BBQ City Limits: PoK-e-Jo's
An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
9828 Great Hills Trail. 338-1990, more locations at www.pokejos.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.04.12
I can’t remember the last time I paid for PoK-e-Jo’s barbecue. The newspaper would hire them to show up around Thanksgiving and Christmas to feed us en masse. And those people could slice brisket and turkey as fast as a deli blade, the knife flashing off a half-dozen slices of the kind of barbecue you’d expect to get at an office feed.
PoK-e-Jo’s earns points for consistency, because the in-store experience at this shop in the five-store local chain was a lot like the catering gig. First a slicing station, then a hot line for sides and cobbler and a cold station with potato salad, slaw and banana pudding. A three-meat plate is $10.99 with two sides and Texas toast. They must have brought the better brisket to the office, because those slices held together. At the shop, even the moist-cut brisket crumbled to beef bits, and if I hadn’t watched the man slice it, I’d have guessed this was chopped beef. Might as well have been, because it carried just trace amounts of the crust and skin and rub that brings character to this humble cut. The smoke had faded to the same sleepy level as the lazy flashes of pink. Barbecue with all the character washed and dried away,
The rest of the plate followed that model, with short, mealy-grained pork ribs sent from mass-market barbecue’s Central Casting Office and dry, grainy beef sausage. I added a few slices of pork loin at $12.99 a pound, and it was the white-meat version of the stiff, dry brisket, except that it cleaved together in dense fibers with a rubbery sweetened rind.
Two sides: I had good memories of Thanksgiving green bean casserole from the catered days, and it’s as simple as that dish gets: can-quality cut beans, mushy fried onions and an off-white bonding agent. The casserole cavalcade also lines up with jalapeño-cornbread, baked-potato and broccoli-rice renditions. The last one rounds out the family-safe homogeneity of the PoK-e-Jo’s experience, with chopped broccoli and yellow cheese holding together kernels of white rice and black pepper. Sides are $1.29 a half-order. Two of the best sides here are free: chunks of crispy garlic dill pickles and rippled coins of sweet spiced pickles with dark green skins.
Dessert: Peach cobbler ($2.25/large) kept the consistency streak going, with clumps of rubbery dough in syrupy union with soft peaches sweetened almost enough to mask that almost fermented funk that follows cooked peaches around like a rumor.
Sauce: The original red sauce reminded me of condensed tomato soup reconstituted with dark molasses, at once overly sweet and acidic. A chipotle version helps cut through the sweetness. You’ll need something to moisten and flavor the brisket, and it’s the option you’re left with.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)