Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ten 50 BBQ in Richardson shows promise in first week, but Franklin, it's not...

Large pallets of wood wait their turn in the smoker  (Photos by Jim Rossman)

After an extensive remodel of a K&G Men's Wear on north Central Expressway in Richardson, Ten 50 BBQ, owned by Chili's founder Larry Lavine, finally opened this week to long lines and daily sellouts around 2:30p.m. each day.

I watched a few accounts of Monday's opening day, including a good writeup by Kellie Reynolds in the Dallas Observer. It was a quote in her story that caught my attention.

"Franklin's in Austin is the gold standard and we think we've matched that," Levine told Reynolds. "We've got a phenomenal product."

After reading the quote, I had to find out for myself, so I set out for Richardson after the lunch rush on their second day of operation. I also visited Thursday with Posse members Gary Jacobson and Phil Lamb and some of my other meat-loving friends.

I'm glad I waited to sample the meats twice before posting. Tuesday's visit was good, but Thursday's lunch was better.

Comparing yourself to the number one BBQ joint in the world is a lofty goal, and while the meat at Ten 50 shows promise, they're a ways from matching the quality of any of Aaron Franklin's offerings.

Lavine certainly built a nice place. Ten 50 has seating for 275 (don't worry about having to reserve a table for 10 or 12...they have plenty of very long tables). The layout will look familiar if you've ever been to a Hard 8 BBQ -- smokers outside, meat kept on outside warmers, cut to order and then taken indoors for sides and drinks.

Ten 50 uses oak to cook their briskets and there are pallets of wood all over the place (great sign). Two large red Oyler smokers are wood-fired and it looks like there's more than enough capacity to serve all day, even though it's lunch only for now. I hear dinner service is coming soon.
Ribs are cooked on hickory. I got these cooking facts from the Observer's story.

They offer grilled steaks, cooked over oak charcoal, which is burned from oak logs on-site. Ten 50 is built to handle large crowds and I found there to be ample staff who were very helpful.

The meats were promising, but all had room for improvement.

How was the meat?

The brisket was cooked perfectly and had a nice smoke ring, but I didn't detect much in the way of a rub on my first visit. The fat was well-rendered and tasted great with the meat, but I did wish it was a little saltier.
The second try was much better. I got more than one slice of beef and there was ample crust that was well-seasoned. The consensus at the table: brisket was the star today. Moist, good crust and very well-rendered fat made for great brisket. It's not Franklin good, but it's solidly in the top tier of DFW brisket.

Ribs on both visits were small. Almost "babyback small." They did have a sweetness to their crust and tasted pretty good. I just wish they were bigger, although this is a nitpick, as you pay by the pound here. We all wished there was some more flavor here. After the initial twinge of sweetness, the taste just faded away.

Sausage comes in two varieties, a traditional sausage from Elgin, TX and a jalapeno-cheddar from Tyler, TX. Both were cooked well. The Elgin sausage was the better of the two. The jalapeno cheddar might have too much of a cheese flavor going on. Neither was especially greasy.

Turkey looked great in the warmer, but the piece cut for me came off the bottom (no skin) and it was a bit dry and lacked flavor. I also tried the Jalapeno Torpedoes which is chicken and cheese, stuffed in a jalapeno wrapped in bacon and grilled. They were pretty good, but needed a hit of sauce to make them sing. They were plenty spicy though.

Speaking of sauce, I tried their traditional sauce and it was good. Very strong molasses taste, but a good balance. I didn't get to try the vinegar-based Carolina sauce.

Two oak-fired Oyler smokers handle the briskets.

One thing struck me when I was looking for a table -- on the fist visit it was really cold inside the restaurant.

I'll certainly say Ten 50 has a fantastic air conditioner, but looking out across the room, most of the rolls of paper towels were blowing like flags in a stiff breeze (no joke).

Besides the ample A/C, there are very large ceiling fans helping move the air. This is great when it's hot, but when you're holding an open tray of sliced meat, it tends to cool it off and dry out in a hurry. I switched tables three times before I found a spot not in a noticeable breeze and my meat was still cold before I finished lunch. I never thought I say this, but I wish it was a bit warmer and less windy at Ten 50.
The second visit was much better. The ceiling fan was spinning much slower. No stiff breezes.

Overall I'm glad we've got a new joint open north of LBJ. I can tell the people at Ten 50 are serious about what they do and I can see the potential. All the pieces are in place, now they just need to dial it in a bit.
This is a great place to bring guests. Nice and large, soon to be open for dinner, full bar with plenty of local beers on tap and above average to excellent meats.

Ten50 Barbecue, 1050 N Central Expy, Richardson, 972-234-1050. Open 7 days a week 10:50am-9pm.

Oak logs were burning to make charcoal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poll: What are your top 5 Texas BBQ joints?

A father and son wait to order at a Texas barbecue joint. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

It's hard to say what's a more emotional subject for Texans, barbecue or politics.

Over the years we've tried to keep the Posse blog free of partisan politics, there are plenty of other places on the web where you can endlessly argue that subject. But when it comes the BBQ, strong loyalties and opinions have been shared between writers and readers on the Posse blog over the past five years.

Nothing gets BBQ fanatics going like a list of the "top" BBQ joints in Texas. We saw this once again when Gary Jacobson wrote More evidence that Lockhart has lost its barbecue magic last week. He shared the top five lists of several of the Posse members who went on our recent Houston BBQ tour. Some of our readers agreed, others didn't. That's how Texas barbecue goes.......

Just for fun, here's a chance to pick your top five favorites. We listed 26 top Texas BBQ joints (in alphabetical order) to choose from. If some of your favorites aren't listed, just add a comment to this blog post & we'll add it in the final results.

survey solution

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More evidence that Lockhart has lost its barbecue magic

Smitty's Market oak wood pile & the Caldwell County courthouse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

On our way back to Dallas from our recent Houston-area barbecue tour, all 6 Posse members on the trip listed their top 5 joints in the state, in no particular order.

Specific criteria probably varied from person to person, but these would be places we'd drive across the state to eat at or recommend to good friends that they do the same.

Since then, we've been asked to run each person's top 5. Those lists are below.

Three joints mentioned by each of us: Killen's Barbecue in Houston, Pecan Lodge in Dallas and la Barbecue in Austin. Only 3 of us listed Franklin Barbecue in Austin, generally considered the best joint in the state.

Others receiving at least one mention: Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, Miller's Smokehouse in Belton and Snow's BBQ in Lexington.

Reviewing the lists now, a bigger revelation than the lack of unanimity for Franklin, is the total absence of any joint in Lockhart. Five years ago, that wouldn't have been the case. Then, Smitty's, Black's and Kreuz Market demanded a pilgrimage.

That's more evidence that Lockhart is no longer the barbecue capital of Texas.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Strong reviews for CorkScrew BBQ in Spring...but

Brisket, ribs & sausage at CorkScrew BBQ in Sprint. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

The food is excellent at CorkScrew BBQ, a trailer joint located behind a shopping center in Spring:

"This could be a Top 10 joint," said friend of the Posse Bryan Norton, who joined us on this stop in our 35-hour, 610-mile barbecue tour of the Houston area.

"I can't stop eating," said Posse member Phil Lamb as he picked from a selection of fatty brisket, pork ribs, turkey, sausage, pulled pork and chopped brisket. Later he said he would have liked more smoke flavor on the brisket and ribs.

"The brisket is on a par with la Barbecue," said Daniel Goncalves, referring to the top Austin joint.

"This is really good," said Tom Fox. "The chopped brisket is better than the pulled pork."

"I'm with you, man," echoed Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins about the chopped brisket. "I could eat two pounds of that."

At CorkScrew, customers eat outdoors, at shaded tables. And anyone who eats outdoors expects some bugs from time to time. On this visit, though, the flies were out in force. We had to shoo them away before we could take a piece of meat.

"I couldn't bring my wife here," Lamb said. "She wouldn't put up with the flies."

CorkScrew BBQ, 24930 Budde Rd., Spring, 832-592-1184. Open Tues-Sat 11am-til the meat runs out. Website: (Texas Monthly Top 50)

Customers wait in line on a Friday at CorkScrew BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Complete Idiot's Guide To Wine Tasting

Brisket and wine were on the menu for the Posse at Pecan Lodge. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/

By Bruce Tomaso/Texas BBQ Posse

On Tuesday, the BBQ Posse was invited to join the Dallas Morning News Wine Panel for a tasting at Pecan Lodge. The mission: Find the red wines that pair best with Texas barbecue. (Look for the story in the July 30 Arts & Life section of The News.)

Diane and Justin Fourton served up platters of Justin’s other-worldly smoked brisket. Cathy Barber, the paper’s food editor, and Tina Danze, a Dallas freelance writer, served up 26 bottles of wine. The wines came from around the world: Argentina and Australia, France, Spain, and Portugal, California and Washington State.

The brisket was pure Texas.

The members of the Wine Panel sniffed and sipped and swirled.

The members of the Posse tried not to scarf down all the brisket.

Truly, this was a meeting of the connoisseurs and the goobers. The people on the Wine Panel are master sommeliers, well-known Dallas chefs and restaurateurs, people of rigorous training and refined palates. They’ve spent decades studying wines.

The BBQ Posse is a less exclusive society. To get in, you have to ask.

I know a great smoked brisket when I taste it, but if you put a revolver to my head, I couldn’t tell a Malbec from a Merlot, a Shiraz from a Petite Sirah. I don’t pretend otherwise.

Sometimes, the less you know, the easier it is to learn. If the gaps in your knowledge are the size of moon craters, it’s not hard for one or two small nuggets of insight to carom in there and settle.

Here, then, are six lessons that I learned from my first wine-tasting. (Once Cathy and Tina read this, I’m pretty sure it will also be my last wine-tasting.)

Pecan Lodge pitmaster/co-owner Justin Fourton delivers out first of two briskets. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

1. Use the spit cup

It seems counter-intuitive to put wine in your mouth and not swallow it, especially when it’s good wine and you’re getting it for free. But there’s a reason that experienced tasters spit out each sample.

If you’re tasting 26 wines in two or three hours and you take one small sip of each, you will be inebriated by the time you stand up to leave.

And if you drain your glass 26 times, you’ll be picking fights afterward with bikers coming out of tattoo parlors.

2. Don’t use your fingers

When the platter of beautifully smoked, expertly carved brisket arrives at the table, you should resist the temptation to reach in, grab a blackened, juicy bit with your hand and stuff it into your mouth.

This is perfectly acceptable, even customary, on a barbecue tour. Among people who know where the butter plate goes, you will be regarded as a cretin.

3. When you sip, stick your nose in the glass

This is to experience the wine’s aroma as well as its flavor. I was surprised to discover that wine smells just like wine.

4. Assume the authoritative voice

After tasting each wine, listen to the experts before you fill out your evaluation sheet. They will use phrases like “subtle spice notes,” “dense, peppery palate,” “hints of courant,” “dense tannins,” and “elongated finish.” Write these down.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what they mean. At any given moment, half the people on Earth who are speaking have no idea what they’re talking about. Bill O’Reilly knows no more about immigration policy than I do about Côtes du Rhône. That hasn’t shut him up. My three nephews know more about sports than Skip Bayless, and ESPN pays him $500,000 a year. If you write that the Merlot “displayed aromas of dark stone fruits,” who’s going to argue with you?

Four Seasons master sommelier James Tidwell pours wine at the tasting. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/

5. After a while, you’re faking (and you’re not the only one)

The BBQ Posse once hit eight Central Texas joints in just over 24 hours. (We were young and foolish back then.) By the time we got to our last stop, the mere sight of ribs and brisket – the mere sight of a guy in a greasy white apron with a carving knife in his hand – was enough to make us queasy. I’d have rather eaten a small box of paper clips than that eighth barbecue meal.

The gross overload not only killed our appetites; it blunted our ability to distinguish one brisket, rib, or sausage from the next. The same was true with the wines. Twenty-six was too many.

Halfway through the tasting, I found myself thumbing ahead through my stack of evaluation sheets to see how many more samples were yet to come – and softly groaning that the number wasn’t smaller. The people sitting across the table from me – not BBQ Posse goobers – were doing the same.

And even though I was dutifully using my spit cup and drinking water between samples, after 15 or 20 wines I was fooling myself that I could tell how the cabernet from Beckman Vineyards stacked up against the one we’d tried an hour earlier from Becker Vineyards.

6. Barbecue and wine might just be a bad idea

The consensus of our table – oenophiles and mooks alike – was that most of the wines paired poorly with Justin’s brisket.

Many of these vintages were good. A few were really good. They would have gone well with a medium-rare New York strip, or a thick slice of prime rib in au jus, or even a baguette and a wedge of aged Gruyère.

But thickly smoked, crusted, peppery brisket has an immense, forceful personality. It just steamrolled most of the wines we tried. Their subtle, supple, silky, luscious, sexy, opulent, complex, layered, textured, fresh, intense, pure, suave, ripe, rich, refined florals and truffles and mocha and herbs and spices and chocolate-coated dark cherries and velvet plums and black raspberry perfumes and hints of boysenberry liqueur didn’t stand a chance.

The wines were like Nanci Griffith trying to sing a duet with Janis Joplin. After Janis had drained about six bottles of wine. After swishing and spitting our way through 26 bottles, we did find a few that more or less held their own alongside the brisket. (I believe that I may have described one of them as having “balls.”)

But all things considered, a robust amber ale – or a big plastic glass of sweet tea – would have been better.

Members of the Texas BBQ Posse & the Dallas Morning News wine panel at Pecan Lodge. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves)

Monday, July 14, 2014

High on smoke and creamed corn, BBQ eureka at Killen's BBQ

Pork ribs, brisket, potato salad & creamed corn at Killen's BBQ in Pearland. (Photo by Daniel Goncalves/

Just a week after the Posse's barbecue tour of Houston-area joints, Posse member Daniel Goncalves and his wife, Magda, made a return visit, including a trip to Killen's Barbecue in Pearland, which might just be the best barbecue joint in the state. Daniel says he had a couple of new barbecue revelations while high on smoke and creamed corn. Here is his report:

My wife and I decided at the last minute to spend the 4th of July weekend in Houston. The previous week's trip to Killen's may have influenced that decision.

When the Posse visited Killen's, Posse member Jim Rossman showed up a couple of hours before opening and had the #1 spot in line.

My wife and I stopped Saturday, July 5th, just before 3 p.m. We spotted pit master, Ronnie Killen, on the side lawn. I was curious to see if the joint had sold out any of the meats and how the food would measure up to the "first in line" offerings we had the week before.

Only 6 people were in line ahead of us when we arrived. The board up front said sausage had sold out. We decided to get a 6-meat plate ($28), but divided between only two meats: two portions of pork ribs and 4 portions of moist brisket. It's a lot of food, enough for us have a nice lunch and leftovers for dinner.

We were disappointed we couldn't sample the sausage, which was very good the previous week, but I was pleasantly surprised that sausage was the only meat that had sold out.

A worker said meat capacity was increased for the holiday weekend by temporarily bringing in an additional smoker. On Friday, 85 briskets were smoked and they had sold them out by 3:30 p.m. They had 12 out of 65 left at just after 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The plate came with a choice of two sides. I've never been excited about sides at a BBQ joint. We ordered the potato salad and the creamed corn.

I assumed we would both take a bite of each and the rest would end up in the trash bin. After last week's visit I didn't believe anything could possibly stand up to the meat. I couldn't have been more wrong.

This led to the second great revelation of my BBQ touring experience: Don't put sides to the side (sorry).

The sides stood up just fine and were not out of place with the meat. They were not an afterthought or a simple filler as with many barbecue joints.

Pitmaster/owner Ronnie Killen. (Photo by Daniel Goncalves)
The creamed corn was sublime. It was creamy and luscious while being light and almost frothy with a small spicy after kick. We were told that the creamed corn is the exact same corn served at Killen's Steakhouse which is considered one of the top steakhouses in the country.

If I could create a new BBQ category called "most luscious side," the creamed corn would be king. I challenge any other side from any other joint to go toe to toe with the creamed corn in my fictitious category. Bring it on.

The brisket was perfectly cooked and unbelievably moist, but I personally would have liked a little more rub, especially salt. The ribs were perfect. I felt the same way on the previous visit. The beef flavor seems to be the star while the seasoning does back up duty and that's not a bad thing.

I felt compelled to try the sauces after sampling some naked bits and pieces. Since my Florida days I haven't touched sauce. My personal feeling is that if it needs sauce I don't want to eat it.

This led to my third ever BBQ revelation. The sauces were delicious and complemented the brisket beautifully. I'm wondering if this is part of some genius plan to get you to reach for the sauce so you can experience another layer of culinary goodness. Killen definitely has "it" when it comes to creating perfectly balanced flavor. Escoffier would not be disappointed. sweet and acidity balanced beautifully. No one flavor stands above the other.

We decided to take a brisket back home to Dallas after making sure they had enough left over for the people in line behind us. Our brisket was just short of 8 pounds of jiggly, glistening and gorgeous meat. Memories of Baywatch's intro sequence came to mind.

We decided to further indulge by getting a slice of the buttermilk pie to share. Magda said she noticed lemon rind while exclaiming how wonderful it was. No bottled lemon juice here.

I haven't been this excited about smoked meat since my first BBQ revelation while sampling Snow's marvelous brisket on a beautiful Saturday morning. That was when I finally understood how great brisket could be.

After its Houston tour, the Posse debated on the way back to Dallas whether Killen's was the best BBQ joint in the state. I was reluctant to agree on the spot.

But if you take into account comfort level (A/C, nice decor, friendly staff, personable pit master, beer in line, etc.), all the different meats and their quality, and if you throw sides into the discussion, then I personally would have to say that this is the best BBQ joint in Texas and possibly this side of the sun.

Please pass more of that creamed corn.

Killen's BBQ, 3613 E. Broadway, Pearland, 281-485-2272. Open Tues-Sun 11am-until they run out of meat. Website:

Dining room at Killen's BBQ. (Photo by Daniel Goncalves/