Blue Tractor has its own smokery-a roughly five-by-four-foot cabinet in the kitchen where the staff turn ordinary meat into a caveman's joy. Every meat we sampled from its cherry- and apple-wood-stoked confines was delicious, starting with a messy full slab of meaty "wet" ribs slathered with classic Texas barbecue sauce. That sweet-smoky Texas style is one of the three house-made sauces served on the side with every barbecue-the other two being a vinegar-based North Carolina and a tomato-based South Carolina with mustard and molasses overtones. A mountain of pulled pork, smoked eighteen hours, came with plenty of those outside-crunchy caramelized meat bits and was dressed with South Carolina sauce. Our favorite was probably the brisket, a not-too-fatty slab of certified Angus beef sliced just right to show off the red ring beneath its sharp crust, one mark of a great smoked brisket.
Beer-can chicken was tender and particularly moist, as you'd expect from a fowl propped indecorously on a can of beer that steams up its insides as it grills, but I could have done without the flavorless pan gravy poured across the top. (I almost got the feeling the people in the kitchen were just trying to hide its barbecue-blackened skin. Wear it proudly, man.) The accompanying fresh veggies, though, were very good-crisply steamed and including nonslimy okra among the carrots and broccoli. My husband hated his side of greens-at Blue Tractor collards come in a spicy roasted tomato-smoked paprika sauce. I loved that they made him say how much more he likes the way I cook greens (I'm more of a traditionalist), but these collards do have the health advantage of being vegetarian.