Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Will it be as Good...

as we remember?

The Blue Ridge Mountains were the second stop on our (almost) four-year traveling adventure, and we stayed in the area for almost seven weeks. Given the limited variety of local restaurants, when we found one we liked we returned again—and again. And this was the case with the Galax Smokehouse in Galax, VA. But that was before Memphis, before Phil’s in San Diego, before 2Pauls in Lafayette, LA. Would the Smokehouse be as good as remembered, and how would it fare in comparison to others?

A quick Google search proved that this is still a favorite with locals and tourists alike. For example, Adam Bobbitt at roadfood.com wrote: “I have eaten many BBQ restaurants throughout the South,
claiming to have the best
‘Southern’ BBQ anywhere. I have to say the Galax Smoke-house is by far the best I have ever eaten. I was a truck driver for 10 years and have eaten BBQ from almost every state. None comes close to the unique flavor the Galax Smoke house has perfected!...Though the meats are so delicious they don't need sauces to ‘make them better’, the made from scratch BBQ sauce recipes compliment the meats… With four BBQ sauce flavors to choose from you will surely find one that will make your taste buds happy!”

We arrived late in the afternoon and had the restaurant almost to ourselves. This permitted Chuck to wander at will with his camera without attracting undue attention. As you might expect in a BBQ restaurant, pigs rule. In multiple forms. There is a three-four foot tall pig statuette near the exit doors, pig figurines every-where,

and pig objects hanging on the walls.

If you are not looking at pig-stuff, you are looking at the wide array of black and white photos of old Galax.

As I looked around, I speculated to Chuck that the space might have at one time been a drug store. One of the servers confirmed that the Smokehouse occupies the old Bolen's Drugstore and that the counter and stools date to that time.

The Smokehouse offers the standard barbeque house list of sandwiches, combo plates, and “just meat” plates. But the special
that night was the “Tour of the Smoke-house,” which included five meats (chicken, ribs, brisket, burnt ends, and pulled pork) and four sides (BBQ beans, Cole slaw, smoked mashed potatoes, and Brunswick stew) plus corn nuggets and hushpuppies. But we really didn’t fancy the stew so ask if we could substitute this with potato salad. No problem.

The side items were all equally good. The BBQ beans were made with small pea beans and were sweet from either brown sugar or
molasses, which is quite typical of Southern style BBQ beans. The slaw was made with chopped cabbage in a light creamy mayo dressing that contained just a bit of sugar. The smoked mashed potatoes were really interesting. I think that the whole potatoes are smoked before mashing and then are mixed with just a bit of barbeque sauce. And the potato salad, which our server told us the Smokehouse purchases from a vendor, was made with red skinned potatoes in a dressing that may have contained some sour cream. The hushpuppies were forgettable, but the corn nuggets were delicious. (These are also purchased from a vendor.) So good that a return visit may find me ordering an appetizer portion of these.

The meat plate was an enormous serving of food. Thank heaven it was for two eaters. Starting top right (below the bread and almost
hidden by the chicken) was a pile of pulled pork that was quite smoky and moist and juicy. Unfortu-nately, we ate this last and by that time it had gotten rather cold. Next was the chicken which was my favorite item on the plate. It came sans sauce (as did all of the meats) with just a touch of dry rub. I haven’t had barbequed chicken this good in a long time. Their serving of beef brisket (left of the chicken) was interesting. As I have said many times, we have decided that we just don’t like brisket. But this was chopped and for some unexplainable reason made it more palatable to us than sliced brisket. The ribs have been described as St. Louis style (St. Louis style ribs are cut from spare ribs to make a more uniform, rectangular rack) and were meaty with very little unrendered fat. And in the center of the plate sat the burnt ends which are pieces of meat cut from the point of a brisket. I have to admit that these didn’t quite fit my understanding of burnt ends since all I have eaten contain a fairly substantial quantity of bark.

So, was Galax Smokehouse as good as we remembered? Yes, it was. While 2Pauls and Phil’s remain our favorites, the Smokehouse is certainly as good as any barbeque we have eaten in Kansas City or Texas and earns a 4.0 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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