Sunday, February 11, 2007


Yesterday's trip to the new Cow Town barbeque restaurant certainly did not yield a menu like this.

Now that's a menu! I'll take a very small order of Pin Bo. Hold the nuts, please.

In order to be good, in order to be the real deal, barbeque restaurants must have soul. Without soul, it is nothing.

When we lived in wine country there was a little tiny BBQ joint down the road called Pack Jacks. Cool place. Run down. When you walked in the smell of "Q" hit you smack dab in the face. Now that's a real sign the place had soul. If you don't smell the cookin', don't bother a lookin'.

Pack Jacks cook and owner knew barbeque inside and out. Sweet potato pie was on the menu. Tip for the day? Anytime SPP is on the menu you know you're in a real barbeque restaurant with soul.

The food was cooked by an African American man and his wife. They also owned the place. Being black is not a factor for putting soul in barbeque but it helps.

Pack Jacks burned to the ground a couple of years ago. Fire in the hole . . . the wood fired smoker became too hot and set the building on fire. Next time I'm in wine country I'll have to check and see if someone had the time, energy and money to rebuild.

Cow Town had pretty good barbeque when we landed here: Big Reds. Operated by father and his sons, for white guys they did a pretty good job of putting soul into their food. Killer tri-tip. And better yet, a double killer corn salad to die for.

Their restaurant was a dump, a prerequisite for good, down home, soul cooking, barbeque. It gave you the creeps to be there. But oh the food. We had Big Reds deliver to our home so as not to get the creeps before dinner.

Big Reds closed suddenly one day. No one knows what happened. It's been turned into a juice bar. I'll have to check it out and see if I get the creeps when I walk in.

Yesterday's trip to the new Cow Town barbeque was interesting. New. Sterile. Elevator music. No atmosphere similar to what you'd find in a down home, real deal barbeque joint. No hint of any barbeque smell or smoke. White people working and acting like white people act and work. Food with little or no taste and certainly very little hint of the smoking process. Not a lot of meat in a pulled pork sandwich.

No soul. No sweet potato pie. . .

Both owners dominated one corner of the restaurant by taking a table and using it for "business" and for one owner to plunk away on a computer. An impromptu employee meeting/semi butt chewing with three of their staff was held within my earshot. Most unprofessional.

Neither of the owners bothered to ask us about our meal nor did they act friendly or appreciative of our patronage. We spent $30 bucks which should have been worth at least a smile from one of them.

All of that said, they did have a better than average barbeque sauce and killer red chili.

The food at the new Cow Town BBQ is good. Denny's serves good food, too.

I'd like to see the owners of the new BBQ restaurant be successful. It's apparent they've sunk their heart and money into it. It's most apparent that they're trying hard to make a go of barbeque cooking and easy to see that hard core experience in the restaurant business is lacking.

Should I make suggestions? I could help put soul into their business and into their food. Should I stick my neck out and talk to them? I've been asking myself that question for the last 24 hours.

Naw. Won't do that. Mostly likely they'd be defensive and anything suggested would fall on deaf ears.

More importantly, how can "soul" be taught in the barbeque business? You either have it, know it or you don't. Soul in the food business cannot be taught.

I wish them luck and a happy ending.

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1 comment:

Max said...

Dad... write those new bbq owners a letter. Preface it with how you wanted to talk with them personally, but you know that a letter is so much easier to dismiss if misunderstood.

Anyway, Pack Jack's. That place had been around for decades but I only remember trying it out a couple times. I seem to recall that Grandpa Haskamp dug that place. But neither me nor any of my friends ever went there. It just looked too run down. Oh well, my loss.

Looks like it might be getting rebuilt:

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Whiskeytown Lake, Very Northern California, United States