Weve been doing the quest for the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ joints for a while now, and Ive developed a routine. I get up in the morning and enter what I call training mode. This mostly consists of taking a nap in front of the TV until go-time, then heading out for cue when I wake up wanting to chew my own arm off.
Saturday was no different, except I woke up at 2:30 with a message from one of the high sheriffs at the paper warning me to get out to Rendon Jambos closes at 3 p.m. Saturday.
I skidded into the parking lot at 2:45, and did a quick assessment. See, the holy grail of BBQ is about the place as much as the cue. It should be served in a falling down shack, and although this was a new shack, it had shack right in the name.Inside, there were three or four simple tables, some trophies (the home-made ones; Jambos owner Jamie Geer says they keep the bowling trophies at home).
Great barbecue should be ordered either through a window or across a counter. The staff should be indifferent or downright surly, and Jambos got the window right, but they were nice and carried the pile of cue to my table. Ill give them the benefit of the doubt and assume its because they just dont want me to make a mess right before closing.
I got the three-meat combo, with sausage, sliced brisket and ribs. For sides I got beans and potato salad (standards everywhere) and a can of soda. With the governors cut, it ran me 15 bucks and change. Geer says they try to keep prices low for their hard-working customers. This shows me that they get it, barbecue is good food for ordinary people.
In Texas, barbecue is brisket, and Jambos serves big honking slabs of the stuff. The texture is perfect, and the flavor is bovine heaven. There was little smoke ring, but plenty of smoke flavor. The rub is perfectly complementary to the beef. Im no amateur eater, and I couldnt finish it all.
Geer uses high-end St. Louis cut ribs, and it shows. They were meaty and savory rather than candy-like, and they had a rub that I would use on everything that I ate if I had some. The texture was such that you could get a clean bite with no resistance, but not so overcooked (or boiled) that the meat fell off the bone. My only gripe (and its minor) is they dont peel the membrane off the back of these world-class pigsicles. I didnt care; I would have eaten every rib that they put in front of me until they had to haul me out of there with a skip loader. Roscoes in Burleson has always been my benchmark for ribs, but Jambos forces a tie, so its Roscoes for sweet, Jambos for savory.
The sausage was a commercial variety, good but not extraordinary. Geer assured me that he is working on an in-house version.
Jambos is a first-rate competition barbecue pit maker, first and foremost. The pit at the shack is an old hickory, which is more suited to production work for a day-in, day-out cue shack. It regularly closes up early when it runs out of meat (I got the last bit of each Saturday, so I was lucky).
So is Jambos the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ? Almost. It is still a new joint, and the building needs to be hit by a few hail storms to achieve that requisite ramshackle feel. Still, the important things the cue and sense of devotion and pride in putting out the best product puts these guys over the top. Give Jambos a few years to weather in, but by all means, keep buying its pigsicles. I wish I had some more right now.
Were still going to keep looking for that Holy Grail of BBQ, so send put your suggestions in the comments section and well give them a try.