Of Meat and Men

00:00 July 30, 2013
By: 2Fik
BBQ in the Big Easy

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]
Barbeque. The word alone triggers visions of red and white checkered picnic tablecloths, pickled accompaniments, and mustardy, vinegary, smoky sauces. Whether it's ribs, brisket, or pulled pork that gets your motor running, all of the above makes perfect sense to any meat eater's agenda. The indigenous Caribbean inhabitants are to be credited for the craft itself, which was then used as a means of preserving meat. Today, the way we dress it up and make it our own is simply culinary evolution at its best. What other food can be viewed as an event in and of itself?

The labor-intensive manner in which barbeque is crafted is what essentially gains the meat its unique fl avor potential. Each pit master is different; techniques and time attest to the precision of their work. With today's market and the abundance of quality pork and brisket options, standing out among the competition is the driving force behind the art form.

In 2011, the general manager of Dante's Kitchen, Neil McClure, founded McClure's Barbecue, which started as a Monday through Friday pop-up at the establishment which he then managed. Later shifting platforms to the Company Burger and the Rusty Nail, McClure gained additional perspective and followers in other parts of town. It was easy to do, considering the feedback and widespread commentary that has made his Internet presence that of culinary legend. The man is a selfproclaimed lover of hog cookin' and scratch-made everything— you won't fi nd him relying on anything but his own devices in the fi re pit and accoutrement department. The food, which was famously served family style at his pop-up, supplied a feeling of backyard togetherness that made you wanna get saucy from ear to ear. The big picnic atmosphere is due to make an appearance once, perhaps twice a week at the new digs. McClure's recently opened it's own brick-and-mortar location on Magazine Street, across from the local landmark Le Bon Temps Roulé. Get ready for tender ribs with meat that falls off the bone so easily it should be illegal—and the beans…the beans are something else.

[Where Y'At Staff/Provided Photo]
In New Orleans East, Walker's Barbeque is home of the cochon de lait po-boy and remains one of the most sought-after food vendors in the festival circuit. Started by the Walker family, Love at First Bite is an on-site catering company that specializes in traveling across the country and to local festivals spreading the barbeque wealth. The showstopping cochon de lait po-boy, smoky tender pork, and raved-about mustard greens and coleslaw sides makes their odd hours a little more sensible. The admitted hassle among customers is catching them before the food runs out, at which that time they close up shop. Of course, the trek to New Orleans East is closer for some and farther for others, but, it's a two-sided coin. Affordable and insanely good food will make anyone travel. In other words, if you make it (and make it well), they will come.

Inscribed on a bench in front of Saucy's BBQ is the Mark Twain quote, "New Orleans food is as good as the less criminal forms of sin." This literary stamp just might be the indication of blissful culinaria on which one is about to embark, or perhaps a note to be taken seriously in perspective recourse. The BYOB establishment boasts many critical favorites, but the reputation and fl avor of their Cochon Bleu holds a towering high note. The pulled pork, bleu cheese and melted mozzarella are a testament to perfection on a plate. Dry-rubbed ribs, sauces, and staff attentiveness may have customers singing their praises, but let's get to the gritty—the pulled pork and brisket. The minds of foodies aren't so pliable in the barbeque forum, which is only now making a real statement in New Orleans. But Saucy's brisket, which reigns in accolades for being "forkable," and the doted-upon hefty portions of pulled pork have granted owners Rich Labatut and Gary Kurz a customer-awarded gold star.

The brothers Young—Brendan, Patrick, and Gene—used their combined 40 years of restaurant experience and love for food in general to open Squeal on Uptown's engaging northwest stretch of Oak Street. The foundation of their menu is modeled after famed New Orleans dishes: for instance, Creole Crab Cakes, from which Squeal's Smoked Pork Cakes pull their inspiration. Lightly breaded smoked pulled pork topped with chili sour cream and homemade salsa merges fl avor and visual appeal; it's easy to see why their meals trump the average meat and three. Entrees like the Pork Grillades Over Grits—creamy roasted corn cheese grits topped with a generous portion of barbeque pulled pork—are enough to make the clouds part and the angels sing. Seeing and smelling the meats undergo such a glorious transformation isn't a process confi ned to secret territory. Their metal smoker, an intimidatingly large contraption engulfed by billowing plumes of smoke, sits front and center on the lawn's entrance, helping lure hungry patrons off the street and onto the outdoor patio.

The story of The Joint begins in 2004 in the historic Bywater area of town. Situated off the railroad tracks at the expansive former Marine Corps Reserve facility, the Joint lived up to its name, as its fi rst digs were small and nothing fancy. It was simply a machine for churning out incredible ribs, chicken, pulled pork sandwiches, and amazing beans; the word spread among foodies and the recognition poured in from some very credible places. Rated in the Top 10 BBQ lists from Zagat to Bon Appétit, owners Jenny and Pete Breen were most ecstatic when fi nding out that they were to be featured on Guy Fieri's Food Network program "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives". In 2012, the biz relocated to its new home on Mazant Street, and while they continue to relish in the glory of their fan-created hullabaloo, they manage to crank out some consistently thoughtful plates of food. If you're ready to take down a big barbecue mountain of awesome, this is the place. Be sure to come hungry.

Voodoo BBQ, the original brainchild of the late Alton Doody—former Dean of the Culinary Institute at Nicholls State— is owned and managed by Dino Arvanetes and Tony Avila, two college friends who discovered they shared a love for everything barbeque. Dino, an alum of Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Orlando, Florida, was no stranger to the culinary industry, while Tony, a student of business management and accounting, found the ability to make something of their combined skills. The duo, after some sincere thought and exploration, brought barbeque to New Orleans at a time when it was underrepresented in the city. Birthed in 2002, the restaurant was rebuilt after Katrina and has since franchised, to the glee of patrons in other locales. Sides like the corn pudding and the gris-gris mustard greens bear the kind of vibrance that's so bona fi de it comes to life in your dreams.

Our city is a melting pot of culture, making it the perfect arena for the various tastes of barbecue to tango. The best of Memphis, Texas, and the Carolinas come alive in a crosspollination, if you will, of local fl avors and artistry, equaling an end product that is defi nitely something special.

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