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What Makes a Good BBQ Restaurant?

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Many people think of barbeque as a stereotypical backyard meal with generic sauces and hot dogs straight out of a plastic wrapper.

But BBQ can be elevated, fresh, and gourmet, serving up delicious food from catering events to even wedding receptions! And if you've ever been to a good BBQ restaurant before, you'll know that BBQ can be one of the most memorable meals you've ever had.

But what makes the best bbq restaurant? And how do you know how to pick one that will give you the best value for your money?

We've got the answers to your questions. Below, we'll cover what makes BBQ restaurants great so you can choose where to go for your next night out or who to call to cater your next event!

Properly Cooked Meat

Just because a restaurant has all the classic BBQ meats doesn't mean it's the best BBQ restaurant. 

One of the best ways to tell whether a restaurant has good quality food is to see how each of their meats is cooked. This is because getting that juicy BBQ texture is going to be different depending on whether the meat is pulled pork, ribs, or beef brisket.

Of course, you don't have to go to each restaurant and spend a fortune trying out each meat. Check out reviews of the restaurant and see what other customers had to say.

If most reviewers say the meat was juicy and soft (rather than chewy or dry), then the restaurant is a good bet!

And for all the main types of BBQ meat, you want to look for that classic charred look on the meat—dark golden brown with some charred ends to make it crispy.

Ribs

For ribs, the ideal texture is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It doesn't matter if the chef used a dry rub or made wet ribs—the important thing is the texture.

For optimal texture, the outside of the ribs should be caramelized. If the inside of the ribs is slightly pink, that's okay. 

And contrary to what you might think, ribs should not fall off the bone. If they do, this means that they're overcooked. In fact, ribs that fall off the bone are sure to lose in BBQ competitions.

While the meat on the rib should be easy to bite into, it shouldn't be so easy to bite that it falls off the rib and onto your plate.

Pulled Pork

With pulled pork, it's okay if the meat has been chopped by a machine. It doesn't necessarily need to be pulled by hand. 

The true test with pulled pork is whether the meat is tender. You can tell that it's tender because it's easy to bite into and cut. 

Just like with ribs, pulled pork that's mushy is a sign that it's overcooked. 

As for flavor, there should be a good balance between spices, smoke flavor, and the flavor of the meat.

Brisket

If a restaurant has mastered its smoked brisket, then there's a good chance it's a great restaurant and the rest of the meat is great as well.

This is because beef brisket is a cut of meat that has a two-way grain. This makes it difficult to cook until it's the perfect texture.

Restaurants sometimes struggle with this and either undercook the brisket so that it's gummy or overcook it to the point that it falls apart and is hard to eat.

An easy way to tell if brisket has been cooked the right way is to pick it up. Pull on a piece, and if it's a bit elastic, then you know it's been cooked properly. 

Classic Yet Gourmet Sides

Even if a restaurant claims to elevate its dishes, it's not a legitimate BBQ restaurant if it's missing the classic sides that are a must for every BBQ meal.

These include:

  • Coleslaw
  • Fries
  • Mac and cheese
  • Salad (e.g. potato, Caesar)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Hush puppies

The best coleslaw should be fresh and crispy. Better yet, the barbeque restaurant should make its own coleslaw dressing rather than buy a mass-produced one from the store.

Most importantly, coleslaw dressing should complement the BBQ meat, and it should never be dripping or runny.

As for hush puppies, they should be crispy on the outside and have a strong taste of corn. Most importantly, they shouldn't taste too sweet or have oil dripping off of them. 

Sauce Secrets

Remember that the signature taste of BBQ comes from the meat itself, not the sauce. The wood smoke that the meat is cooked over is what's going to give BBQ meat its smoky flavor.

The sauce just adds to this flavor and makes the dish more delicious.

But don't be shocked if you don't see the typical dark red Mississippi BBQ sauce on your ribs next time you go to a BBQ restaurant. While tomato-based BBQ sauces are common, mustard, lemon, and vinegar-based sauces are as well.

One of the telltale signs of a sub-par BBQ restaurant is if they drown their meat in a sauce. Yes, their sauce might be delicious, but this could be masking meat that's overcooked or not smoky enough.

And speaking of sauce, every legitimate BBQ restaurant has its own signature BBQ sauce.

For example, at Hickory Hanks, we even manufacture the equipment for our signature BBQ sauce. 

Find the Best BBQ Restaurant Near You

The best BBQ restaurant combines all the classic dishes with sublime texture, letting the flavor of the meat speak for itself.

Now that you know what to look for in a great BBQ restaurant, it's time to find one near you.

And if you need catering in Sacramento, Hickory Hanks can help. We have over 30 years of experience in BBQ, and we have menus for every event, from casual parties to corporate events.

We'll bring everything and cook your meat on the spot, guaranteeing a delicious, fresh meal for your guests. Contact us today for a catering quote!


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