BBQ Safari: Jambo’s BBQ Shack in Rendon

Jambo’s BBQ Shack

5460 E. FM 1187



Hours: 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Posted 12:53am on Friday, Aug. 09, 2013

We’ve been doing the quest for the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ joints for a while now, and I’ve 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 — Jambo’s 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; Jambo’s 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 Jambo’s got the window right, but they were nice and carried the pile of ’cue to my table. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s because they just don’t 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 governor’s 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 Jambo’s 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. I’m no amateur eater, and I couldn’t 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 it’s minor) is they don’t peel the membrane off the back of these world-class pigsicles. I didn’t 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. Roscoe’s in Burleson has always been my benchmark for ribs, but Jambo’s forces a tie, so it’s Roscoe’s for sweet, Jambo’s for savory.

The sausage was a commercial variety, good but not extraordinary. Geer assured me that he is working on an in-house version.

Jambo’s 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 Jambo’s 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 Jambo’s a few years to weather in, but by all means, keep buying its pigsicles. I wish I had some more right now.

We’re still going to keep looking for that Holy Grail of BBQ, so send put your suggestions in the comments section and we’ll give them a try.

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