Friday, April 29, 2011

Learn From Our Mistake,...

and don’t harbor a grudge.

Let me take you back to the Friday before Mardi Gras in Lafayette (LA). Our plan was to park in the Albertson’s parking lot, have a light dinner at 2Paul’s Radically Urban Barbeque, and then walk to Johnston Street to view the parade. Just one hitch to this plan. 2Paul’s was closed that evening while they were selling BBQ at Le Festival de Mardi Gras a Lafayette at Cajun Field. Our dinner choices then became a pizza buffet place and a fast food Chinese place. Have you ever had a fried wonton that you swear had been heated in a microwave? That’s reason enough to harbor a grudge.

But finally our hunger for BBQ wore us down, and armed with great reviews for this place, we headed off to 2Paul’s.

“The two Paul's, Gary PAUL Roy from Oklahoma City, and Marilynn PAULE Fournet Adams from Lafayette, share a middle name. (That's right, her middle name is PAULE.) They also share a restaurant. Together they saw that BBQ was missing in Lafayette and pulled together a bright new concept that blended traditional Texas-Oklahoma-style smoke with authentic, homemade Cajun sides and seasonings…The smoker's running out back 24/7 and inside, they’re making every side, sauce, and dessert every day. It's always fresh, it's always good, and it’s way radical” (from the restaurant’s web site).

When you walk through the doors, the first thing you notice is the smell of smoked meat. Then you notice that 2Paul’s isn’t decorated like most BBQ places. Modish prints adorn the brightly colored walls that are offset by bright red painted trim.

On one wall are hung two large signature or autograph or message boards, containing messages from recent diners. On this same wall are funky and somewhat industrial looking collages that we surmise (but aren’t certain) are made from computer mother boards and computer repair tools. Not you’re Texas-style BBQ joint.

Before placing your order at the counter, it behooves you to take a menu, find a seat, and spend some time considering all of the options. For meats, you can chose from ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket, sausage, turkey breast, shrimp, and pork tenderloin. Sides include rice dressing (a Cajun favorite), potato salad, Asian cole slaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, fries, and chips. Onion rings are an extra charge option.

You can order just meat, combo plates (one, two, or three meats) with two sides, sandwiches (including a hamburger), and BBQ topped salads. In fact, the Cajun Foodie and other on-line reviewers specifically mentioned the salad topped with beef brisket. I don’t think it was the brisket salad a near-by diner was enjoying, but her salad was certainly large and looked ultra fresh.

After much menu study, we were ready to send Chuck to the counter and order. I was going to have that day’s special of a pulled pork sandwich which came with the home-made fries and a beverage. To this I added a side of the Asian slaw. Chuck chose the two meat combo plate with brisket, sausage, potato salad, and baked beans. While he was ordering, I noticed onion rings being served to the table in front of us. “Look at those onion rings.” I said when Chuck returned to the table. He promptly turned around and went back to order onion rings.

One of the many things we liked about 2Paul’s is that the meat comes to your table “unsauced,” so you can “sauce it yourself” with one of their three home-made sauces (Pepper Jelly, hot, and mild) from bottles on the table. Really good BBQ doesn’t need to be drowned in sauce. The sauce is just an enhancement for the meat.

We’ll start with the onion rings. It should be a law that every restaurant owner who wants to serve onion rings come to Louisiana and learn how to make a proper ring. Is it the thin beer batter used here? Is it the Cajun mastery of the art of frying? I don’t know, but Louisiana onion rings are in a class by themselves, and these were no exception. A thin crisp batter sheathed sweet and mild thin rings of onion.

Everything on Chuck’s plate was delicious. The sausage was smoky and peppery. The potato salad was dressed with creamy mayo and—unusual for here—didn’t contain any sweet pickle. The beans were both sweet and, I suspect, made with one of 2Paul’s homemade sauces.

And the brisket. Why do we only find good brisket outside of Texas where brisket is supposed to be the BBQ speciality? I think it has to do with fat. Or the excess thereof in Texas. We learned that 2Paul’s only uses the lean end of this cut of beef and that their beef is Certified Angus. Yes, the lack of fat does make for a slightly drier brisket, but this is easily resolved with the application of a slight amount of sauce.

Now for my meal. The homemade fries were a thicker-cut waffle fry and were lightly sprinkled with Cajun seasoning. The Asian slaw didn’t have much Asian flavor (i.e. soy, sesame, ginger, garlic), but contained bits of crushed uncooked ramen noodles and peanut slivers. I would have liked a more intense flavor, but maybe this would have done battle with the BBQ flavors.

The pulled pork was magnificent with just enough smoke flavor that was enhanced with just a touch of the mild sauce. It was moist and juicy and had just enough bark edges to keep me happy. The downside was the roll. And you know that I consider a good roll to be the foundation of a good sandwich. It was too soft and too dense. Maybe toasting would have helped some, but I doubt it.

As we were leaving, we had the chance to briefly talk with Marilynn (Paule) Adams (left in photo), who told us that she grew up playing in the apple orchard where the shopping center now stands. Well, she and her partner certainly know BBQ and Cajun flavors. If not for the roll, this would have been 5.0 Addie BBQ. Still, it deserves 4.5 Addies and our promise of a return visit.

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