Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ozark Smoked Meat Co.

Restaurant: Ozark Smoked Meat Company
Address: 114th and W. Center Road
Genres: BBQ
Check Constraints: None (short order)
Chain: No | More Omaha Locations: Yes

  • BBQ Sandwich Platter, Pork ($6.59)
  • Coleslaw, Ozark Spicy Wedges (as part of above)
  • Drink ($1.40, we calculated)
I'd driven past the huge "BBQ" sign near the I-680 and Center interchange a lot of times prior to this lunch, and my mind had idly piqued with curiosity about the sort and quality of barbecue offered within. I grew up in Indiana, but experience, televisionresearch, and some travel have taught me a lot about the process and what it should taste like. Barbecue, the real stuff, always involves smoke, seasoning, and a long, slow cooking process. Yes, that means that "BBQ Chicken Sandwich" you had for lunch the other day doesn't really count. It doesn't stop it from being delicious, but I sincerely doubt it was smoked beforehand. This attitude makes me something of a barbecue "purist", I suppose, but what the hell. It has only led me to delicious places, where the smoky taste of the ribs melded gently with the flavor of the rub, and the sauce was tangy but not, you know. Ketchup.

Luckily for all of us, the Ozark Smoked Meat Co. did not disappoint. It's a short-order joint, so don't go expecting a huge rack of ribs in an elegant environment. If you do go with this in mind, the statue of a pig in an apron by the front door should disabuse you of the notion fairly quickly. Do expect a good plate of food for a reasonable price, and a reasonably comfortable environment with places to sit.

The sandwich was good; pork meat on a standard sesame sub bun. The pork was slathered in BBQ sauce to the point where the pork flavor was fairly minimal, but it wasn't a bad sauce so this was not a critical failing. Personally I prefer my sandwiches dryer, or at best absent of sauce so I can add my own. The sauce was tangy, and almost too sweet. Experimenting with the bottles of sauce available at the condiment counter led me to realize that I much prefer their "spicy" BBQ sauce (which was nothing of the sort, but definitely less sweet). Still, it was a satisfying sandwich, and as with a lot of pulled pork sandwiches, the jalapeƱos they offered as condiments greatly improved my enjoyment since they both added heat and helped to cut the sweetness.

The Ozark Spicy Wedges weren't much to write home about. Fried potato wedges - fairly hefty ones - fried in a light batter. "Spice" was not on the order of the day, here, but it's hard to screw up fried potatoes, and they were warm and potato-y, if not precisely fresh (they were sitting on the counter under a heat lamp). The coleslaw was also middlin' quality, and unnecessary in this context; I usually use the slaw with my BBQ to cut the spice and zing of the BBQ sauce with something creamy and sweet. Since the sauce itself was pretty sweet, the slaw was overkill. Were I to choose again, I would have gone for the beans or perhaps the macaroni salad.

I tasted some of Mecha's ribs and ND's brisket and really, the place has got a good smoke going for it. Both these dishes came without initial sauce, letting me taste the meat directly. The ribs were meaty and flavored pretty well, without much evidence of a rub, but they almost didn't need one. The brisket was also tasty, but a little chewy. I think the single worst aspect of the sandwich I had was that they killed any of that good smoke flavoring that may have existed on the pork with too much sauce. Serving it dry would have been a much better option.

There are free drink refills, and plenty of napkins. It's certainly the best barbecue I've had in a while. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the place is that they sell smoked meat by the pound - I may have to try this and toy around with my own sauces at some point. They will also do custom smoking, which is interesting though perhaps more important if you're big into deer and turkey hunting.

  • Brisket Dinner($10.99)
  • Potato Salad, Ozark Spicy Wedges (as part of above)
  • Drink ($1.40, we calculated)
  • Giant cookie. ($1.00)
I'm not a BBQ "purist" in any sense of the word. What I am, however, is a big fan of meat, and for the money, I did get a very large chunk of meat. Be warned, those who are weak of heart, they butter their texas toast with real butter. Not that it's likely enough to do anything to someone who actually pays attention to their health, mind, but I've met people who are absolutely phobic about butter.

The potatoes were a different spice mix than you usually get around omaha, leaning more towards the cayenne look than the herbs and spices look that you get at, say, BWW. They were pretty average, as far as potatoes go, but did go well with both the BBQ sauces they had at the table.

The potato salad is the midwest standard potato salad, which the rest of the country probably knows as mustard potato salad. I didn't even know there WAS another kind until I went to college. They skimped a lot on the mustard, but the basic flavor was still there, and the potatoes were just right, so it wasn't a total loss. Still, given the rest of the dinner, if we go back, I'm asking if I can get a couple more slices of buttered toast instead.

The brisket was sliced nice and thin, and had an easily visible smoke line on every side. Very nice, from what I know of smoking. I wonder about the custom smoking, though. I'd love to buy a brick of sharp cheddar and have it heavily smoked, and maybe I could get them to do that. Anyway, back to the brisket. It was done to almost the worst level a brisket can be. A little less done and it would be bloody, a little more done and it would be tender. Instead, it was on the chewy border between the two. The slices were a little awkward to eat, and I found it was easiest to literally roll a slice up with my fingers, dip it in sauce, and pop it in my mouth. Eaten that way, it was a decent combination of lots of meat with a bit of sauce, and that's about all it really takes to make me happy.

I also indulged in a cookie, which is obtained sealed from Sysco, under some random brand. It was an excellent cookie, especially for Sysco, nice and tender even at the edges, and very much unlike the usual bricks.

I didn't walk away hungry, and it was good food for the price. I'd order differently if I went again, but I am willing to go again.

  • BBQ Sandwich Platter, Brisket ($6.59)
  • Corn on the Cob, Onion Potatoes (as part of above)
  • Drink ($1.40, we calculated)
I ordered a Brisket Sandwich combo with corn and onion potatoes. The amount of food was just about right for the price. It was also pretty reasonable BBQ. The sandwich was simple, being brisket on a bun with sauce. The sauce was fairly sweet and does hide the meat's flavor as was said earlier. I tried the "hot BBQ sauce" also, which had enough spice to not be "sweet BBQ sauce" but not much more. The onion potatoes were soft potato quarters/eighths cooked in butter and onions. I thought they were pretty good and a good potato alternative to fries. I tried a fry also, and the seasoning on those were good too. It was a different sort of seasoning as ND said above. The corn was a pretty standard 3" chunk of corn on the cob.

Overall, I didn't think it was amazing, but it's really solid BBQ for a reasonable price. I liked the place and would go back.

  • Pork Back Half-rack of Ribs Dinner($11.49)
  • Baked Beans, Ozark Spicy Wedges (as part of above)
  • Drink ($1.40, we calculated)
Cham really hit the nail on the head with the smoke comment. The ribs came slightly separated, fell off the bone easily, and had no real sauce on them, allowing you to taste the meat. And the smoke. And they tasted good for it. I ate the entire half-rack with no sauce, because I enjoy meat and smoke. Mmm. Restaurants should deliver food as it is to be eaten, and this place did it. I probably would have eaten a whole rack with no sauce, too. This was gotten at lunchtime, so it's good to know that they get their smoking done early and have the ribs available all day.

The potatoes tasted fine. They were potatoes, for crying out loud. Better than boring french fries. The baked beans, which I wasn't a huge fan of when I was a child, have grown on me, and these were good beans, tastes of brown sugar and such. A place that does that much slow cooking, that doesn't much surprise me. I'm more surprised that I'm the only one who got them. Coleslaw lovers. Sheesh.

This is pretty standard going rate for ribs, maybe a bit expensive, but these are excellent simply made ribs, and they came out pretty fast. I'd be willing to pay that little bit extra now and again for the simple pleasure of the taste of good smoked pork. Maybe next time I'll bother trying the sauces. Or maybe not.

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