There's a new Barbecue joint in town, it's called the Howling Coyote. That brings to 5 the places I know of in Eugene that make real pit smoked barbecue -- three sit-downs (Howling Coyote, Hole in the Wall, and Papa's Soul Food Kitchen) and two walk-ups (Tony's and this place I saw in passing this week but didn't catch the name of). We've tried three of them: Hole in the Wall is ok, but it's way overpriced and it's a bit on the dry side. Tony's kicks serious smoky ass. H.C. is good food, but the service is lacklustre (I'm surprised to realize that, while I'm committed to being the best chef I can be some day, when I'm a customer, I'm more critical of poor service than of disappointing food), and the meat portions are small for what you pay. Papa's Soul Food Kitchen has an awesome reputation, but so far it's always been closed or SRO when TFR and I have wanted to go. Crowds and a 2-year-old do no mix well. The last place is a mystery.
We ate at H.C. tonight -- TFR had been there, I had not. The food was good -- the Brisket was moist and tender, though the smoke ring was a might thin for my taste, and given that I paid $9.00 for a platter that was served on plastic, I expected a little more than the 4 oz. or so of it I got. TFR's ribs were good -- I'd argue that my Brisket beats theirs, but their ribs beat mine, especially if you like dry style.
But here was the part I found amusing, and revealing regarding the learning curve here in Eugene rtegarding good barbecue. When we got there, they had run out of pulled pork, and before our food arrived the chicken disappeared too. By the time we had finished eating, the ribs and brisket were gone, and they were closing down -- twenty minutes ahead of time. As we were paying the check, a young man walked in, and got huffy when told they were closing. As we walked out the door, we saw a couple getting out of their car. We let them know that they were closed because they were out of meat. It took them a minute to get it... "Didn't they just open for business recently?"
Folks, this is BARBECUE. They smoke this meat for 12-14 hours. As I'm typing this, they're loading in the Boston butts and briskets that will be eaten tomorrow afternoon. They're making estimates NOW about how much business they'll get TOMORROW. It's not like a regular restaurant where they fire the food when you order it. It's being fired now, and tomorrow, when it's gone, it's gone. Just like happened tonight.
I've heard of places in Texas where people will stand in line for an hour or more, and even then be taking their chances -- often they'll get to the front of the line only to be informed that the food is gone. Are you serious about barbecue? Then you get there EARLY. That's the way it's done.
A few people get it -- this is, after all, the destination location of the Great Migration, people have over the generations moved here from all over, and are still arriving, and those people bring with them the cultural knowledge of their place of origin. But Eugene has a lot to learn about Barbecue.
An empty stomach is a small price to pay for knowledge.