Goode Company Barbecue
It's difficult to talk or write about barbecue without falling into a lot of mystical bullshit. Most people who write about barbecue believe -- or would have you believe they believe -- that all "real" barbecue must be had at a Hill Country pit tended by gruff old Czechs who haven't washed their hands since Anschluss, or else at an black Baptist church where your ribs are doled out by Mother Abigail herself. God knows you couldn't get decent barbecue on, say, the Kirby strip.
Except, of course, that you can. Jim Goode has been dishing up excellent 'cue at his original location at Kirby and 59 for decades now, and of course he's got a lot of hokey Texana in his shop -- stuffed armadillos are sort of de rigeur -- but he doesn't need to, because he does his shit right. He rubs the ribs, brisket, turkey, etc. with a good dry rub and then smokes the shit out of it. Voila! Barbecue. Good barbecue, too.
Now, before you people get your panties in a wad, I'm not saying it's the finest BBQ anywhere in the land. I agree, there's better 'cue to be had in Lockhart and, in fact, in Houston. But let's give credit where it's due. Jim Goode could serve up some boiled, liquid-smoke-tastin' meat these days without any appreciable decline in business (see, e.g., Pizzitola's), but he doesn't.
Let's talk first about what they do right. The brisket's outstanding. There's smokier brisket to be had in town, and more tender brisket, and God knows there's fattier brisket available, but Goode Co. strikes an excellent balance. The ribs are very good, though -- and here I risk sounding like the guy who argues the Beatles went to shit after 'Revolver' -- they used to be better. They're just not as tender as they used to be, and they don't separate from the bone the way the best pork ribs do. Wife reminds me that I'm supposed to be talking about what they do right. Quite correct. They do a mean pot of beans, and the barbecue sauce is simply outstanding. Smokey, spicy, with little bits of barbecued something floating in it.
What?! Wait -- did he just praise barbecue sauce? Infidel! Right, I know. I 'm supposed to disdain barbecue sauce. Sauce is for invalids, and Yankees, and other sissies. But you know what? They serve sauce because people like sauce. Properly done, it tastes good. And it moistens the meat. And soaks the bread. These are good things, people. I know, Kreuz Market doesn't serve sauce, so no one should serve sauce. But why does everyone else have to be like Kreuz Market? I'd rather put a little barbecue sauce on my ribs and enjoy them without having some barbecue imam shrieking at me that I'm violating an immutable code, thanks very much.
Another thing that Goode gets right is blending barbecue traditions with equally-indigenous Mexican and Cajun ingredients and flavors. The jambalaya has bits of barbecued pork chopped up in it, and the sausage is flecked with jalapenos, as is the cheese bread that comes with your order. Everything has jalapenos in it, and why not? Liking barbecue sauce may or may not make you a sissy, but objecting to some harmless chiles definitely does.
Look at that sandwich. That's a fine looking sandwich, people. You wish you could make -- or have -- a sandwich like that. And you can, without driving two hours into Hill Country. You're hungry, damn it to hell. The aesthetic travel experience can wait.
Follow-up Note on the New Urbanism: One of the many pleasures of Goode Co. is sitting outside at the big family-style picnic tables and watching the world go by on busy Kirby Drive. On our last visit to Goode Co., a very nice (if extremely filthy and, well, not a little menacing) homeless fella offered North a bright yellow balloon, which the ordinarily suspicious North was about to accept when his dad interrupted the transaction. It wasn't merely the prospect of a five-year-old accepting (metaphorical) candy from strangers that bothered Dad. It was that, not two hours earlier, Dad had seen the same homeless fella swoop down on an unsuspecting pigeon, grab it, and run off into the bushes next to the Kolache Factory. Now, it may have been that the pigeon was ill, and said homeless fella was simply attempting to render some field veterinary medicine. But I think it's more likely that bird season arrives a little earlier on Upper Kirby than elsewhere in Texas.