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Mo Q x 2

In Central Iowa, barbecue has become the most popular restaurant genre of the decade, with a new Q joint opening nearly every month. It’s also the most unpopular when it comes to criticism. Each time I review a new smokehouse, my reader feedback triples. It’s mostly angry mail, too, from vegetarians and environmentalists who find barbecue offensive in principle. I can already hear their collective sigh as the fever to open new barbecue joints has spread so fast that I am forced to double up just to keep pace.

To the “University Strip” in Clive comes Shane’s Rib Shack, a locally owned and cordially operated franchise restaurant from Decatur, Ga. It’s pretty true to its roots, meaning pork predominates and chicken is included, but not beef. Other Georgia touches include Brunswick stew, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, cobbler and tea sold by the gallon. Like most of the new generation barbecues, Shane’s smokes its meats in an environmentally friendly manner with wood pellets and gas. Unfortunately, this seems to please neither environmentalists or smoke purists. Shane’s also preps its meats for busy times, with sauces applied to some items. Unlike many new places, the staff at Shane’s was diligent: granting special requests of serious Q lovers that don’t fit their convenience model; and quickly fixing mistakes. For instance, when a dry order came sauced, it was immediately replaced and when the wrong side accompanied a plate, it was replaced free.

Shane’s tour de force is chicken, not ribs. My first BBQ chicken was so good — smoky, moist and ring-colored with a dark but not charred skin — I returned to order it twice more, making sure the smoker had not just gotten lucky. Nothing else compared to the smoked chicken, not the sports bar-quality fried wings, nor the ribs. The latter were above average, but inconsistent — almost impossible to chew off the bone one time and so tender they slipped off the bone another. Pulled pork was too dry on each occasion, but most won’t notice that because of the sweet tomato sauce, more Iowan than Georgian.

Collard greens were overcooked. Large baked beans, with smoked meat added for good flavor, were better. Brunswick stew didn’t wow anyone, tasting like canned vegetables had been included. Peach cobbler came from the soft pastry school, but at under $2, one can’t complain.

On the South Side, Findlay’s Old Time Butcher Shop & Deli is now smoking meats exclusively with white oak. That keeps faith with a pure old time form of the barbecue art. Historically, barbecue developed as a means for butcher shops to preserve meat and to increase their business. This seems to be working at Findlay’s — on each occasion we visited they were doing as much Q as butcher shop business, and many people indulged in both. Not all meats can be smoked daily, so the menu changes. But an entire rib dinner that costs $5.95 is a star draw. A similar plate at Shane’s cost $10, and I preferred the flavor and texture at Findlay’s. I also found the chicken, turkey legs and homemade beef sticks quite good, but can’t endorse the brisket or pulled pork, both dry and sweet sauced. Slaw had a good sweet vinegar base, rather than the usual creamy stuff. Beans were Bushes-like, but with different smoked meats added each time.

Side dishes

A block south of Findlay’s, yet another barbecue, Parker’s, is prepping for opening… In Ankeny, master chef Shad Kirton, formerly of Hotel Pattee’s David’s Milwaukee Diner, says he’s hoping to have Absolute Flavor’s & Smoky D’s BBQ open by May. It will be a catering service with carryout. Kirton is a star on the competition BBQ circuit, so high hopes are justifiable… Jimmy’s BBQ in Ankeny closed, but their outlet in Boone remains open. CV

By Jim Duncan CVFDude@aol.com
Past Food Dude Reviews
Amici Espresso (1-4-07) Bandana's (1-11-07)
Perry hotel (1-18-07) Beyond frozen (1-25-07)
Centro (2-1-07) KC BBQ (2-8-07)
Planet Sub (2-15-07) Trostel’s Greenbriar (2-22-07)
Acapulco (3-1-07) Aryana (3-8-07)
AJ's (3-15-07) Ban Thai (3-22-07)
Two Crop Palace(3-29-07)  

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