The growth in American barbecue in 2014 didn’t quite seem to grip 2015 in the same way. We have been educated in the virtues of slow cooked and wood roasted meats, and believe me, no one is arguing with the product.
I was always cautiously optimistic that the reasonable price of the product, in no small way resulting from the less popular cuts of meat, would hold sway, giving barbecue devotes two reasons to continue the patronage. At San Antone by Bludso’s BBQ, a very large, very full restaurant, ensures that American barbecue is here to stay, with the pull of Crown in toe.
Today I’m with mates who have definitely subscribed to the gospel of brisket et al. They know what to order straight off the bat, throwing in an extra dish for good measure. The meat platter is $64 to share between two. We get two between the four of us, but there is no doubt that with a few extra sides you could easily share one between three. The meat platter not only contains a good amount of brisket, pulled pork, chicken sausage, and roast chicken, but sides of coleslaw, and mac and cheese. The extra dish thrown in was the pork rib tips (short, meaty sections of rib attached to the lower end of the spare ribs), and we also had a go at the chilli fries.
My first taste is of the brisket and it stayed my favourite on the platter. It is beautifully tender, and whether dipped, drenched, or kept clear of the Texas chilli sauces, it is a hit. At about this stage, Redders announces that his NBA team is up by 17 points and that is when I notice the amount of US sport on the various TVs which is a big selling point to many. The next try is of the chicken sausage which makes me question why chicken isn’t used more often in sausages because anything with that much salt and spices is bound to taste great.
The roast chicken itself is excellent, and quite substantial, but is the meat that I associate least with this cuisine. An extra bit of brisket and a bit less chicken is worth some thought. The pork rib tips are a little fiddly, and don’t fall off the bone like some ribs, but it is rubbed in a nice spice mix, and is rich in flavour.
I am a sucker for good sides and the coleslaw, and the mac and cheese, do not let me down, though they are no match for the meats. I’ve found some mac and cheese that almost merits ordering on its own, but given the reasonableness and generosity of the platter you couldn’t expect it to come out in a clay pot or fry-pan which I’ve seen work best.
The knowledge of the boys on both the food, and Puch on the beers, means our waitperson has an easy job, but even as the shift changes, there is no lack of service. On the other hand, things have gone downhill in the NBA and attention is shifted to the wealth of American craft beers, and the virtues of gridiron/NFL, but not before Barca shows us some incredible NBA footage of Tracy McGrady.
The restaurant is massive, but one thing Crown does well is make sure the large spaces seem a little more intimate, and are adequately themed. With the stamp of both the taste and design from the main man, Bludso, “literally straight out of Compton” they have the ingredients for longevity. While there is pressure to do well, there is also a ready-made tourist (and local) market around here that does half the work.
San Antone does an excellent job in the areas that count, and devotes of American barbecue would be crazy not to check it out.