The 2018 Meat Sweats Tour: Few Things Finer Than Carolina (and Barbecue)

As the first two plates of chopped and sliced pork were placed on the table in front of us, accompanied by sides of Ore-Ida-looking French fries and an entire basket of hush puppies, my first thought was, “I hope I can handle a whole week of Carolina barbecue.”

My son Nick and I were at Lexington Barbecue in Lexington, North Carolina, the first stop on one of our somewhat annual barbecue tours. Our first trip, the Barrage of Brisket Tour back in 2013, took us to the Austin area, where we made five stops. The next tour was 2015’s Madness in Memphis , where we hit six barbecue places (and one fried chicken joint).  In 2016, it was Kicking It in Kansas, for seven stops.

That last name is pretty damn awful, and I admit I’m retroactively naming some of these because I dubbed this year’s trip The Meat Sweats Tour.

Continue reading “The 2018 Meat Sweats Tour: Few Things Finer Than Carolina (and Barbecue)”

Advertisements

How is the Brisket King’s brisket?

It was one of the more Texas things I’ve seen. The big guy walked into the place and took off his jacket, exposing the holstered pistol on his hip. He joined his two friends, each of whom were working on an $80 prime-rib steak. The big guy sat down to a rib that looked like it had come off of a T-Rex rather than a cow.

I’ve seen plenty of guns before. I’ve used guns before. I have family members who walk around their own houses with guns in their pockets. I’m okay with guns. But I kept stealing glances at this one.

Because I wasn’t in Texas. And the guy wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat. The big guy and his friends were all wearing yarmulkes.

Continue reading “How is the Brisket King’s brisket?”

Review: ‘It’ (or Rated R ‘Goonies’)

IT_Pennywise

In the 1980s, a rag-tag group of misfits band together for an underground adventure in order to save themselves — and their town! Come for the journey, stay for the laughs — and the scares! You’ll laugh, you’ll scream — you might even cry! I’m going to type a complete sentence — and then set off another related sentence with a dash!

You may have heard of the runaway success of this small indie film, “It.” It’s based off of one of the less-well known works of a relatively obscure short-story author who sometimes dabbled in horror and science fiction. Previous successful movies based on his work– “Stand by Me,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Misery,” “The Green Mile” — came mostly from his more literary work.

Continue reading “Review: ‘It’ (or Rated R ‘Goonies’)”

A Taste of Success in NYC Poboy Hunt

cheekypoboys

After making like a stunted tree and throwing a tiny bit of shade at the New York City poboy scene in the last post, I was told by Lisa “The Homesick Texan” Fain to get myself to Cheeky Sandwiches on the Lower East Side.

Ugh. Manhattan. Double Ugh. The Lower East Side. I spent enough time getting drunk off a shitty beer and watching hipsters do blow in skeevy bathrooms when I was younger. Also, it always strikes me as a pain in the ass to get to. And for what? To be disappointed? Again?

But Cara and I happened to be in Manhattan. And Lisa, though a Texan, knows enough about Louisiana food (and has had enough of mine) for me to trust her. (Later this year, she’s dropping an entire book of recipes for queso.)

Still, we kept our hopes extremely low. We’ve been burned before, yall.

Like many places on the LES, Cheeky is a hole in the wall — one table and the rest of the seating consists of stools along the counter with a direct view into the cooking operation.

We ordered a shrimp poboy and a fried-chicken-and-biscuit sandwich.

To be clear, the SEAFOOD Sandwich is the only pure poboy option on the limited menu. You have a choice between fried shrimp, fried oyster or a half-and-half, that last choice instantly recognizable to anyone who’s ever eaten in a legitimate Louisiana poboy shop.

Interestingly, Cheeky’s poboy is smaller than a traditional Louisiana poboy and even smaller than some New York versions we’ve had. The shrimp itself was also on the dry side.

BUT.

The bread was perfect, the shrimp’s batter was seasoned just right — use some salt and black pepper, people! — and the sandwich was completed with dressing, lettuce, tomato and just a tiny bit of pickle that brought it all home. This might sound crazy that I’m giving dry shrimp a pass, but believe me when I say that all of the other parts pulled together to compensate for a slightly subpar performance by the star.

Well, the star of that particular sandwich. Because while we went looking for a shrimp poboy, we both loved the fried chicken on a biscuit. The chicken was fried to perfection, crispy and juicy — which is hard to pull off with white meat. And the biscuit was a big crumbly delight. (I’m not going to get into biscuit debates, because I’m sure there are other Southerners who would take issue with this biscuit just based on its size). This sandwich was tied together with purple-cabbage slaw.

After we were done, the fellows behind the counter gave us an order of beignets. They were a little on the doughy side compared to a Cafe du Monde air pillow — the beignets, not the fellows behind the counter. The server was a skinny thing and the cook looked like he’d just finished working out for eight hours straight and could kill you by just flexing a bicep. At any rate, I’m not going to knock fried dough covered in sugar unless you turned it into a grease ball.

Anyhoo. I’d recommend the joint to New Yorkers AND to Louisiana folks. Louisiana folks just need to know you’re not going to get a footlong sandwich. But it’s a good sandwich. And it’s technically not a poboy shop since the SEAFOOD is the only poboy on the menu. Other sandwiches are served on other types of bread. (I’ve got my eye on the beef short rib sandwich for next time.)

You also won’t get beer or booze or french fries, which is fine. You don’t need the extra calories. There are Zapp’s potato chips, including the Crawtator and Voodoo varieties.

On top of all this, Cheeky Sandwiches is just a couple of blocks from the D Train, so it’s not even that hard for us to get to from Bay Ridge. (This is likely not relevant to you, but if you see us creeping around the LES, now you’ll know why.)

So David Carr and Emily Gould Walk Into a Genre

While in Louisiana, I actually managed to spend some time reading. Finished up the short stories of Flannery O’Connor on the way down and knocked out David Carr’s “Night of the Gun” and Emily Gould’s “And the Heart Says Whatever.”

I hadn’t really planned to write about either one of them. I’m a couple years late on Carr’s book and, frankly, I was worried I wouldn’t like Gould’s. (Despite my cranky image, when it comes to new writers if I don’t have anything nice to say, etc. I also didn’t feel like putting up with cat-calls from the peanut gallery.)

But! (As they say on Gawker and The Awl.)
Continue reading “So David Carr and Emily Gould Walk Into a Genre”

Book Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star

On Thursday, I started reading Matthew Quick’s Sorta Like a Rock Star. On Friday morning, I finished it. I managed this despite taking Ambien on Thursday night. Ended up staying up until 1 in the morning and then, when I woke up before the alarm, instead of going back to sleep or turning on the television, I finished reading the book.

I’ll say this much: I’m glad I finished the book in the privacy of my own home. While it may have helped his sales some, I don’t fancy the idea of sitting on the 4 Train and blubbering like an idiot as the story crosses the finish line. The short version of this review: Buy this book and read it. (Full disclosure: Matthew Quick blurbed my book and though I’ve still yet to meet him, I think he’s a cool cat.)
Continue reading “Book Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star”

Louisiana Book News says …

Chere Dastugue Coen, who runs Louisiana Book News, reviewed The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival yesterday. She liked it! The review ran in The Daily World (out of Opelousas) and The Daily Advertiser (out of Lafayette). That’s right, Acadiana has as many (or more) daily newspapers as the New York Metro area. At any rate, you can find her full review here.

The humor in Wheaton’s novel emerges from the cast of characters and their simple everyday occurrences, and when you live in the South you know how humor stares you in the face, just waiting to be written down. However, capturing that essence that is all Southern — or in this case Cajun — takes a special creative pen and Wheaton wields with aplomb. The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival is laugh-out-loud, recognize-your-mawmaw funny.