Texans tell the truth on Old School BBQ

  • By Anna Poole Herald Restaurant Critic
  • Thursday, November 1, 2007 2:38pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

MONROE — When the first whisperings of a new barbecue place wafted my way, I quietly slipped the information a little toward the bottom of the “to review” stack, because Old School BBQ serves meals from a window in a converted school bus on U.S. 2, and I didn’t want to be reviewing lunch wagons from Lynnwood to Oak Harbor.

Then my editor said I probably should go visit because she had a lot of readers with Texas accents calling to say Old School BBQ dished up the best barbecue they ever had. I didn’t know if my editor, an Iowa native, could tell the difference between a Texan and a Tar Heel, but I wasn’t ordering armadillo, a favorite dish in Texas.

Old School BBQ sits in front of the Monroe Reptile Zoo, instantly making Rule No. 3 for this review: It doesn’t matter what people say about rattlesnake tasting like chicken; my chicken order better have a wing or a thigh.

On the Saturday afternoon my friend and I visited, it was sunny and warm enough to enjoy our dinner at one of the picnic tables while we watched the conversion of a second school bus that will become the “dining room.” The smoker sits next to the bus, and when it’s fired up with mesquite wood, it creates the illusion of the school bus smoking.

The smoker works its magic on beef brisket, pork, ribs, sausage and chicken, which are served as sandwiches ($6.99 to $7.99) or as plates with side dishes ($6.99 to $8.99 for a small). Sides include potato or macaroni salad, cole slaw, corn bread and pinto beans.

My friend ordered the beef brisket sandwich with a side of macaroni salad ($7.99) and I chose the small sampler ($8.99) with potato salad and corn bread and added pinto beans ($1.75). My friend’s sandwich was made with a fresh sesame seed bun and just enough sauce to give the sandwich zip without making it soggy or slippery. His macaroni salad, like my potato salad, was house-made — or would that be bus-made? Anyway, it tasted great and was a welcome relief from so many premade salads we experienced during the summer. My steaming-hot corn bread was yummy but came with only one container of margarine. Two would have been better, but I didn’t bother to ask for more.

If I was going to ask for more of something, it would have been the sliced sausage rings, which my friend and I voted No. 1. All the meats in my sampler were perfectly flavored and tender — rib, brisket slices, shredded pork and half of a chicken breast (served on the bone). But the sausage was extra special.

So were the pinto beans. Now, these weren’t beans flavored with tomatoes and bits of beef. These were West Texas style — pinto beans with bits of jalapeno chiles. In fact, these beans were good enough to be in the West Texas Frijole Cookoff.

Maybe those were Texas accents my editor heard. And maybe it doesn’t matter that food this good comes out of an old school bus.

Herald restaurant reviewers accept no invitations to review, but readers’ suggestions are always welcome. Reviewers arrive unannounced, and The Herald pays their tabs. Contact Anna Poole at features@heraldnet.com.

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