subject: Belmont Bar-B-Que
take-out vehicle: wax paper, paper bag
Located in oft-changing "downtown" Belmont, Belmont Bar-B-Que is run by Oklahoma-native Wes Wright, who I finally got to meet on this visit. He was quite chatty, and in the few minutes we spent talking, I learned quite a bit. First, there is no weekly poker game of local barbecuers. Random, yes, but I just always assumed there was a little community amongst those who smoked meat in town. In reality though, according to Wes, it seems some of the hickory smoke wafting around town may be laced with a little animosity. This isn't a gossip column, so I'll leave it at that, but it was interesting to hear his perspective on things.
Second, the rib sandwich (pictured), had I ordered it in the midwest, would very likely have included actual rib bones. This came up after I asked Wes, baffled, "So, how exactly do you eat ribs on a sandwich?"
Wes explained that in Oklahoma, and in every other state where he learned to barbecue (he mentioned Texas and Kansas by name), many people ate around the edges of the sandwich, then would open the sandwich up and eat the ribs as one would expect, using the by-then-sauce-soaked bread as an accompaniment.
As a homage to his roots, and to suit our local eaters, Wes said his rib sandwich is offered bone-free, and he told me it was the best thing he makes. Of course, hearing that, I had no choice but to order one.
Having had the pulled pork and beef brisket, I'm glad I ordered the rib sandwich for no other reason than to complete my sampling of the different types of meat offered at Belmont Bar-B-Que. That said, and despite Wes' claim, this wasn't quite my favorite, but I think it's a matter of personal taste. The pulled pork, which is my favorite, was more tender and succulent than the de-boned ribs, though I will say that ribs were very good and did trump the pork in smokey flavor.
No doubt due to their greater surface-to-mass ratio, the ribs absorbed much more smoke and lost more moisture than the pork shoulders (which is traditionally where pulled pork comes from), and thus had a slightly drier, tougher texture. I guess the best analogy I can think of is the difference between roasted salmon (representing the pulled pork) and smoked salmon (representing the ribs). While both are good, I prefer the more succulent and tender options.
Of course, I say this because I like sauce. Smokey meat flavor is great, necessary even, but I love big hunks of juicy pulled meat that can soak up a nice thick sauce. Unfortunately, Belmont Bar-B-Que's sauces are horrible. I hate to be so blunt, but I just can't stand them. To me, they all taste like overly sweet ketchup with varying amounts of hot sauce added in. The flavor of the ribs was enough to carry the sandwich alone, but rather than eat it dry, I pulled out a sauce from Texas that my brother-in-law brought back for me recently.
Had I not been in a hurry, though, I would have cooked up a batch of my own Memphis-esque sauce. It does have some kecthup in it, but the resulting sauce is tangy, a little spicy, and just pleasantly sweet—wholly different than that stuff at Belmont Bar-B-Que. I've put the recipe below, so let me know what you think.
Besides the sandwich, the onion rings were quite good. They had a good crunch and a nice, comforting, greasy fried onion flavor, but unless someone can prove me wrong, I'll stick by my suspicion that they came from the freezer (or if someone can prove they are frozen, I'll take the name of the company that makes them...I wouldn't mind buying some for myself).
All in all, Belmont Bar-B-Que is a great place to get some 'cue, but remember to order it un-sauced. If you can't find a sauce you like, the pulled pork also makes for a great taco (try it with grilled tortillas, a spicy salsa verde, and some creamy queso blanco)—just follow wafts of Wes' smoker.
John's BBQ sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons mustard (yellow is fine)
1-2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 tablespoon paprika (smoked paprika is best)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Mix all ingredients into a medium sauce pan. Simmer over low heat 30-40 minutes. Serve as-is or keep tightly covered in the fridge. Best with pork and chicken.