Monday, September 7, 2015

Nugget rib cook off 2015 recap

Today marked the last day for the Nugget rib cook off in Sparks, NV. Although we went to the cook off during the week to avoid the "burners" coming through town I always wait until the event is over to post my recap.

We always start our road trip to "the biggest little city in the world" with a stop off in Auburn, CA to The California club. It's a great little neighborhood dive bar. Everyone is super friendly, nobody's a stranger and there's always a full bar (even at 8am). If you ask for a restaurant recommendation they will hand you menus to every restaurant in the neighborhood.

The California Club
This year, per a friends recommendation, we stopped for burgers at Ryan's Saloon before checking into the hotel. Another awesome dive bar where your bartender is also the cook. We indulged in their famous fried cheese curds, clam strips and some amazing bacon cheeseburgers. No kidding, one of the best burgers I've ever had. Not in that organic high end meat on a house-made bun sorta way, but in a greasy, messy, this is going to probably make me feel terrible later sorta way. Oh and by the way they offer their draught beers in small or large. Large being a ridiculously massive stein that probably holds about a gallon of beer. Choose wisely my friends, that mega mug gets warm before you can finish it.

We hit the rib cook off twice. Once Wednesday evening and again all day on Thursday. All together we tried 17 out of 24 pitmaster's ribs. Here's what we tried, in order from favorite (who also coincidentally won 1st place from the judges and peoples choice award) to least favorite. At the end of this list I have posted the official competition results and there is a scattering of photos of us goofing around at the cook off. Enjoy. 

Bone Daddy's - Michigan 

1st place winner, people's choice award winner & our favorite 
Bone Daddy's

Checkered Pig - Virginia

Checkered Pig

Kinder's - California

Just North of Memphis - Minneapolis 

Just North of Memphis

Butch's Smack Your Lips - New Jersey

Butch's Smack Your Lips
Butch's pyro bbq sauce - That s$!*t was spicy!
Uncle Bub's

The Barbecue Company Inc. - Arizona

In addition to great ribs these guys also had a killer chipotle-bacon mac & cheese

Bourbon Q - Kentucky

Bourbon Q's ribs and Pulled pork nachos
Porky 'N Beans - Florida

Pork 'N Beans

Carson City - Nevada

Carson City

Desperado's - Ohio

Desperado's. Great mac & cheese!
Joey's Texas Originals - Texas

Joey's Texas Original
Nate and his Harry Potter owl 
Smokin' Joes Hog Wild - Ohio

Smokin' Joes Hog Wild

Montana Q - Montana

Montana Q

Back Forty - California

Texas Outlaw - Kentucky

Casino musician wearing Nate's hat
Austin's Texas Lightning - Illinois

Austin's Texas Lightning 

2015 Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook Off - OFFICIAL RESULTS -

Best Sauce - Ausome Aussie
People's Choice - Bone Daddy's

Formerly The Alley Bar
Until next year Reno! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

60 years of traditional Carolina BBQ

Lexington is the self proclaimed BBQ capitol of North Carolina. With BBQ shacks like Speedy’s, Stamey’s, Lexington BBQ and The BBQ Center lining the streets it’s not hard to see why. If anything this town at least has the most traditional BBQ for Eastern North Carolina standards. This region is known for pit smoked whole hog with vinegar BBQ sauce, red slaw and hushpuppies. The BBQ Center, which celebrated it’s 60 year anniversary this year, is the perfect example if you want to see what this style of BBQ is all about.

The pit was happily smoking away when we pulled up to The BBQ Center’s massive parking lot. The 60 year old plus building has all the tell tale signs of generations of success. Multiple old signs (they probably get a new one every 15 years or so), old vintage ice box outside, a covered portion of the parking lot reserved for curb side service that reminds you of roller-skating waitresses and doo wop 50’s music and an ancient looking brick and cast iron smoke house out back (that would never in a million years be up to code in San Francisco).

When you walk inside there is a lively buzz. Every seat is filled, swarms of waitresses circle the dining room offering way too much sweet tea, the well lit walls are lined with BBQ festival posters, enormous banana splits are being built at the long diner style counter, massive plates of BBQ are flying out of the kitchen and everyone looks happy.

The BBQ – BBQ in NC generally means one thing. Smoked whole hog. You can get it fine chopped, course chopped, sliced or pulled. We ordered fine chopped and course chopped. Both came with vinegar BBQ sauce drizzled over the top. Although there wasn’t a huge smokiness to the pork the flavor was still good and the meat was moist. Their dark meat BBQ chicken was excellent. Chunks of perfectly moist meat pulling effortlessly off the bone with a hint of black pepper.

The Sides – The BBQ Center offers white or red slaw but since we were in red slaw country we opted for the latter. It was just as I remembered; small diced cabbage tossed in vinegar BBQ sauce with a hint of horseradish, an excellent contrast to the fatty pork. Hushpuppies (fried cornmeal batter) were of course brought out on the side and added a crunchy, salty and sweet addition to the meal. Also offered on the menu are  crinkle cut french fries, baked beans that tasted like they were out of a can and fried okra which was nice and crunchy with a fresh pure okra flavor.

Desserts – The restaurant’s famous Banana split is older than the BBQ Center is (originally named The Dairy Center the restaurant was an ice-cream house before it was a BBQ house). I think I counted 9 scoops of ice-cream and then watched as the waitress proceeded to load on “wet nuts” (walnuts in syrup), whipped cream, chocolate syrup and a maraschino cherry. The sugary monstrosity was carried over to a table where 5 people dug in with spoons and devoured it. Also offered are apple pie, pecan pie and a variety of ice-cream and frozen yogurt flavors. I opted for the traditional BBQ shack staple banana pudding. Which (also traditional) was most likely the recipe off the side of a Nilla wafers box.

Having no regrets we stumbled out of there full and happy and in seek of a cold beer to wash it all down with. If you want to learn what Eastern North Carolina BBQ is all about, The BBQCenter has definitely got you covered.

900 N. Main st.
Lexington, NC 27292

Closed Sundays (like all BBQ joints in the south)