Two New Barbecue Joints Spice Up The Old Pueblo.
By Rebecca Cook
BARBECUE IS ONE of the crowning achievements of American culture. True, we weren't exactly the first ones to come up with the idea of grilling meat over an open fire. A close examination of the word shows international associations.
It might be derived from the Spanish and Haitian word barbacoa, meaning a matrix of sticks set upon posts over an open flame. It could also have originated in the home of so much other exquisite cuisine, France, where the phrase barbe a queue (meaning from whisker to tail) is used to describe the roasting of one entire skewered animal.
But no matter where the idea originated, by as early as 1709 barbecue had worked its way onto the emerging American scene, and it was those rowdy and sociable colonists who amplified the concept to include not just a method of cooking, but an event. For Americans, the process became a party.
No wonder you can find barbecue joints across the country. Tucson, thankfully, is blessed with its share of such enterprises, and two relative newcomers--Marilyn's Dallas House of Ribs and Joe's B-B-Q--have added to our local sizzle.
While barbecue in general may be found anywhere in this country, a few cities have elevated this cooking method to an art. In particular, Chicago, Kansas City and Dallas come to mind.
The meats at Marilyn's have been prepared in the time-honored style of slow cooking over a cool fire with the sauce added at the very end.
With this in mind, Marilyn's serves up some of the tastiest spareribs this side of the Pecos, with nothing the least bit burned or one jot of flavor lost. Although tasty, spareribs often can be too greasy and marbled with fat. Marilyn's ribs, however, are some of the leanest I've ever eaten, each section exuding a satisfyingly smoky, moist flavor. Every bite falls away from the bone with the slightest touch of the knife--the meat practically melts in your mouth it's so tender.
Also important to the success of barbecue is the sauce, which can run from excoriatingly hot to a mild, pureed tomato. All of Marilyn's orders are made with Aunt Sweet's original or extra-hot BBQ sauce. I eschewed the extra hot in deference to the small people at my house, but the original still retained a piquant spark in the midst of a slightly sweet and smoky tomato bath. Marilyn's sauce does exactly what it should--it complements rather than eclipses the flavor of the meat.
Side dishes at Marilyn's are surprisingly tasty, especially the baked beans, which contain onions, green pepper and frijoles baked in a semi-sweet glaze.
At the close of your meal--once you've thoroughly licked your fingers clean and thrown away the evidential bones--try a slice of Granny's Butter Tastin' Sweet Potato Pie. This is the perfect finale to a tasty homestyle Southern meal.
I would like to have tried more at Marilyn's, but I seemingly hit them at the wrong time of day. At 2 p.m. there was no chicken until dinner, and the till couldn't change a $20 bill with a $14.71 tab. Hmmm.
JOE'S B-B-Q IS perhaps less regional in its approach to barbecue, but still manages to offer a fine sampling of this cuisine.
Beef ribs and chicken are the order of the day here. All meals are served with beans and coleslaw, but additional items, such as onion rings and potato salad, can also be ordered.
I must admit to a niggling concern when I first walked through Joe's door because I couldn't smell anything. Very often food employs all the senses, not just taste, and nowhere is aroma more important than in the matter of barbecue. Let's face it, for many of us the scent of burning flesh is downright intoxicating.
Yet at Joe's I detected no tantalizing aromas, no stomach-growling stimuli, nothing. It could just be a good fan system, but I was put on my guard.
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