The Blanco Bar B Q was built before my very eyes, literally. Named after, Blanco Road in San Antonio, it naturally sits on that thoroughfare. It was placed in a building that has housed several different types of establishments in the past five years. I know because this part of Blanco is on my route from home to the Boykin Spaniel’s of our address veterinarian’s office. Unfortunately, with three dogs, it’s a place I visit way too often.
When the project was first started I had begun this bar b q series of the blog so I was naturally interested in the progress. I know I said I wasn’t going to review a new place until it had a chance to become an established business. But come on, bar b q right under my nose, in my own neighborhood. I couldn’t help myself.
I went to the “Blanco” during their opening week. Why ? Because the number of cars out side the place was amazing. I mean they built a huge parking lot and it was packed every at lunch time for two opening days in a row. I couldn’t help it, I had to know if it was any good or just fooling folks with a nice store front and the magic words Bar B Q. It is a big South Texas town with very few good BBQ places.
I found a parking spot. The exterior of the building and the huge parking lot were impressive. This was a big expenditure for somebody. I snooped around back. I found a playground where I was looking for a pit. I walked around to the front and found the reason. There were three of those big “Old Hickory” Smokers like I had seen at Clem Mikeska’s. There was a stack of seasoned oak. I was concerned. I went in any way. The draw of the crowd might have been tweaking my curiosity.
Once inside, I impressed yet again by the amount of not only money but thought and design presence that went into putting the Blanco Bar B Q together. Somebody knew the restaurant business and understood proper people flow as well as good design taste. The building met every expectation and exceeded most.
Now to the demographic in the room. There were all kinds of folks in the huge dining room. The one predominant group was Baby Boomers. That’s right the folks I aim my writing toward had already found the place. It was the same three weeks later when I went back. The second time I think there might have been more retired people than I have ever seen in a restaurant other than a Luby’s or Furr’s cafeteria. These were old time San Antonions. They know bar b q and obviously had been waiting on someplace to open near their homes. Someone picked a winning location and designed a beautifully attractive building to pull in the “Boomers” among others.
I would learn later there was a reason for all this professionalism. The man who is the manager, and I don’t know what else, is a local boy who is a graduate of the New York version of the Culinary Institute. I was able to visit with him after my second visit. Arthur Mayo knows the restaurant business. He knows food and he knows what he wants to put on your plate. I asked him point blank why the “smokers’ rather than pits. He says the pits don’t give him the control he wants and are too labor and wood consuming. He says the Old Hickory smokers allow him to “dial up”, (my words), the amount of smokiness that gets into the taste. Hmmm sounds like Clem Mikeska’s same comments. One guy, an old hand at pits and the other guy a new hand at Q but with impressive food prep credentials, both with the same intent. I am starting to come around. It’s just tough for me to change my ways.
Now to the food. In both cases, Blanco and Clem’s, I could have stood a tad more smoke. But, I’m not going to say the bar b q wasn’t good. Just the opposite, it was great in both instances. At the Blanco the brisket and the ribs were terrific. You would really have to be trying really hard to tell the difference from pit cooking. I thought my chicken was a tad greasy but my table mate loved his so I guess it was a matter of personal preference.
The sausage was another of the non Lockhart non Luling bland polish style. I’m sorry folks but I just can’t get into all these other styles of sausage. I am Lockhart spoiled and everything else is just bland, bland, bland. And I’m not talking Bobby ! They offered turkey and ham. I tried the ham. It tasted like, well, ham. I don’t get the smoked turkey or ham thing. Too me they are always the same, bland. But then I wouldn’t order either of them in any restaurant so that’s not a knock on this or any other bbq place that wants to serve them.
If your going to offer something other than ribs, brisket and chicken you might try that South Texas beef rib or some sort of beef steak like the tri tip like Mikeska’s or prime like Kreuz’s. Just saying…..
They had a good sauce and the pulled pork is good for Texas but it ain’t Memphis or Carolina. When I talked to Arthur Mayo, the Culinary Institute Grad Manager, he said he used rub on everything and adjusted the smoke according to the product. He uses a mixture of pecan and oak and does not believe in the seasoned pit theory. He wants that equipment clean, clean clean. He says it’s all about heat, rub, smoke and time.
The pecan pie was good, the cost was three bucks for a slice. A two meat combo with two veggies and tea was $16 with tax. The first week when I went I ran the bill up a little by asking for three meats and veggies etc.
Why did I feel the need to go back a second time before doing a review ? Originally, I wasn’t going to review it at all because of the Old Hickory Smokers. I was being hard headed and sticking to my pit only preference. That lasted until Clem made me think about it. Then I realized the bar b q I loved so much at the Salt Lick had gas help. City Market in my beloved Luling has installed a gasser and is using it to help when they are unable to keep up with demand.
But once Clem Mikeska and now this CIA graduate really sat me down and explained the smoke-taste control thing I came around. Again, I am about the over all experience. I am for the customer having an enjoyable time and if that customer is eating Old Hickory or Pit and doesn’t know the difference then who am I to tell them they are not enjoying themselves.
Do I think pit is better than gas plus wood ? If there were opposing restaurants across the street from each other one belching smoke galore and the other the faint whiff in the air, which would I choose ? Hey ! I told you I am a Lockhart kind of guy and before that Memphis. What do you think ?
Hell yes, I would go to the smoke but that’s just one “Boomers” opinion. As long as the place is nice, clean, and safe. As long as the food is good and taste like good Texas Bar B Q. What the heck ? Let’s let the good times roll.