Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Due South, Christiansburg VA

The sun dawned orange, especially with the help of Instagram. I was in the greater Roanoke, VA area for a terribly important and completely unproductive business meeting. Actually I had been there the night before too, and I made the team go out for barbecue. That's what I do.
But BBQ in Roanoke doesn't look very good. So I made everyone drive half an hour south-west, to the in-aptly named Due South BBQ. They got the nod for all their mentions of 'pit cooking', lack of extraneous food options (barbecue places shouldn't have salads), and pervasive pig theme.

Sumbitches that they are though, they didn't have half the menu that night, and they strongly recommended that we all get the all-you-can-eat pulled pork special. You start with a sandwich and two sides, then when you eat those down you can get another sandwich and one more side. And another. The slaw and fried okra were nice, the meat was soft and juicy even without sauce, and the variety of sauces were all pretty good.
The ribs were totally good though. They were soft inside, crusty outside (or barky, if you prefer), the pork was tasty, and the slathered sauce wasn't excessive. I wish they had more options on the menu that night so we could have run the gamut like I like doing at every other barbeque place.

Sometimes it feels the gamut done ran me

Man, I almost forgot - they had two guys playing guitar that were totally good. One guy was playing sort of 20's-30's standards, Tin Pan Alley stuff with medium advanced early-jazz chord progressions, and the other guy was playing a crazy cool style of bottleneck swing guitar. None of the usual bottleneck BS, just hitting notes that I'd be pleased to hit with my fingers, let along a metal tube.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Whole Hog Cafe, Bentonville AR

Here we are in backwater Arkansas...I'll let you figure out why. Certainly it was a neat experience, and one I hope to repeat as necessary (like a lather-rinse cycle, only this experience leaves you feeling a little dirty afterward).

I was there with Solly and Earle, and since Earle is down with barbecue, and I don't mind subjecting Solly to my whims (it's good to give your boss some discipline, right?), I mandated that we were having barbecue.

In point of fact, Whole Hog was an easy walk from our hotel - and that's saying something, because our hotel was in the middle of a faceless hotelz-n-chainz strip outside of town. I've forgotten how it went down, but I'm pretty sure I picked the hotel just so's we could walk to the Hog and have barbecue and beerz.
They had a bucket of Shiners, but only one bucket left. Which was OK because those guys weren't into it. Me, I wanna have a good time, all the time, and that mos def includes meet and beerz. Even if it's Texas beer in Arkansas.

We were at the Hog because it was the recommendation of Hoor,  who lived in these parts for a while and does appear to like his food. We also confirmed it with the guys at the 5 & 10. The Hog also confirmed it with all the trophies piled up in the window. I guess there's something in it. But I see now that it's a small chain, and the main office is Little Rock. I feel less kindly toward them now. Next time I'm picking another place.

The ribs were big and soft and meaty, really nice. The brisket was sort of a highlight for me and Solly - it seemed to have been pickled a little before smoking. A bit of a smoked-corned-beef thing going on. And the pulled didn't seem optimal at first, but I found myself continuing to stick forks back into it. Sides were decent, with the exception of the potato salad - almost seemed like it was whitened up with whipped heavy cream, and when you combine that thick 'n' creamy approach with the sliced red potatoes they used for it, it was a real winner. Of course I knew what was coming, because Hoor and the 5 & 10 guys had both suggested that it was a highlight of the Whole Hog experience.

Which was pretty muted, now that I think about it. They close up early, and there weren't even that many people there. It was a Monday. We closed the place down at 8.

No evidence that this isn't the best place in town. It was more real good than great though.
(479) 271-6566

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Karakiya, Sangenjaya (酒の唐木屋)

So I was just out for a random stroll through the nether Western regions of Sancha, ...

No I wasn't. Woody told me about this place. I don't get out so much any more, so I rely on advice.

And I like Liquor and Foods, and I like nothing better than drinking away the afternoon with no obligations. Your level of interest is probably similar to that of this fine fellow strolling by and enlivening my picture. What the heck are we doing outside a neighborhood liquor store?

Ohhh, that's why. It's not a Foods store at all any more. Presumably the mad genius son of the founders was behind this conversion from neighborhood grocery to high-end sake shop? What do they need all these folding chairs for?

And why do the bottles all have these funny labels? Oh good heavens, it's because you can get 60 cc of pretty much anything on the shelf for a low-low price. The Y245 for this guy is actually one of the higher prices for a dram.
This guy is awesome looking, isn't he? It's 'The Black Mask' from Hyakujurou 

(百十郎 黒面 if you're keeping score at home). And you saw above that it's 

all nama, and gen, and jun and dai and all the rest. You couldn't get more adjectives on the label, couldja?
You also couldn't have more fun for $5 if you tried. This is a cool store. Where else could you just line up a few shots of value-priced yamahai sake? This isn't the whole selection by any means either. You could probably drink 60ml shots of different warm yamahai until you passed out.

And there's the problem - all those open bottles of yamahai are sitting around at room temperature. The room's dark and cool compared to outside, but it's not a big fridge - it's still comfortable for extended sittin and drinkin. So most of the bottles have that not so fresh feeling.
I gotta tell ya, it was a struggle to get through those three little glasses of warm yamahai. And I was running out of time for the afternoon (those weren't all the bottle that went before), so I just wanted something refreshing. And there are 12 or 15 fridges against the other walls - you can see some of them above. And they have some good brewery relationships - cf several bottles of Kagiya that I tried. And they have a selection of craft beer. And the have a selection of...what's that thing called, the one the Koreans call makkori? There's a Japanese variant on it, and the styrofoam growlers in the panorama up top were for carrying home a liter or two of it.

There's no food here. I mean, maybe there were some snacks and meat sticks or sumthin. But you mostly need to (and I hear are encouraged to) bring in your own foods from the outside world. And it really seemed like the outside world by the time I staggered out of this rabbit hole and back into the street.

Not that nether Sancha doesn't seem like another world all on its own or nothin. 

Baker Bounce, Sangenjaya (ベーカーバウンス)

So I was just roaming around Sancha, waiting for a liquor store/bar to open at 12 so I could have a few drinks on my way to another appointment (this is what people do in Tokyo. Liquid lunches, all that.), and as I roamed a curious sight hove into view down an extremely typical and very quiet side street.
Heavens, I know that name! I cried. Inwardly, I mean. One doesn't cry out in the streets in Tokyo. It would be a dead giveaway that one doesn't fit in. I figure if I don't engage in open outcry, I can pass for a native and upstanding citizen.

Well, why not? One must sometimes sacrifice novelty for fame. And as the list of posts to the right of the page attests, I am nothing if not a completist about this. Here's what the inside of the original shop looks like (I remember now that they have a branch in Midtown, or did, or something. I'm less of a completist about this stuff than I used to be, you know?) - recreated shabby American diner. How great is that? You'll never be able to go back to a sorta late-40's, early-50's diner in America ever again - no one's going to go back to making the shelves and trim out of wood. The tables were sourced, vintage, in a set, and they all match.

Speaking of 'match', nothing goes better than a set-drink cola, a lunch beer, and some water. Don't you agree? It just seemed like the thing to do, although of course you wouldn't want to alternate between the beer and soda, and I wasn't sure what to drink first. I persevered.
You know right away that you're in Japan by the twee-ness of the presentation. Before I walk about the burger, let me say that the coleslaw was bad. Whatever they're trying to achieve there, they're not managing...no, they might be managing it. But if they ARE achieving it, I disagree prima facie with their goals.

The ketchup was weird. And by weird, I mean homemade. They make their own ketchup! And by homemade, I mean "sweetened, smoothed tomato paste". It's awesome that they care enough to make their own ketchup, but ketchup is supposed to have some weird seasonings in it (really, look up a recipe) and just isn't ketchup without vinegar, which this was absent of. Perhaps I should be saying they make their own catsup, and all of this would make sense.

Another thing that doesn't make sense - the chef is constantly firing up and turning off a torch that he uses to melt the cheese and crisp up the bacon. The bacon that they make themselves. I asked one of the guys as I was leaving (since it says 'homemade bacon' on the staff shirts) and he proudly allowed as how they cure and smoke it themselves. That's almost too much, guys.
This is almost too much too. It's a little gross, but burgers aren't supposed to be pretty. Now that you've gotten all the way to this point, let's cut to the chase - I've been eating a lot more burgers recently than I used to, and I would say this can stand up proudly with most of them. By the time you get to the great-burger level, there are enough stylistic differences that you really can't compare, and this has got its own thing going, going well.

Going, going, gonnerino.