North by northwest
The headliner here is meat smoked over oak and cherrywood. On our first visit Chris's Texas brisket was not quite as tender as I might have wished, but it had a bang-up beefy flavor enhanced with a simple salt-and-pepper rub. On a second trip the brisket was phenomenal: tender, moist, and carrying the coveted rosy "smoke ring"-that pinkish circle around the edges that signifies a perfect eighteen-hour smoking. The pulled pork, a shoulder cut smoked for twelve hours, was equally praiseworthy and more exotically spiced, with a rub of brown sugar, paprika, onion and garlic powders, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves.
The meats are ripe for saucing with one of the five varieties Chris makes in house: classic Kansas City; a vinegary Memphis style (made with a dash of Dr Pepper); a subtle creamy Georgia mustard sauce; a Michigan blueberry sauce (he buys berries by the bushel on the west side of the state); and his pride and joy, a devilish Texas hot sauce made from three kinds of roasted peppers mixed with other roasted vegetables, added to a chicken stock, and reduced to an almost syruplike consistency.
Both the pulled pork and the brisket are fully satisfying for taste while also less greasy than these two dishes can sometimes be. Though the ribs were on the dry side, they proved to be the most heavily smoked-deep pink, like a Christmas ham. To my surprise, my favorite turned out to be the smoked chicken. With a shiny mahogany brown skin over unexpectedly succulent breast meat, it showed a real expert's hand.
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