Quality, wood-fired barbecue is the hallmark and birthright of every true Texan. He insists on it, and demands that it be within easy driving distance of his spread. Back in the oil-rush boom days, it seemed that every crossroads, burg and hamlet featured a dilapidated shack sporting a chimney, a sure sign that the barbecue inside was slow-smoked to a high standard of tenderness and taste. But as the cities grew and natural gas became more readily available, many places lost those structures to the ravages of time and road construction. These days, however, the shack is back, thanks to Rudys Country Store and Bar-B-Q, with two dozen locations and counting, and probably being built near your personal Ponderosa even as we speak. It was in search of the true Texas experience that my lovely wife the Rock Star and I pointed our car north one moonlight Friday night, destination one of Rudy's newest locations in the burgeoning megapolopolis that is Frisco.
Rudy's Country Stores aren't really located in dilapidated shacks. They just look that way, quite charmingly I might add. Real, authentic working gas pumps out front (selling real authentic gasoline). Drive-thru window (one of God's great inventions) which on this starry, starry night was doing a brisk business. Indoor and outdoor patios. A convenience store (the "Country Store") where patrons can purchase snacks, hats, sause (yes, it is spelled that way on the bottles) and shirts with such pithy sayings as "I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain just to eat vegetables." A rambling, barnlike main dining room featuring wooden picnic tables, rusting signs and a massive metal trough which stores a surprising variety of ice-cold beers and soft drinks. (My wife promptly grabbed a Ziegenbock for herself, I decided to stick with Rudy's excellent sweet tea.) A large, corral-like structure where hungry diners queue up for their share of 'cue. In short, Rudy's atmosphere is one of it's strong suits, and prepares you well for your taste of true Texas. The line in the corral can be lengthy at times, but a veritable army of counter attendants and carvers stand ready to meat your needs. Besides, time in line gives you a good chance to peruse the large overhead menu strategically placed behind the counter. In short order, the Rock Star and I made and paid for our selections, received our basket of goodies and our butcher-paper plates, and staked a place at one of the tables conveniently located next to a flat-panel TV. (True authenticity isn't everything you know; sports watching is another Texas birthright.)
Rudy's barbecue is smoked over oak, which burns slower and longer than the usual mesquite or hickory. The brisket was excellent, if a tad dry. (Proper moisture can sometimes be an issue in the art that is wood smoking; on other occasions my meat at Rudy's was quite moist and tender.) Both of my regular readers know by now my lovely wife's passion for barbecued turkey knows no bounds, and our portion of smoky bird boasted a pinkish tinge and perfect texture and was exceedingly tasty this eve. Rudy's sells its cue in old-school fashion by weight rather than plate, so you will have to purchase sides separately. Do not pass up Rudy's creamed corn, thick and rich with creamy, corny goodness, making a perfect complement to the meat. Rudy's sause is good but not exceptional, but my wife obviously disagreed, making a special trip to the souvenier stand to purchase a quart for personal consumption at home. (UPDATE: The dang sause kinda grows on ya, dagnabit!) In future visits we look forward to trying their dessets, perhaps chocolate or banana pudding, or possibly even one of the Rice Krispy treats. (Yes, indeedy, they are offered at Rudy's). Also, we'd like to sneak up there early one morning to try the breakfast tacos.
Count on Rudy's counter service to deliver the goods in a timely, friendly fashion, although without the boisterous camaraderie of the Round Rock location. (There, the counterman asks if you are a newbie, and if so, they all shout "Hey, Rookie!") Nevertheless, Ronny managed to offer a personal touch when he invited my wife to call and ask for him if she wanted to arrange a ham, turkey, and/or sides for Christmas dinner. The website is www.rudysbbq.com if you wish to check out your own catering arrangements.
The pride of Leon Springs, Texas, where the story started so long ago, Rudy's is now seeking to spread the gospel of wood-smoked goodness to every part of the Lone Star State. Visit a location soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!