If there is one thing that comes close to heaven on Earth, it is perfect BBQ. Although I am not a religious man, it is possible that a little slice of heaven was shorn off and dropped to this blue marble in downtown Eagle. While some may say, “Not another barbecue place,” I say, “Bring ’em on.” If every other type of food except cooked and charred meat disappeared from the face of the planet, I would still be happy.
While I have toyed with vegetarianism, my roots always bring me back to flesh. Roadside stands, dives, holes-in-the-wall with a grill out back fed by mesquite or oak, homemade sauces and meat wrapped up in butcher paper (whether devoured on the premises or not) were the haunts of choice for my dad and me in central Texas.
In the past decade or so barbecue has risen above its humble, rural roots to become fancy cuisine with sit-down restaurants, waiters and actual plates. Fancy electronic grilling machines and ovens cook the meat to perfection. While such flesh is no doubt good, I get very nostalgic for old school BBQ joints.
The first thing I noticed as I pulled up to the Eagle Rib Shack was the patio–nice and shady. Inside, the menu board at the meat counter read like a butcher shop: meat by the pound, slab or link. I have trouble maintaining control in situations like these. When you compound the matter by sending me on a mission to test all a restaurant has to offer, I simply must order quantity to test the quality. I stuck with the standards–after all, if they can’t get those right there is no use trying the other menu items. Slow-cooked beef brisket, homemade potato salad, baked beans, a link of sausage for my carnivore-in-training, a famous Texas beer that I am thrilled to see now being distributed in Idaho–Shiner Bock–and for dessert, a half slab of baby back ribs. Everything was wrapped up in butcher paper, and a young lass helped us out to the patio table. I was excited.
Here was a “Thrill of the Grill” BBQ winner. I had high expectations. Upon arrival at our table I noticed a six-pack of sauces. Actually, according to the menu, this fine establishment has eight sauces, all homemade. There were three Kansas City style–mild, original and kicked up alongside Texas style, Memphis style, Carolina Southern style and a spicy wing sauce. I had to try them all but almost didn’t have enough meat to do so. If you have ever wondered what the difference is between regional BBQ sauces I’d recommend that you run down to Eagle Rib Shack. They’ve done it right.
While the sauces were incredible and the sides fantastic, the meat was darn near perfection. The brisket was so tender you could cut it with a fork, the sausage was cooked just right to remain juicy and the ribs were cooked so slowly that the sweet sauce had carmelized on the outer edges of the meat. The ribs literally fell apart as I was eating them. I determined that Eagle Rib Shack has certainly got the basics down, so next time I will return to try the other exciting things on the menu like Kobe beef back ribs, pulled pork, tri-tip roast and buffalo back ribs.
My only constructive criticism of the place: Lose the fountain soda machine. Then find room for a horizontal cooler filled with a variety of soda and beer in glass bottles and make sure you have it fully stocked with Shiner Bock and Big Red soda.
–Bingo Barnes beep beeps like a rabid roadrunner.