Over the past decade, I have authored 16 barbecue cookbooks, was the creator and host of a barbecue food series that ran for seven years on PBS and have judged the five largest barbecue contests in the United States. So I am, perhaps, overly qualified to review small barbecue restaurants. But I try to be fair. Remember, what I write is my opinion, and you readers all have your own.
Today, we head over to Goldie’s Texas Style BBQ on Fourth Plain near Orchards for some local Vancouver barbecue with a distinct Southern touch.
First, let me say the folks at Goldie’s are trying really hard and are dedicated to the community, with their walls decorated with pictures of police and firefighters, law enforcement and military. I discovered that owner Charles Bibens’ son Thurman is a Vancouver police officer, thus his enthusiastic support of law enforcement and the military.
Goldie’s seats about 40 to 50 and has an extensive menu of barbecue items — everything from pork and baby back ribs to beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken and sausage links, all of which can be served up as sandwiches, combo plates or even by the pound. Additionally, both kinds of pork ribs can be ordered by the slab.
Plus, there is corn on the cob, cornbread, fish and chips, shrimp, gizzards, burgers, grilled cheese (ranging from $5.99 to $12.50), as well as fried okra, onion rings, sweet-potato fries and hush puppies (all at $4.99).
We decided to try just about the whole protein menu with one three-meat combo ($20.99) and one two-meat combo ($20.99), and sampled four of the 11 side dishes they offer. A la carte meats range from $11.99 to $14.99 at lunch to $2 more per item at dinner.
We’ll start with the beef brisket, which was served (ew) chopped. I’m at fault because I didn’t ask for it in slices. I’m not used to it chopped, and have seldom if ever seen it chopped in barbecue restaurants. Please ask, and please order it sliced. Chopping is not good for brisket; it dries out and you lose the texture most people like in this cut of meat.
And, unfortunately there was way too much sauce. It covered up the brisket, pork ribs, chicken, pulled pork and even the sausage links. Again, I guess I should have asked for this condiment “on the side,” but they should also have asked me where I wanted it applied. All I tasted was sauce (mild, if you must know).
I love the taste of smoky barbecue, but found it difficult to determine whether I was eating pork or chicken or beef or sausage as they were all smothered in sauce. I did rescue a few pieces of each sans sauce and they tasted pretty darn good — smoky, moist and tender. But I didn’t order sauce with meat. I wanted meat with a touch of sauce.
In my barbecue cookbooks, I stress using sauce to complement what you barbecue or grill. Sauce is meant to enhance grilled meat or poultry, not drown it. The sausage was very good — chewy outside, tender inside. The slices of chicken were moist and tender. The ribs were quite nice, each bite coming off the bone cleanly, but the damn sauce got in the way. It’s a good tangy, smoky, sweet sauce, but way over-applied.
I enjoyed the sides very much. The macaroni and cheese was very thick and cheesy. The coleslaw had a nice tang and crunch. The potato salad was like Mom used to make.
But the beans? My taste buds did a double-take as I took my first bite and I asked if there were any special spices in the beans.
“Oh yes,” I was told, “can you taste anything you know?”
I replied, “Yes, I’m tasting cinnamon?”
The server nodded her head.
I’m sorry, but I would not use that spice in baked beans, and if they must, please reduce the amount by at least half. Beans are perfect for mustard, brown sugar, maple syrup, onions, bacon, sometimes pineapple and ham, even golden raisins, but not cinnamon.
After saying all that, it was a good dinner, with generous portions of all the meats fulfilling my craving for real barbecue. But it could have been better. Put the sauce on the side, always ask customers if they want their brisket chopped or sliced and leave the cinnamon to apple pie, sweet rolls or hot cider.