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Posts Tagged ‘barbecue’

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Impulse Turn #2 almost gave us whiplash the first time we saw the sign. There, right on Route 611 in Pipersville. “Oink Johnson’s Southern BBQ?”

It took some time for us to get back but last Sunday we did. And we are very happy to have this new addition to the Bucks County food scene. Especially since its on the way to Lake Nockamixon, and conveniently near Chubby’s Dairy Barn (dessert!).

In order to get a representative sample of the goods, as they say, I ordered two platters – one with ribs ($10), the other with pulled pork ($8). Both come with two sides and freshly baked cornbread.

First, the ribs. They were meaty, smokey, with just enough spice, and a juicy combination of meat and fat. Four ribs come with the platter, but when I told the proprietor that I was bringing them to a hungry sailor, he immediately threw in the fifth without a thought.

Second, the pulled pork. Moist, subtle and flavorful. The spices used were pleasant but didn’t overpower, a problem with many barbecue places. I ordered it with the sauce on the side, so I could taste it first.

Now the sides. Green beans & potatoes with ham hocks. Green beans, cooked Southern, but with a twist. Small potatoes, pieces of pork and some herb I’m still trying to identify.

Yes, herb. What we both noticed about the whole meal was that  there was uniqueness and subtlety in each dish. “Subtle” is not a word that comes to mind when describing barbecue, particularly in what passes for it here in the northeastern US. Too many barbecue places over-spice, over-smoke and over-sauce, thinking more is better. Too often everything tastes the same. All the meat has similar seasoning. The baked beans kind of taste like the sauce. Also, at many barbecue places, you get the impression that the side dishes are an afterthought. 

100_1901Not so at Oink Johnson’s. Even other traditional sides – cole slaw and baked beans – were distinctive.  “Sonia’s Slaw” (“Jack’s mom’s recipe”) – was creamy with big pieces of cabbage and a hint of onion. I loved it – and I am very loyal to my mother’s cole slaw. Then there was “Miss Shelley’s Baked Beans” with just the right balance of spice and sweetness. The cornbread was fresh, moist and chewy, just the way I like it.

The smoked pulled beef brisket will have to wait for another trip, and we’ll pick up some ribs by the rack or half-rack to bring home. You can also order any of the meats in a sandwich, in a platter like we did, or by the pound. The ribs are smoked and barbecued daily, and the sides are freshly homemade, and also available by the pint or half-pint.

Dog and pigOne more thing. Don’t be put off by the fact that Oink Johnson’s BBQ sits right in front of “Jack’s Dog Farm,” a well-known landmark in this part of Bucks. Jack is the cheerful cook and proprietor, and the stand sits right by the statue of a black dog – who now has a little golden pig sitting on his head.

Oink Johnson’s BBQ, 215-518-2056, or 215-766-8840. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. On Route 611 in Pipersville, just north of Plumsteadville.

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In Bucks County, good barbecue is hard to come by. It seems like every restaurant around advertises its awesome ribs but, truth be told, most of the racks we’ve tasted are more about boiled pork and bottled sauce than real barbecue. So, the places that make a real effort are worth paying attention to: The ones I know of are the Duck Deli in New Britain, J.B. Dawson’s in Langhorne, Smokin’ Lil’s in Doylestown, Wegmans in Warminster and, if you care to cross the river, H.I. Rib in Pennington, N.J.

There are plenty of other places around, I know, and give me time – I’ll get to them.

Smokin’ Lil’s, where Lynne and I ate last night, is the one I had the highest hopes for. It’s part of Lilly’s Restaurants and Catering, the same folks who run Lilly’s on the Canal in Lambertville and Café America and Lilly’s Gourmet in Doylestown. All of these places are friendly and consistent, so I go into any of them ready to be happy.

And, I can’t say I was unhappy at Smokin Lil’s. I think the barbecue there is pretty good, but only pretty good. The meat’s tender but was smothered in sauce and over-spiced. If I had to use one word to describe our meal last night, it would be “peppery.”

Lynne and I both had a “I’m Just Gettin Started” platter, which allows you to choose one meat entrée and two sides. I had ribs, with sides of cole slaw and corn (off the cob, but hey, it’s December). Lynne had brisket, cole slaw and baked beans. We agree the cole slaw was very good – not too saucy, not too heavy on the mayonnaise. The corn wasn’t mushy – which is no small thing for a side of corn – but it was peppered to the point of stinging my tongue after a few bites. Lynne thought the beans were okay, but didn’t have much beyond that to say about them.

Of course, in barbecue the main attraction is the meat. (Well, maybe the macaroni and cheese, but I’m on Atkins, so I skipped that.) Both the ribs and the brisket were tender enough, and if you scraped off the sauce, you got a nice hint of sweetness and smoke. But you shouldn’t have to scrape. The  layer of slightly oily, very peppery sauce seemed unwarranted. Lynne, who’s traveled to Memphis and Kansas City enough to have developed a true attitude when it comes to barbecue, feels strongly that anyone who drenches their meat is trying to hide something. And while we don’t think the folks at Smokin’ Lil’s were doing that, we do think all that sauce was unnecessary. There are pitchers of it on the tables, after all, so we wondered why they didn’t just serve up the meat and let diners add sauce to taste.

Of course, you can avoid the whole issue simply by ordering your meat without sauce. I’ll try that next time.

And, we’ll definitely go back to Smokin’ Lil’s. I want a full portion of brisket, they’ve got several options with chicken that look good, and – like everyone at Lilly’s – the folks there are friendly. They also make good ice tea, though I don’t recommend that when it’s snowing outside. (We had to go across the street to Chambers19 for a bourbon to warm up. Iced tea and snow – what was I thinking?).

We’re still looking for Bucks County’s King of all Barbecue.

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