Vegetarians be aware that this post is all about the meat. Proceed forward at your own risk of giving in to the power of the 'que.
I don't think I ever tire of trying yet another round of BBQ. I should, especially according to all the critics of the meat-eaters among us, but I always go back for more.
This evening I sampled the pulled pork and smoked sausage at Bandana's Bar-B-Q in Collinsville, Illinois. The pork had what I call the "right" flavor for bbq, that smoky goodness that enhances the flavor of the meat without overpowering it. In my rule book for achieving smoked meat nirvana, when the meat is cooked correctly the sauce is merely an additional flavor, rather than what acutally gives the meat flavor.
As for the smoked sausage, it too had the right flavor. However I think that the chef failed to recognize that fat renders differently in different cuts of meat. I found the smoked sausage a little too fatty for my taste, but the pork clearly had just enough fat to protect it from drying out when cooked. Then again, I am a bit of a tough customer.
Side items of fried corn on the cob, fries, green beans and some of the best garlic bread I've had in a while rounded out the meal. The garlic bread was buttery enough that I know I'll be breaking out the running shoes the day I get home, yet not so heavy on the garlic that the next morning's cereal will taste like a bowl full of garlic. It's not an easy balance to achieve, but pull it off nicely.
The atmosphere is pretty simple and laid back. Meals are served on melamine dishes with metal pans direct from the restaurant supply style underneath serving as a fancy charger with a simplistic twist. Even the salads arrive in a metal mixing bowl. Quirky, but practical too.
The most notable thing however was a kind gesture made by the waitress. My husband ordered the smoked sausage and after dinner it looked like he'd moved it around on his plate. (He too wasn't all that impressed with the sausage part.) The waitress asked if he didn't like it, and when he explained it wasn't really all that great, she offered to replace it with something else. He declined. A few minutes later she brought the check to the table and had not charged us for his meal. He offered to pay for it, but she insisted that it was the right thing to do. I have to admire any small business that gives its employees the leeway to make such a gesture, even if it wasn't truly necessary. The fact she did that left an impression on me, enough to make it worthy of mentioning here. So if you're in the Collinsville, Illinois area and looking for some BBQ, stop in at Bandana's, although I'd probably skip the smoked sausage.