Honestly. Rain again? I know this is typical Vancouver; but it is getting ridiculous. Not only has it kiboshed any chance of a clean car, it has washed out our softball practice last week and now a softball game too! Do you know how this affects my eating out? That means I cannot go out with my softball team for eats after! Why the rain? WHY? To further hammer the point home, it was sunny the day before and sunny the day after. It's like we were getting the proverbial bird from Mother Nature. Wait. Why can't we go out and eat anyways? Softball is merely a conduit. Eating is the real reason I play anyways! So when Bear and Milhouse suggested that we go for food despite the rain, I was game. In fact, we knew that Hot Chocolate would be more than happy to join us as well. Her email was pathetic and sad - indicating her need to cook dinner for herself... What really made her happy was our choice of restaurants. It was as good as anytime to head out to Steveston to hit up the newest Southern BBQ joint - The Hog Shack Cook House. Hot Chocolate lives in Richmond and this was right up her alley.
Before I blab any further, we need to be clear on a few things. Real Southern BBQ meats are cooked from a raw state over many hours. Thus, the meat is generally on the drier side while exhibiting a whole lot of smokiness and burnt portions. What we normally see here, such as at Montana's, is the parboiled version. Sacraligious to those from the Southern United States, this would make most BBQ purists cry. However, I personally like the boiled-then-BBQ'd version. Yes, hurl tomatoes and cow patties at me if you wish (well, maybe not the cow patties); but that is what I like. With that being said, I don't mind the dry method as well. It's just not my first choice. So please be aware that I'm going to compare apples-to-apples here. The Hog Shack slow cooks their meat, much like Memphis Blues. So this is the angle where I will compare from. Let's throw BBQ Etc. and Ozark's into the mix too.
Since we had 4 people, it was quite obvious what we would order, no other than Allan's Mammoth Platter. It consists of Baby Back Ribs, St. Louis Side Ribs, Pulled Pork, Brisket, Dino Beef Bones and BBQ Chicken Legs. It also includes a choice of 6 sides. I gave the Pulled Pork a try first and it was relatively "wet". What I mean is the meat itself was not dry or stringy. Add in a good amount of BBQ sauce and it was pretty decent. I only wish there was a bit more smokiness to the BBQ sauce (but the meat has enough smoke to make it up). We dug into the BBQ Chicken Quarters next. I personally prefer dark meat over white meat, especially when it comes to BBQ since it is generally less dry. Although not necessarily juicy, the chicken was still relatively moist and a bit smoky. We found the BBQ sauce to be more vinegary than anything. But then again, the smokiness of the meat made up for it. Next, I gave the St. Louis Side Ribs a go and they were predictably dry. Again, this is a personal preference issue here. The ribs are supposed to be dry, not juicy. Therefore, if this is what you are looking for, then you might be disappointed. With my expectations aligned with what the product, I can say it compares closely to Memphis Blues. I would even go as far to say it is less dry than Memphis. Also as expected, the Baby Backs were slightly less dry. In this case, they are far less burnt than the ones at Memphis, which would mean more edible meat. The smoky meat went well with the vinegary BBQ sauce.
In terms of the ribs, our favourite of the bunch was the Dino Beef Bones. They were really large and despite the charring and some burnt portions, all of the meat was edible and not too dry. In fact, the meat still retained some fat and tendon which gave the meat a desirable gelatinous texture. The best thing on the plate that didn't have bones was the Brisket. With enough fat to create a traffic jam in your arteries, the meat simply melted in our mouths. Very buttery and delicious to eat. Once again, if I needed to compare, this is far more tender and juicier than Memphis, BBQ Etc and Ozark's combined. Some might say they didn't trim the meat enough; but that suited us just fine. As for our sides, we got Corn Bread, Yam Fries, Hand-cut Fries, Mash Potatoes, Veggies and Baked Beans. We found the corn bread to be a bit crumbly while being moist. It was not too sweet which was fine by us. The fries, in my opinion, were slightly disappointing. They were not as crispy as I would've liked. The mash potatoes were pretty standard while the veggies were steamed perfectly. The baked beans were okay with a bit of smokiness and a rich sweetness.
We were satisfied with the Mammoth Platter; yet not necessarily wow'd in any way. Well, not until we were presented with a complimentary plate of Burnt Ends. OMFG. Universally, all of us were blown away by the rich smokiness of the burnt brisket ends. Chewy on the outside while still easy to eat on the inside, these bites combined with a generous dousing of BBQ sauce were a veritable flavour explosion. You know something is good when you want to eat more. This was the case here. By now, we were stuffed beyond belief; but Bear (our resident dessert fiend) decided we had to get dessert. Fine, so we shared 2 desserts starting with the Peach Cobbler. Honestly, we weren't expecting much. However, the cobbler turned out to be pretty darn good. Sure, they didn't use fresh peaches since they are not in season; yet that didn't detract from the moist "cake". It was not too sweet and we could definitely taste the nutmeg. The scoop of ice cream had cinnamon on top and that added another hit of flavour as well.
For our second dessert, we went for the Lemon Ice Box Pie. Essentially a whipped lemon cheesecake, this was also surprisingly good. By using fresh lemon zest and juice, the dessert was light and even refreshing. The slight bitterness from the zest helped temper the sweetness. Although most of the food didn't blow our minds, burnt ends and dessert withstanding, the food was quite solid. Of course it depends on personal preference because if you don't like your meats on the dry side, then go to Montana's. Otherwise, the Hog Shack does offer something similar to Memphis Blues. And again, it depends on your tastes as to which one is better.
- Burnt ends are friggin' fantastic
- Desserts are surprisingly good
- Lots of choice
- Meats are on the drier side
- Sides need work