tea: 8.65; Banana pudding: 7.85; Atmosphere: 8; Overall experience: 7.73

Lacey’s scores – Brisket: 8; Sausage: 8.55; Fried okra: 9.85; Sweet tea: 9.75; Atmosphere: 9.25; Overall experience: 9.08

Russell’s scores – Brisket: 8.99; Pork ribs: 9.98; Sausage: 8.45; Pork loin: 4.1; Sweet tea: 9.91; Banana pudding: 6.83; Atmosphere: 9.33; Overall experience: 9.02

Dana’s scores – Brisket: 9.2; Pork ribs: 8.9; Sauce: 9; Sausage: 9.5; Pork loin: 4; Sweet tea: 8.5; Banana pudding: 9.6; Overall experience: 9

Mark’s scores – Brisket: 8.4; Chicken: 6.3; Sauce: 7.8; Banana pudding: 8.8; Service/Atmosphere: 8; Overall experience: 7.7

Brad’s scores – Brisket: 8.5; Pork ribs: 7; Sausage: 7; Sweet tea: 9; Atmosphere: 8.5; Overall experience: 7.5

Overall Man-Up Score: 8.147

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