The Short Version Before I get into the details, some of you might just want to know the answer to the following question: If I only have time to hit one place in Kansas City, what should it be? That’s an easy answer. Joe’s Kansas City. Some people might say it’s touristy or mainstream, but these are the sort of people who start hating a band simply because it becomes popular. Joe’s is popular for a reason. It’s got perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, the pulled pork was delicious and the beans weren’t sickly sweet like they were at a lot of places.
My son Nicholas and I are celebrating his graduation from high school with a barbecue tour. Three years ago for his birthday, we did the Austin area. I wrote about that in fairly exhaustive detail shortly after the trip. Short version: Blacks, Stiles Switch, Franklin (where he fainted), Louie Mueller, and Salt Lick. (I’ve sense been back to Austin and tried Lambert’s, Freedmen’s and Iron Works.)
Last year, for his birthday, we went to Memphis. I didn’t write about that. It wasn’t because I prefer Texas cue to Memphis cue, though I do. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good time or didn’t have interesting stories. We did. I just had a circus going on at work last year and the thought of looking at a computer during my off hours was more than I could stand.
But long story short, between Graceland and the Civil Rights Museum and one non-barbecue detour to Gus’s Fried Chicken, we hit Tom’s Bar-B-Q and Deli, Central BBQ, A&R Bar-B-Cue, Germantown Commissary, Payne’s and Rendezvous. We went to Cozy Corner, but it was closed because someone broke into the place the night before and stole all of the meat. Sad!
Anyway, I just wanted to mention Memphis in hopes that it’ll prompt me to write up the current trip. We made the 11-hour drive from Opelousas, Louisiana today and walked over to Fiorella’s Jack Stack and availed ourself of burnt ends, ribs, sliced beef, sliced pork and some of the sweetest baked beans you’ll ever eat.
In the course of getting married, Cara brought up the subject of wedding gifts for each other. I’m sure most men out there could spend a good half an hour ranting about this need women have to exchange gifts for every occasion, and often multiple times for the same occasion. This can get particularly crazy when the Wedding Industrial Complex is involved. Many a man might even think of saying, “Isn’t getting married to me gift enough?”
It was time again for me to host the annual company barbecue. That meant 30 or more people coming over to the apartment in Brooklyn. That meant pounds and pound of meat. It meant bags and bags of charcoal. It meant hours and hours of work.
All of which is to say I was excited! And agitated. And nervous. A lot could go wrong, starting with the annual prediction of 60% chance of rain. I have a back yard just big enough for 30-some-odd people. I have an apartment that is smaller than the back yard. So, you do the math. But the chance of rain diminished throughout the week until the weather on the day of the actual event looked like it was supposed to be sunshine and lollipops. The day of cooking, on the other hand, looked to be a steady fall of rain.
Oh, yes. This is a two-day cooking affair. Three days if you include shopping. But it was all under control. I’ve done this before. Even if I haven’t mastered my brisket (shut up) just yet, I have the process down to a science.
Since hearing that Morgan’s had opened on Flatbush and St. Mark’s in Brooklyn, I’d been itching to go. Word on the street (by which I mean one of the managers of Dinosaur: Brooklyn I’d bugged one afternoon) was that one of the guys involved worked at Franklin BBQ in Austin. A couple of news pieces about Morgan’s backed that up.
So, last night, instead of going some place fancy for my birthday, I took a chance and had Cara take me to unproven ‘cue place. We all know how badly that can end in New York.
But I’m happy to report that Morgan’s met and exceeded expectations. It’s a sit-down place–which I’m fine with in New York, because I’d rather not get stuck with a tray of meat and nowhere to sit (Mighty Quinn’s). And the menu isn’t very big–again, this is a good thing.
We ordered brisket, ribs and pulled pork. All three–yes, even the pulled pork–showed that Morgan’s is, at heart, Texas barbecue. The ribs and the brisket had been rubbed down with ample salt and black pepper and had a great bark. This actually might be the spiciest brisket I’ve had in New York. Unlike the ribs at Hill Country, which are large and a little on the tough side for my liking, these were small (baby backs?) and extremely tender. Almost too tender for your barbecue sticklers. The brisket was excellent and, well, what do reviewers say about brisket? It was beefy? I don’t know. It was good. The pulled pork was surprising in that, unlike a lot of places around here, it wasn’t drenched in sauce or overly mushy. It had a strong garlic flavor, too, which I liked.
For sides, we had a loaded baked potato, which was good. And mac and cheese, which wasn’t cheesy enough.
Morgan’s has a solid bourbon and rye selection and the Shiner Bock was served at the perfect temperature.
I recommend it. And yall know how I am about barbecue.
If there’s one thing I like almost as much as stuffing my face full of smoked brisket, it’s barbecuing it myself.
Okay, that is a lie. Barbecuing brisket — and pork shoulder for that matter — is one of those things I really, really look forward to doing. And I maintain the kid-on-Christmas-morning glee until one of the following
The shopping trip turns into a shit-show of an obstacle course
The weather decides not to cooperate
Five hours into the proceeding and I’m just trying to stay awake
When the food is served and everybody’s all, “THIS IS AWESOME” and I’m thinking “This is shit. It’s crap. It doesn’t taste like Black’s or Franklin’s or Hill Country or Brisketlab. AND OH MY GOD, DID YOU JUST PUT SAUCE ON THAT?!?!”
But this last barbecue? It was going to be different. Because I’d learned something while in Texas with Nick on our Fabulous Brisket Tour. And it was game-changing.
Breakfast this morning was a smoked sausage and egg biscuit at Jim Neely’s Interstate Barbecue. In the Memphis airport. Now, of course, you’re thinking, “Airport. Doesn’t count.” Well, let me tell you. Jim Neely his own damn self was in there checking on things, holding court with customers about the Food Network, barbecue, running restaurants and his nephew. Good enough for me. Continue reading “Things I’ve Eaten Today”→