I’ve eaten plenty of barbecue in my time. When I was a youngster and visiting my folks in Texas, we’d favor a barbecue joint on the south and west of Forth Worth with sawdust floors. When I lived in Houston for grad school, Goode Company Barbecue was my favored hangout. In Saint Louis? There were some fine K. C. Masterpiece stores. In Durham, North Carolina, I was introduced to Brunswick stew and Carolina style ‘cue. While living in Florida, I had some of the best ribs I’ve ever eaten, smoked forever, at a small joint near railroad tracks in the greater Orlando area. I learned most of what I know about smoke, though, from the original owners of Spiced Right Barbecue.
In Atlanta, where I do most of my blogging, I can name at least six first rate barbecue joints: Fox Brothers, Big Shanty Smokehouse , Heirloom Barbecue, Grand Champion Barbecue, Community Q, and ironically, Hottie Hawgs can bring it at their best (make that 7: Mad Dog’s is also quite good). What do the best barbecue joints offer? Usually they have consistently smoked meats, excellent sides, and they rarely run out of product as the day goes on. They know their audience well enough they don’t often get caught with their pants down. Smoking meats a long time limits the quantity of food you can prepare, much more so than creating “fall off the bone” ribs, which could be done in a pot of water over the stove, in an oven, or perhaps by sous-vide, with a quick finish on the grill.
Coming from Atlanta, I have plenty of people I can talk to about barbecue, such as Mike Stock of 285 Foodies, David Jones of Eat Buford Highway, and Dustin from Georgia Barbecue Hunt. Some of my reference points are no longer in Atlanta: 3rd Degree Berns is up in New York these days.
I just want people to have a clue when I start talking about the Silver Star.
I went there during my high school’s 25th class reunion. I hadn’t seen some of these people in decades, and we had a long table in this restaurant that we filled; perhaps 30 or more people were at our table. However, there were tables longer than ours and they were full as well. The place was packed.
The date: it was the first LSU-Alabama contest of 2011, and many of the staffers were in gold shirts with purple trim. It wasn’t hard to see who the crowd was rooting for.
The point I’m trying to make is that this was about the worst possible circumstance to see the best possible food this eatery can deliver. I know the Silver Star folks are paying attention to their ‘cue. You don’t invest in a competition smoking rig and leave it outside your restaurant simply to let it rust in the rain.
That said, I had a mixed plate, with 3 meats, and only one of the meats was good enough to be culinarily significant. I had brisket, sausage, and ribs. The ribs were simply ordinary, and it was hard to tell if they had any smoke at all. The sausage was sausage: good, but again, hard to tell if it was a smoked product. The brisket was quite good, had a visible smoke ring, tasted like smoked meat, and delivered the kinds of flavors I expect from brisket.
The best way to test the rest of their meats would be to come back at lunchtime, on an off day, when they are seriously smoking, and try their food out.
Ribs run out quickly. And when they do, it’s a significant event. The chef at Fox Brothers came out one day, spoke to my wife because she got the last rack of ribs they had (it was a mid afternoon meal, iirc). In discussions with the chef, owner, and manager of Hottie Hawgs, I know they have “competition” style ribs and “sneaky ribs”, and the latter rely on tenderness and sauce. HH uses them when they can’t supply huge quantities of the “good stuff”.
I’m a little puzzled why a place that competes on a BBQ circuit would have such an inconsistent product, though. I’m going to chalk it up to the sheer volume of customers that day. I really can’t do anything else. Other bloggers are high on their steaks, but a perfect steak is much easier to make than good cue.
Service was really good, considering the crush the Silver Star had that day. It can handle large crowds, and feed plenty effectively. But, just my ought two, if you want their best meats, come when the crowds are small and you can see the smokers working. You’re more likely to run into a consistent product.
Silver Star Smokehouse
1201 Dixie Overland Rd
Bossier City, LA 71111