Friday, May 24, 2013

We had no sooner backed…

the Big White Truck into its parking space than a familiar face appeared in the passenger side window. It was Gary, who, with his partner Marilyn, owns our favorite barbeque restaurant anywhere—2Paul’s Radically Urban Barbecue. (Gary and Marilyn share the common middle name of Paul although Marilyn’s is spelled Paule.) And it is here in Lafayette, LA.

I suspect that Gary recognized our truck before he recognized us. For some reason, men here are fascinated by our truck (Chuck only thinks it’s his.) and we are frequently stopped by guys wanting to engage in “truck talk.” To give Chuck credit, he has learned to fake it masterfully.

The three of us stayed in the lot chatting, and we learned that Marilyn is the internet maven of the two and she is the one who posts, under the nom de plume of GastroCeleb, a response to every review on where 2Paul’s is ranked as the Number Four (out of 318) restaurant in Lafayette with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5.00.

Soon it was time to go inside and say hello to Marilyn and to catch up on happenings since our last visit over a year ago. I’m not sure how many of 2Paul’s customers know that Marilyn is an accomplished poet, and she was kind enough to send us two books of her poems.
Marilyn and Gary

If you think that most barbeque “joints” are rustic with lots of dark wood, 2Paul’s will come as a surprise. The walls are painted a light lime green with red and purple accents.
Along the walls are definitions of “urban,”
"2pauls," and
“radical” (“fundamental, yet shockingly different”).
And one wall is decorated with two graffiti boards that began as blank canvasses upon which customers have written words of appreciation.
2Paul’s food is described as blending “traditional Texas-Oklahoma-style smoke with authentic, homemade Cajun sides and seasonings.” They offer all of the meat choices (all smoked in a small building behind the restaurant) you’d expect—pulled pork, chicken, brisket, ribs, turkey, and smoked sausage along with BBQ shrimp. During the past year they have added stuffed potatoes: the Shredhead with entrée pulled pork, cheese, and slaw; the Meathead with entrée brisket, sauce, cheese, and chives; and the Shrimphead with entrée shrimp, mushrooms, sauce, chives, and parmesan.

On this day, we ordered our two 2Paul’s favorites—the pulled pork plate with two sides (potato salad and baked beans) and the “meat only” smoked sausage. The pulled pork included a large number of “barky” pieces—my favorites—which were rapidly removed from the plate (it was sitting in front of Chuck) and transferred to my plate.
Their sausage is delicious with a peppery taste that is not overpowering. I seem to remember Gary telling me last year that this is made by Richard’s Cajun Foods of Church Point, LA. (There’ll be more on the side dishes later.)
And, of course, we couldn’t forget an order of 2Paul’s onion rings. Along with being pizza snobs, Chuck and I fancy ourselves to be onion ring snobs. During the past (almost) five years of travels, we have eaten onion rings around the country and have concluded that the best are made in Cajun Louisiana and that the best of these are served at 2Paul’s.
These were particularly good when I dipped them into their horseradish remoulade, acting on the suggestion of a staff member. These onion rings are so good that we find ourselves eating all of the little coating bits that fall into the bottom of the serving basket.

In November 2008, after eating the onion rings at an establishment about ten miles west on the Interstate, Chuck was moved to take pen (metaphorically speaking) in hand and let the creative juices flow. (At that time we were unaware of 2Paul’s existence.) And so it is time to go back into the blog archives and reprint—in honor of Gary and Marilyn’s rings—the:


Behold! The onion transformed:
from multi-ringed orb
with menacing bite
prompting tears of pain—
through many a cut,
a beer-based dip,
a sprinkle of heat,
a dusting of flour,
a bath of hot oil—
into rings of crunch
and spirited bite,
prompting tears of joy.
  --Chuck Schrader

To finish off the meal we shared a slice of house-made lemon cheesecake that was simultaneously rich and—to cut the richness of the cream cheese and the meats that had preceded it—refreshingly tart.
Marilyn introduced me to the young man—Matt—one of the young men who make the cake, and I say to them “Job well done.”

It wasn’t too many days later that we returned. This time we decided to share the three meat/two sides platter and selected the brisket, smoked turkey, and smoked sausage.
Regular readers of this review know that brisket (or any well-done beef for that matter) is not the highest food choice on my list. But I give 2Paul’s credit for producing a very good brisket. I think what differentiates theirs from the rest is that it is not dry. Whenever I watch a food program on TV and see Guy Fieri, Adam Richman, et al., with the BBQ master slicing into a smoked brisket and the juices are flowing like a river, I ask “In what world does this exist?”

With this plate, we chose the potato salad and green beans as the sides and added fries (for Mr. Potato) and, of course, the onion rings. Again, we’ll get to the sides later.

And we again finished with the lemon cheesecake.

Back again for a third lunch. This time we were both determined to order something new and Chuck selected the barbecued chicken. This was a good sized portion of chicken consisting of a wing, drumstick, thigh, and breast. Hey, that’s half a chicken!
The real test is whether the breast meat stays moist and this certainly did. In fact, it wasn’t until he was almost finished that he realized he hadn’t used any barbecue sauce.

As sides, he ordered the green beans and potato salad plus an order of fries and an order of onion rings. And I again asked for some of the horseradish remoulade.

I had never ordered their BBQ shrimp and decided to rectify that omission by selecting the Shrimphead stuffed baked potato. This was huge. The potato had been baked out in the smoker as had been the shrimp which were removed just when they turned pink.
They are than flash heated in Gary’s special New Orleans BBQ shrimp sauce, which should never be confused with a red tomato-based BBQ sauce. New Orleans BBQ shrimp were invented at Pascal Manale’s in New Orleans and the sauce is a mix of butter—lots and lots of butter—hot sauce, a bit of Worcestershire, and—according to the whims of the particular chef—herbs and seasonings. In addition to the shrimp, the potato had been topped with sliced mushrooms, sliced scallions, and a light dusting of parmesan cheese. I thought that the pulled pork and sausage were my 2Paul’s favorites. There is a new contender in the clubhouse.

So why is 2Paul’s our favorite place for barbecue? It’s first about the food, of course. We have yet to order anything we didn’t like, but there are items we like more than others. The meats are not over-smoked, so you taste the pork, chicken, turkey, and brisket and not just smoke. And they refrain from saucing everything. Sauce is up to the diner. Yes, I can ask other places to “hold the sauce” or “sauce on the side” but I shouldn’t have to remember. Especially at my age.

And now let’s talk sides. One of the many reasons we so like 2Paul’s is that they treat their sides with the same degree of respect as their meats. The side choices are rice dressing, potato salad, Asian cole slaw, baked beans, mac & cheese, and green beans, and we have tried them all except for the rice dressing. The beans are more Texas-inspired (maybe because Gary lived for a considerable time in Oklahoma) than traditional South; the Asian slaw contains crumbled Ramen noodles and slivered almonds, the mac & cheese is made with small shell macaroni and pepper jack cheese; and the potato salad is made with red skin-on potatoes with a bit of chopped scallion and pickle.

But our new favorite is the green beans. Both our mothers, being of German-heritage and of a certain generation, would overcook any green vegetable until it was lacking in flavor. Well, 2Paul’s green beans are soft cooked but are full of flavor. When I raved about them to Gary, he gave me the secret recipe. Do you think I am going to share it here? Heck, no. This is now Gary’s and my secret. Well, I am sure Marilyn also knows.

But dining out for us is about more than just food. It has to do with an overall experience that begins with the owners (and Gary and Marilyn are two of the nicest people you will ever meet) and a culture that they transmit to the staff. We learned that many of their staff members have been with them for a considerable period and that is music to this diner’s ears. How frustrating is it to find a restaurant that you really like and then staff turnover—especially in the kitchen—changes the dynamic completely? And this is the appropriate time to give special praise to their staff, especially those who work the front of the house and are always cheerful, patient (we tend to ask a lot of questions), and knowledgeable about the menu.

So we present here, from left to right, Josh, Michelle, Crystal, and Matt. Josh and Matt are the maestros of the lemon cheesecake.
I think it was Crystal who first recommended the horseradish remoulade to accompany the onion rings. And Michelle keeps moving through the dining room making sure that everyone is happy.

Gary and Marilyn told us that they are negotiating on a property in Broussard to add a second location. Initially, Gary will oversee the new spot assisted by Matt, who will eventually become the General Manager.

This is and will always be a 5.0 Addie favorite. In fact, I plan to stock my freezer with their pulled pork and purchase numerous bottles of the mild barbecue sauce before we travel on.

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

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