I’m not talking about “local food” – which is to say, food grown locally to your area (though I try to do that as well, and rather like my supermarket’s easy designation of things that are grown within 100 or 200 miles from here). This is about local restaurants.
We rarely eat out – especially lately, since my dietary needs make stopping by a fast food joint not only nearly impossible but also much less tasty than eating something I cook at home. But sometimes it’s nice to go out, especially for special occasions, and we’re blessed to have a selection of locally owned and operated restaurants in the area, from sushi to yummy mediterranean food to steaks to burgers and amazing onion rings to the best barbecue ever.
Barbecue is one of those finicky things that’s different in different places. Carolina barbecue, for instance, is mostly pork based and uses a vinaigre based sauce. Texas barbecue, as you’d expect, is largely beef based, heavily smoked (with mesquite wood), and includes a lot of brisket and sausage, along with smoked turkey, in a thick, spicy, tomato-ey sauce. The only pork you see at most barbecue places around here is ribs (if you even see those!).
The typical Texas barbecue joint is a shack full of picnic tables with a “counter” at one end – sometimes with visible food, but often literally just a counter with a cash register. All of the menu items are on the wall. Sandwiches, Meats, Sides. Those are usually it, and then a list of prices for “Plates” with one meat or two meats, most served with two sides and “Texas Toast” (aka really thick bread toasted with butter and garlic), onions, and pickles. Your all-star items are usually brisket (either sliced, or chopped on sandwiches) and sliced smoked sausage. Sides are beans, coleslaw, potato salad, green beans, fried okra, and sometimes corn.
Our local barbecue joint is no exception. Dave’s started as a side operation to the local butcher shop and meat market.
The inside is dark, and filled with all kinds of random collections (the women’s bathroom has birdhouses in it, and I’m told the men’s bathroom is filled with a collection of chamber pots and bed pans), jackalopes, flags, old pictures, pictures signed by local celebrities (around here that means Astronauts), and other junk. There are no napkins, just rolls of paper towels on the tables. The counter is just a counter with a cash register, and it’s open to the kitchen, where you can hear the assorted cooks singing along to the old-style country music they have blasting from a little portable boombox. The portions are huge, the fried okra is fried fresh when you order it, and the cobbler is delicious.
Oh, and the barbecue? It’s to die for.