You see, people are passionate about their barbecue. They have opinions. In some cases, opinion morphs into dogma - and I'm not just talking about gas or charcoal. There are feelings about spice rubs and sauce, searing and braising, Carolina or Memphis or Texas or Kansas City, or pit bbq...
Not to mention, it's hard to compare different styles without prompting a war, and I don't carry the proper credentials.
Still, I love to eat barbecue, which counts for something. It aggravates me when people say they can't get good barbecue in Maryland (I've heard it more than once). Until now, I've always pointed them north - to Andy Nelson's or Charcoal Deli - because that was where I'd found great meals in the past.
I never looked closer to the HoCo - not beyond chains like Famous Daves or RH&B. (hocoblogs@@@)
BUT - I have now seen the error of my ways, thanks to this week's food versus food. Which brings us to our contenders...
Contender #1: Beef Brisket Cheesesteak at Kloby's Smokehouse in Laurel (Maple Lawn).
Kloby's, located at 7500 Montpelier Road, was opened in 2009 by a former firefighter/paramedic who then moved into food service. (It was formerly located in Woodlawn) Kloby's has received excellent reviews from HowChow, Urbanspoon, and pretty much every person I've asked since.
The first thing I noticed was the casual atmosphere. And the smell: delicious, smoky, intense. I got hungry just walking in the door.
I bypassed all the tempting menu selections and zeroed in on this baby, the Beef Brisket Cheese steak. The total, with combo (1 side and a drink) was about 10 dollars, + tax/tip.
|Beef Brisket Cheesesteak at Kloby's.|
This sandwich was amazing. The beef was crisped and seasoned on the edges, but fork tender and melt-in-the-mouth after that initial crunch. A tangy, spicy sauce complemented the flavor, but it surely was not needed and in no way overwhelmed the sandwich. There was a little lettuce and a soft roll, and pickles. I can't even tell you what kind of cheese was on it (sorry) because it wasn't smothering the meat, a good thing in this particular case. I didn't really care about any of that stuff, although the bread was tasty. I just wanted more meat. (that's what she said!)
As a side, I was eyeballing the handcut fries (not technically a side) but went instead for Collard Greens. I love greens. When they're good, they're good.
When they're bad, they're something else entirely.
Kloby's collards had small bits of onion and pork in them. The leaves still retained some shape and texture - this is sort of the difference between mushy over cooked pasta and al dente pasta. You feel the difference as much as taste it, and Kloby's got it just right. The greens had a nice flavor, not bitter at all.
An amazing meal. One I couldn't even finish - but the sandwich tasted just as good the next day.
Contender #2: Texas Beef Brisket Sandwich Platter at Pig Pickers in Ellicott City.
Pig Pickers is owned by the same family that operates Crab Shanty. It's actually right across the street, at 3417 Plum Tree Drive, and shares a space with Seafood King (same business, more seafood and catering). They specialize in Memphis-style BBQ.
When I walked in, the place had a few people in it. There are tables to sit, cafe-style, or you can carry out your meal. In the air was the same smokey, pleasant scent I've begun hoping for in BBQ joints.
My order was ready when I got there: Beef Brisket sandwich with Mac n cheese and collards.
|Beef Brisket Sandwich Platter at Pig Pickers.|
The roll was a generic kaiser - I tossed the top one aside, but I was glad for the bottom piece because it soaked up some flavor from the brisket. The meat itself was sliced to about an 1/8 inch, and so, so tender. I could see the seasonings along the edge of each piece, though try as I might, I couldn't pick them out. They melded into a flavor that could only be described as "beefy-good." The portion was huge - a stack of meat.
I was glad they left the sauce on the side, because I was less of a fan. I dipped a few times, but mostly left it alone. I think this was because the beef tasted so good on its own.
The mac and cheese was fabulous - the woman who took my order recommended it - but the Collards... made me sad. They were mushy, like wet tissue paper, and I saw no sign of pork. Next time I will get the slaw.
Overall, though, I finished dinner, stuffed, for approximately $9.00. A fabulous meal, and a great place for Memphis BBQ.
The Decision: Both places were excellent, I enjoyed my meal at each. I'm so glad I got to try Kloby's and Pig Picker's - new places for me. Never again will I navigate 695/83 for the sole purpose of BBQ.
Still, at the end of the day, there was one I liked slightly better... Kloby's Smokehouse!
Where do you go for your BBQ fix? Tell me in the comments below!