Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar
Please note that this review is based on my third time eating at Brazen BBQ Smokehouse & Bar. During my first meal I ordered a brisket sandwich. The second time I ate here I also ordered the same sandwich along with the baby back port ribs. Here is a photo from our appetizer that we started off with.
The appetizer was a happy hour 3 item option we ordered for $6.00. The plate included fried okra, pig candy and smoked wings. I'll start with the fried okra. It good as far as okra goes. If you don't mind a little bit of the slimy texture, then you would like this. The crust was very nice and crispy; well seasoned also. After about 12 pieces it got boring though. The pig candy is literally bacon cooked with the rub that goes on almost all of the entrees, but I'll get to that later. Lastly, the smoked wings. Wow! These were sooooo good! This was by far the best item on the plate. They looked very nice as far as appearance goes. The texture was perfect with crispy skin, but tender on the inside. As soon as I ripped the crispy skin off I could easily see that these wings were smoked due to their color. Flavor-wise, these are totally on point. Nothing at all I would change about these. I would definitely eat these wings again. I could easily pass on the bacon though because it was over-seasoned.
For the main course of the meal I ordered the 2 person combo platter. The combo includes 2 meats, 2 sides and we added an extra meat for $6.99. The meats included were baby back pork ribs, beef brisket, and pulled pork. For the sides we got crusty mac and cheese and french fries. They include a piece of corn bread as well. Details on pricing are below in the receipt image.
I'll start with the cornbread. It had good texture and flavor. It was some really good cornbread. On to the mac and cheese. Well, from the photo you can see that the top was burned. Yes, overcooked to the point of being burned. Being crispy is one thing and most of it was, but we had to eat around the burned part. As far as the inside (under the cripsy cheesy crust) the noodles looked just like they came from a box of Kraft and was a bit watery / soupy. The flavor was good, but a thicker cheesy sauce would have been a little nicer to fully enjoy this side dish. As far as the fries, they were cooked perfectly, just way over seasoned. The over-seasoning leads me straight to the pulled pork. It had the same dusted rub all over it, but it was very salty and overpowering. I could see some of the smoke ring color on the pulled pork, but the saltiness covered up all the other flavors. I tried adding their "competition bbq sauce" on the pulled pork (AMAZING quality sauce) but it just couldn't cover up that salty flavor.
Moving on to the ribs; they were really good on top, bark included. However, we ordered them with sauce on top and they were bare as you can see in the photo. That's an easy fix, but the membrane on the back of the ribs ruined any potential of tender texture. More on the membrane later on. The last aspect of this combo platter is the beef brisket. I've never seen brisket cut so thick. This leads to it being tough and hard to chew. The meat was almost an inch thick to clarify. That's not how their brisket was cut for their sandwiches that I had on my first and second trips here. The meat literally tasted just like roast beef, NOT like smokey beef brisket. There was very little seasoning or flavor to this brisket. More on this later as well.
Did you notice the discount? Well, the general manager asked us for our honest feedback on the entire meal including service and food. I told her that the service was great and there we no issues on that. She sensed our hesitation and wanted to know about the food. I told her that the brisket was very tough and nothing like what I had tasted on my previous 2 trips to the same restaurant. She admitted that when they had been preparing our meal in the kitchen, she had walked by and saw that the meat was being cut in the wrong direction (meaning, not against the grain). This caught me by surprise because obviously she knew it was not good quality but still allowed the food to be served like that. This is why she took off the appetizer because the beef brisket was bad. We did not try to say much, but she insisted that we give her as much feedback as possible. We really appreciated the discount, but would prefer just having had the right food from the start to avoid all this. It made us very uncomfortable to have to answer her questions so directly. However, she asked us to give her feedback to help her and the restaurant. Please note here that she has no idea who I am.
Lastly, on our way out, she apologized again which was very kind. I asked her casually about the membrane on the back of the ribs and if they usually leave it on or how they treat that aspect of the ribs. She replied with, "we leave the membrane on intentionally. If we took if off all the way the ribs would just fall off the bone since we smoke them for 6 hours. So the way we handle this is by cutting an 'X' into the membrane so it sort of falls off, but still keeps all the meat together". I've never heard of anyone ever doing this in my entire life. I have no idea what she means the meat will fall off the bone because the top side was not even close to falling off the ribs. The number 1 thing that any professional bbq pitmaster will tell you when cooking ribs is to take the dang membrane off. I understand that restaurants run differently, but I've never heard and explanation like this; it felt more of a bad excuse to me. This is intentionally done for competition BBQ because judges focus on texture as a main category of scoring. I do realize this meal was not during a competition, but keep in mind that the restaurant has many trophies all over the place and they also have information about being bbq competitors on their website. This makes one assume that their food would be similar at least to what judges would be eating during competitions; if not, then their advertising would be a bit misleading.
This review was not requested by the restaurant. Daniel Lubin has not received any financial compensation for writing this review. All food was purchased by Daniel Lubin. Daniel Lubin paid for all travel expenses in order to eat at this restaurant. In fact, the general manager has tried multiple times to offer coupons and discounts for me to return to the restaurant as an attempt to get me to change my review and I have not responded or accepted these offers. I will not take payment from restaurants in order to write a review for them. This is not ethical! I strive to provide the most honest, unbiased, accurate, and helpful information. To clarify about the $6.00 discount, I was provided with this because of the poor quality of the food that I was served. I did not ask for this discount and I even tried to refuse it because I don't want to let this type of thing affect my judgment when reviewing a restaurant.