Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Meet Cranky Frank

So what do two people looking for brisket and sausage do when they come across a joint called Cranky Frank’s BBQ?

They eat there, of course!

With all the brilliant colors of the building and the "Entrance" (the blue door is the exit), the shack virtually shouted to us: "Real Food."

Still on the hunt for good brisket – and thus far disappointed – a “sort of” recommendation from a woman at the Visitors’ Center in Fredericksburg (TX) sent us there for lunch. (We say “sort of,” because we got the sense that, while the Center’s staff cannot give specific preferences, she was steering us in that direction.)

Cranky Frank’s offers brisket, chicken, sausage, ribs, and pork. Platters come in three sizes – one meat, two meats, and three meats ranging in price from $7.95 to $11.95. Included in the price is your choice of two sides from the “serve yourself” sides bar. Sides included pinto beans, green beans, slaw, potato salad and whole kernel corn. The barbecue sauce came in two styles – Texas and a sweet German sauce.

They also have a student lunch special which might account for there being at least eighteen high school aged youth in line while we were eating our lunch. Thank heaven we arrived before they did.

In the interest of making valid comparisons between barbecue restaurants, Chuck again ordered the brisket and I the smoked sausage. For his sides, Chuck selected the potato salad and pintos and I the potato salad and slaw. We took a cup of both the Texas and German sauces.

First the sides. As is standard in the southern U.S., the potato salad contained chopped pickles – in this case, chopped dills rather than the typical sweet. I still cannot develop an enthusiasm for pickles in my potato salad, but, being resigned to finding it everywhere and generally preferring dill pickles to sweet pickles, I thought this was better than average. The pintos were good, but not exceptional, as was the slaw.

My smoked sausage was very good – moist, not too smoky, and studded with red pepper flakes which gave an extra dimension of flavor. This was the second best smoked sausage I’ve had since our arrival in Texas. Chuck’s brisket was the best to date. Sliced thin and very lean but still moist, Cranky Frank’s brisket had a definite smoke ring and a smoked flavor which complimented, but did not overwhelm, the meat. This came closest to the brisket we came to Texas to find. We discovered that the sweet German sauce worked best with the sausage and the Texas sauce went best with the brisket.

Dan Martin (above) was pleased to hear that we enjoyed the food he prepared.

Cranky Frank’s was good but not great barbecue. Nothing was bad but nothing was really exceptional. So we are giving Cranky’s 4.0 (out of 5.0) Addies.

A return to Fritze’s.... We found ourselves in Boerne again the other day, and our meal choices appeared to be national chains, Mexican, German, and Fritze’s. So back to Fritze’s we went. I know that I said in an earlier blog that should we make a return trip to this barbecue restaurant I would order the dill slaw for both of my sides. But upon approaching the ordering counter, I saw these wonderful looking roasted potatoes and had to give them a try.

My mother often made pot roast. She braised (although I am sure that she didn’t call it braising) the chuck or round steak in an electric skillet for hours and, just as the beef was getting tender, would add potatoes, carrots, and onions. At the very end of the cooking process, she would let most of the liquid cook away and the veggies browned in the concentrated juices. The sugars in the carrots and onions would caramelize and the potatoes would brown. Now I was never all that fond of the roast itself but could make a meal of the vegetables. The sweet caramelized onions were my favorite and every time I walked past the skillet, I couldn’t resist sneaking a taste.

Fritze’s roasted potato and onion mix reminded me of my mother’s pot roast and especially of the vegetables. The potatoes tasted of meat juices, and the onions were roasted until they were soft and sweet. It is the sides that set Fritze’s apart from the other barbecue restaurants in Texas that we have visited. Rather than being an afterthought to fill out a plate, these can stand on their own.

So, bottom line, Frank and Fritze know what they're doing.

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