Its getting to look a lot like Christmas in Panther City, and to me that means barbecue.
Of course, pretty much every day means barbecue when youre a smoke-junkie like me, but the bottom line is that I was in White Settlement and I needed some cue. Luckily, I was right near Soda Springs BBQ on Clifford.
Soda Springs is a family-owned joint that has been around since the mid-80s. It has its own building, which puts it ahead of those strip mall joints, right off the bat.
Inside, things looked even more promising. To get your food, you navigate a claustrophobic cattle-chute-style line, get your own tray, and drink, then order your meat through a little window where a guy chops it up in front of you without trying to chat you up or make you feel like hes selling you something. (Good cue sells itself, and Im always suspicious of cue joint staff that are overly friendly.)
Once youve been loaded down with meat, you get your own sides, ladle your own sauce into cups (if you want any), then pay the lady and sit down. Just like God intended.
Once seated, I took a quick look around the room. It looked more like a man-cave than a barbecue shack. There were vintage gas pumps, automobile memorabilia, taxidermy and a fake American Indian in a buckskin shirt. So if were going to score them on authentic decor, they lose a few points for being really clean and nice inside, but they earn a few points back for the animal heads on the wall.
So lets get to the important stuff. I ordered the three-meat combo, with brisket, ribs and sausage, with sides of potato salad and coleslaw for $13.99.
While traditional Texas barbecue is beef, nearly everyone serves pork ribs because they are just better. At one point it would have been heresy to say this, but that was then and this is now. Soda Springs serves pork spare-ribs, instead of St. Louis cut. In a rack of spare ribs, there is a bone that runs perpendicular to the ribs that has to be chopped through, leaving you with some nasty bits of bone and gristle to eat around. With St. Louis cut, this bone is trimmed off before cooking, which makes things happier for everyone.
That aside, the ribs were tender, but not so tender that they turned to mush. They had a nice glaze and good flavor. A little pre-smoke trimming (and remove the membrane from the back), and these would be first-class ribs. No sauce needed whatsoever.
The brisket had a nice heavy smoke ring, which is a pink layer near the surface of the brisket. This results from an interaction of the smoke with the meat and is a good sign that real wood smoke was used. The flavor was good, although a touch mild, and the texture was perfect. I actually preferred the brisket with just a touch of sauce, a somewhat sweet and thick concoction that didnt overpower the meat when used in moderation.
The sausage and the sides were pretty nondescript. They got the job done, but there was nothing particularly memorable about them. Next time Ill get more ribs and skip the sausage.
My search for the holy grail of traditional Texas barbecue continues, and that place will have a perfect blend of expertly smoked bovine, served by surly staff in a building that might sport a condemned sign in its near future. While Soda Springs isnt that place, it serves up some very solid Texas cue.
If you think youve found the holy grail of Texas barbecue, or know of a place that might be in the running, leave us a comment below this review.