The Back to Texas BBQ Cross Country Road Trip, Day 24: Lubbock, TX

DSC01288I feel secure in my prediction that I will never move to Lubbock. A stroll through the aisles of the local Sprouts market reinforced the grim impression I had of the place when I drove into town. However, I could not resist one last stop at a BBQ place, Tom & Bingo’s Hickory Pit BBQ (call me conflicted). At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the two youngsters who owned the place were slicing up the last of the day’s brisket. I asked for just a few slices. “Well,” Bingo said, looking at her husband, “normally we don’t sell it that way, but we’re closing soon.” So they wrapped some slices in foil and I carried back to my desolate motel. It was pretty good. Juicy, good flavor, not as good as Franklin’s, but I’m prepared to believe they’re the best in town. Once I’m back in Arizona, where I will be among family and friends who eat well and healthily, I will breathe a sigh of relief. I’ll be almost home.

Tomorrow, back to Las Cruces, New Mexico. Now there, I may finally get to try some Hatch chilies.

The Improvised Eastern Tennessee, Southwestern Virginia BBQ Tour, Day 20

The joints on most Best BBQ lists seem mostly to be located in North Carolina or Texas. Time, however, compelled us to eschew the tried-and-true barbecue trails. We boldly went where relatively few BBQ lovers have explored before. Racing three hours down the freeway to the Tennessee-Virginia border, we engaged in some intense guerrilla barbecue action. Four barbecue joints over ten hours and 460 miles. Afterward, the Englishman among us was appalled at the mileage, but he is a passionate BBQ hound as well as a good egg. The American expatriate and I, in contrast, once drove forty-five miles for a good taco, so 500 miles was a walk in the park to us.

DSC01214Our first stop was Phil’s Dream Pit in Kingsport, Tennessee. Great ribs with a wonderful rub, good sauce. The owner’s wife sat down with us and told us the story of how she and Phil gave up their third-party logistics business (don’t ask) and opened this joint about 8 years ago.

 

 

 

DSC01226Then, we drove an hour to Ridgewood Barbecue (no website) in Bluff City, Tennessee, operating for sixty years now. It’s a bigger operation than Phil’s. The Ridgewood people claim to be the only place in the region that doesn’t use pork shoulder. Their pork sandwiches come from the ham. What got our attention, though, were the baked beans. They tasted of the smoke and the bbq sauce.

I’ll skip over the third bbq joint not just because it was unmemorable but also because I don’t want give the impression that we were gluttons.

The last stop, Due South Pit Cooked BBQ in Christiansburg, VA was, by consensus, the favorite. Seriously, check out the website. Queasy as we were, how could we have passed up the chance to eat chicken that was smoked and THEN deep-fried? In addition to beans, slaw, and potato salad, Due South offers fried tomatoes, fried okra, hushpuppies, mac & cheese, sweet potato casserole. Making the entire visit sublime, two guitarists played Django-Reinhardt-swing music. The chicken was outstanding, by the way.

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More than 24 hours later, I’m still full. Boy, do I have a lot of reconstructive dieting to do on my ride home!

Texas BBQ Civil Rights Heritage Tour Day 8: Austin, Texas to Lafayette, La.

As of tomorrow, I can scratch the Texas BBQ portion of this road trip. I have arrived in the Land of Boudin. Louisiana boudin, however, differs profoundly from French boudin. Both may be peasant/poor people’s food, but, unlike the French kind, there is no blood in Lousiana boudin. More’s the pity. As far as I can tell it’s all rice, mystery meat, and sausage casing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It took me 5 trips to pack my car this morning. The amount of jarred Hatch chile salsa (purchased outside of Las Cruces at a farmer’s market), roasted chiles, and Texas bottled bbq sauce, in addition to my almond milk, cereal, coffee, and peaches, is ridiculous. I can barely see out my back window for all the bags of Mi Nani’s tortilla chips behind me.

On the way to Interstate 10, I drove through little towns I remembered from my Best of Texas BBQ list, but I couldn’t envision driving half a mile out of my way to investigate brisket at 9:30 am.

Then I passed through Luling. There, right next to the turn off for I10 was Luling BBQ and the sign said “OPEN.” At 9:45! What could I do? I needed a control group for Franklin bbq!

IMG_1269I bought a few small slices of brisket — I saw the owner take it off the grill far in the back — and one sausage link, all for less than $9. I ran to the car, open the styrofoam, and sampled. The link had jalapeño in it, which means it was an improvement over Franklin’s. I ate 2 chunks and stopped. The brisket was dry. It had noticeable smoke. The fat was sweet. But the brisket was dry. It was drier than Franklin’s smoked turkey (actually, unfair comparison, because I’ve never tasted such moist smoked turkey as Franklin’s).

For the next 6 hours, that dry brisket sat in my gut. Maggie is right: I better push my car to Virginia to work off all this meat.

As soon as I crossed into Louisiana, signs for boudin, crackling, and bbq lined the interstate. I saw more visible signs of bbq along I10 in Louisiana than I did in Texas. Tacos were far more prevalent in Austin, but that might be a reflection of the city’s demographics.

Even after several hours of no food, the most I was in the mood for local culture was Howlin Wolf and Lucinda Williams. But I’m a trouper. I set my navigation for Johnson’s Boucainière, about 2 miles off the interstate. Not a great picture, but an old man glared at my from the window and so I felt self-conscious.

IMG_1272I went through the same routine: please, pretty please, just a little sampling of a rib, a slice of brisket, pulled pork, and a boudin. They were very nice and obliging. And it was cheap, about $15 for meat, slaw and corn.

Within half an hour, I was checked into a room at the Fairfield Inn, seconds from my road tomorrow. I scored: they upgraded me to a suite. Once settled, I opened my second styrofoam container of the day. The boneless rib was by far the best of the sample. As for the boudin, I don’t get it. Neither does the native Creole lady at check-in. “I’m not a rice person myself,” she said. The rice wasn’t my problem.

I’ve reached a turning point in my trip. I mean, I’ve really reached a turning point. Tomorrow, I start heading north. I want to get off the interstate and crawl along the Mississippi. Tomorrow night, Jackson. Cue Johnny and June…