Thursday, March 1, 2012

Butts To Go

Ribs from 'Butts To Go'
It's March, which means it's officially grilling season in the South. Not that we weren't grilling anyway, what with the 70 degree winter days and all, but now it's official. And I love grilling. Meat, vegetables, everything. And I love barbeque. I love all the different styles. I really do. All of them are great. I like judging a city based on its BBQ.

Memphis dry rub style is probably my favorite - maybe because growing up near Memphis gives a lot of character to Birmingham Q. There is also a considerable amount of Carolina-style, vinegary Q around here. And of course, the Kansas City-style with lots of thick, sweet sauce is great too. As long as you start with a good meat, it's hard to beat. 

 So today I decided I'd eat some decent meat since tomorrow is fish-only. Having seen Jason Horn over at The Messy Epicure stopped near my office for some road-side Q at "Butts To Go" and enjoyed it (while out for some research for an article in Birmingham magazine on food foraging) - I decided I'd give it a shot. I would link their website, but its atrocious. 404s everywhere. And just God-awful ugly. I believe woman around here would say "bless its heart".
Pork Sandwich

The food was pretty good - I got a wide variety of meats so I wouldn't be judging one mishap or something of that nature. I started with this pulled pork sandwich. It was great. It wasn't too saucy, and it had a great mixture of meats in it. And it had plenty of good char on the outside pieces - good, charred, juicy pork is probably my favorite flavor in the world. It was tender, but firm. Smokey. Definitely a taste of hickory. While I appreciated it not being oily or too saucy, it did seem like the bun dried it out a bit. They had sauce to take with you - I chose not to. Probably will next time.

Ribs from 'Butts To Go'
Next up were the ribs. I love ribs. I could eat ribs for every meal for the rest of my life. I say that about a lot of things. It's probably true. But it's extra true with ribs. They didn't have any normal spare ribs ready. He offered St. Louis ribs. Generally speaking, St. Louis-style Q is very heavily sauced. St. Louis consumes more bbq sauce per capita than any city in the country. They sometimes use a dry rub, and then slop on the sauce. What usually differentiates it is cooking it over direct heat rather than smoking. That being said, the ribs can be smoked. This is because St. Louis style ribs just have the sternum bits, cartilage, and tips removed to give it a better square shape. It allows you to cook more at a time and removes some of the less rewarding parts. These had a good flavor, but no sauce on them. The dry rub was decent - it didn't add much flavor. The meat fell off the bone... I hear a lot of people say that as a good thing. Rib meat should be firm or it's overcooked. You should be able to leave toothmarks in it. You start losing flavor if you overcook it. They also didn't remove the film from the back of the ribs. Not essential, but a bit pesky.They weren't very smokey, but the meat quality was good, so it made up for the rest of it. I used some hot sauce with them which they had bottled. It was definitely a vinegar-based, cayenne pepper sauce. Almost like a diluted Frank's Red Hot. A bit disappointed in it.

Wings from 'Butts to Go'
I saved the wings for last - and I'm glad I did. They were WOW. Really. Wow. They were just seasoned. They had several flavors. I just got smoked, seasoned wings. They were incredible. Crispy. Juicy. Flavorful. Not salty like most seasoned wings are. They had a deep, rich, smokey flavor to them. They weren't perfectly shaped - which I love to see, because it means they're cutting and prepping the meat themselves rather than ordering it that way. They're probably some of the best wings I've ever eaten. I'm not a certified Q judge (I'm doing that this summer. No, really), but I was really, really impressed.

Now I'm left with two problems. I'm dying to get my grill fired up, even though I'm not hungry. And I really don't want to wash my hands. I want to smell this in my dreams.

What's your favorite place to get Q around town? Any way you prefer it? Sauce, no sauce, sauce on the side? Share your thoughts!

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