It has been my pleasure to judge many major U.S. barbecue competitions, including Memphis in May, Kansas City’s American Royal and The Jack Daniel’s World Invitational Barbecue, enjoying some of the best of this culinary art in the country. So when I discover what I consider really good barbecue I love to talk about it. One recent weekend I discovered really good barbecue in Felida.
Like many barbecue shacks, SugarFoot’s BBQ is small, a food truck tucked in a parking lot beside a convenience store. But like many of these joints, small doesn’t mean bad. In fact some of the best barbecue I’ve found comes out of family-run, tiny back-road eateries.
And like those small operations, SugarFoot’s doesn’t have a huge menu. You can order pulled pork, pork ribs or brisket as your main entrees, either as plates or sandwiches. Side dishes include macaroni and cheese, potato salad, beans and coleslaw. That’s it.
But that small number of proteins means each gets very personal attention and the results prove that. The Creekstone Farms Natural Prime Beef Brisket ($13 for a juicy half pound) was served in thick, moist, flavorful slices. The prominent bright smoke ring promised and delivered a delightful oak smoke flavor. If I was judging a national barbecue contest I’d give it a 9 out of 10.
FYI: I ordered this meat “moist,” which in Texas and the barbecue world, means the fat is only moderately trimmed away. You can also order it “dry.” I don’t recommend that.
The Cascade Farms St. Louis Pork Ribs ($3.50 per bone, $35 for a rack) would get the same score, perhaps a 9.5. They were nicely colored outside, tasty and slightly pink inside, tender, juicy, perfectly smoked, and each bite came clean off the bone with the remaining meat hanging on the bone for the next bite. Truly championship ribs.
Cascade also provided the Boston butt shoulder, which was magically smoked into flavorful, tender, if a little less moist, and gently smoked pulled pork ($8 for a half pound). I had mine on a plate. My guest enjoyed it on a house-made brioche bun. And we both loved every bite. I’d give it a grade of 8 or 8.5.
One could also order a sampler of brisket, two pork ribs, pulled pork and two sides for $29.
The sides were fairly standard but good understudies to the proteins. The coleslaw ($4): crunchy purple cabbage, carrots and onions in an almost-creamy, tangy sauce. The Brisket Beans: chuck full of, you guessed it, brisket, with the pinto beans cooked just right — not hard, not mushy, with a gentle fire added. The Mackin’ Cheese: not macaroni but rather a flat pasta — nice, cheesy and smooth. We passed on the Potato Salad with Bacon. These last three sides are priced at $5 for a half-pound serving.
Oh, and I mustn’t forget the bargain on the menu: two little loaves of cornbread ($3) that were delicious, tender-firm, subtly sweet, with a slightly oniony flavor. Next time I’ll get a triple order. With fresh butter, they’re almost dessert-like.
Currently SugarFoot’s BBQ offers two sauces. The tomato-based barbecue sauce did not taste pleasant to me. The ancho and poblano made it bitter, but SugarFoot’s BBQ is planning on adding a Kansas City sweet-smoky sauce in the future. Actually, sauces are unnecessary considering the deliciously rubbed, gently smoked and perfectly barbecued pork and beef.
For those who like Southern vinegar-based sauces, SugarFoot’s was spot on — tangy, a tiny sweetness balanced with a tiny heat. Both sauces are offered as small containers on the side so you can add your own. But again, you don’t need sauce here.
There are no desserts. Who needs a sticky-sweet dish of calories after fantastic, mouth-waterin’, soul satisfyin’, perfectly cooked barbecue. Then again, there’s that lovely cornbread!