In my search for truly excellent BBQ, I expose myself to a myriad of offerings that I would not foist on another. This is my burden to bear. I do not intentionally seek out poor quality food, so when others say a BBQ restaurant isn’t any good I usually steer clear. However, there is an abundance of barbecue joints that get a bit of attention by locals (and sometimes Bar-B-Q reviewers), and I feel like I should find out for myself if it deserves the attention.
Mama & Papa B’s BBQ is just one such restaurant. It receives 4.6/5 stars on Google+, 4 stars on Yelp, 91% on Urban Spoon, etc., so I figured it was worth a try. Comments such as “Had the ribs and brisket and they were the best I’ve had”, “MAMA and PAPA B’S is as good as I have found anywhere, maybe better”, and “They have the best BBq around town” gave me reason enough to darken its door.
Pulling up to the location, it screams DIVE, but don’t most of the best BBQ joints? I went in undeterred to find Mama B sitting in the corner by the front door smoking her cigarettes. Now, I love the smell of smoke, and expect my clothes to evince where I ate that day, but I do not enjoy smelling cigarette smoke when eating.
Mama & Papa B’s BBQ has been a Waco institution for 32 years, and with its ratings, I powered on through the cigarette smoke and made my way to the counter to order up my food. Papa B took my three-meat order, and proceeded to pick through the thinly slice lean brisket looking for the moistest pieces he could find (I order MOIST brisket as a rule, and I’ve seen other places that do this same trick. They use the moist brisket for making chopped beef sandwiches, and use only lean brisket for slicing.) I knew I was in trouble at this point.
The electric knife came out to cut through the tough leathery bark of the ribs, and I contemplated calling it a day. Not to be denied, I stood unwavering as he packed my Styrofoam box and placed a piece of homemade cake on top and directed me to the coolers to pick out a “soda water” to go with my meal.
Well, what can I say? It was lean brisket passed off as moist. I shouldn’t go on, but I will. It was tender enough to eat (albeit thinly sliced to make it so) with a hint of smoke ring and a slight bark. The brisket was overcooked, which dried up the fat and cooked it all away. I took a couple bites, sampled a few different pieces, and promptly moved on to the ribs.
I sampled the rib tips (chewy and tough), gnawed on the bone a little, and chewed on the leathery bark for a bit before putting it down as well. There was little flavor, and frankly not worth eating.
Well, it was Elgin sausage that was decently prepared. It was ok at best, but by this point, I was ready to move on to the cake.
The cake was the best thing I ate from Mama & Papa B’s BBQ. It was moist, light, and had a subtle frosting that belied the skill of the baker. Maybe they should rename it Mama B’s Bakery and be done with barbecue.
The potato salad was creamy, and not very appetizing. The beans were bland, ranch-style pinto beans. All in all, I was very disappointed and went looking for something else to eat for lunch.
OVERALL RATING: REVIEWED