Diner in disguise: Barbecue delight
Do you ever watch those barbecue competitions on television? Those folks are serious!
Beef brisket, pulled pork, chicken, pork ribs … and the sides, although perhaps not as important, are still really important. I saw an episode once where two contestants almost came to blows over their cornbread. Everyone has his or her own version of what they believe defines authentic barbecue. Part exact science (spice mixtures, cooking time, etc), part gut feeling (due to experience and time spent with the grill) and part tradition (how “daddy used to do it”). From the time the first caveman tossed a pterodactyl wing on the fire there has been heated debate over who’s the master pit man.
Me, I’m not a cook. I’m just happy as a grilled cob of corn to leave all that stuff to the pros. You folks who live in the Cameron Park area, whether you realize it or not, have your very own award winning pit champion serving up some amazing barbecue at reasonable prices at Sierra Smokehouse BBQ.
I arrive with two coworkers at precisely 11:30 a.m. There’s a big honkin’ jet black barbecue taking up one of the parking spots in the front, and it’s smokin’ up a storm. It’s an excellent start.
The inside is no-frills with about seven or eight tables, nothing fancy, which is just how I like it. Candles, waiters in tuxedo or fancy white tablecloths are all clear signs of danger when entering a rib joint, and you should most definitely run for the hills should any of these be present upon your arrival. All of Sierra’s meats are hand trimmed and smoked to “barbecue competition specifications” (see, there’s that science thing I mentioned earlier!), as set forth by the Kansas City Barbeque Society.
I look at the menu: spare ribs plate for $12.50; BBQ Addicts Combination plate for $19.95 (before you wince at the price, here’s what you get: four spare ribs, a half pound of pulled pork, a half pound of chopped beef brisket, three chicken thighs, two huge pieces of cornbread, and four choices from their list of daily side dishes!) and numerous other family style combinations.
I saw plenty of individual lunch items as well, and I chose the Big “E” sandwich, which is basically a half pound of pulled pork served on a large roll of your choice with one side dish. “Q” chose the regular pulled pork sandwich (about half the meat of mine) and exclaimed that it was “moist, tasty and delicious.” And the third person at our table, “R.E.”, chose the monstrous chicken sandwich on a very fresh whole wheat roll. She said the chicken had a “whole lotta flavor” and the honey mustard barbecue sauce was the perfect complement. Her side salad was a refreshing accompaniment to the smokiness of the sandwich.
In order for me to wrap my mouth around my sandwich I had to push half the meat off to the side for later consumption to make room for my coleslaw which, as all purists will tell you, is the only way to eat a pulled pork sandwich. It was phenomenally delicious, and the Hawaiian roll added a fluffy sweetness and added to the enjoyment. The meat was tender, smoky and certainly plentiful.
As I finished my sandwich and started on the mound of “extra” meat, mixing my coleslaw around in it, the owner, who had been going around the tables chatting with the customers in between running back and forth to his outside grill, vindicated me by remarking that I was eating the pulled pork “the traditional way.”
This is barbecue of the highest order, my friends, and I suggest you make your way over there and say hi to Ed as soon as possible. It’s hard enough to find a restaurant that’s so good you become a regular, and rarer still to find one with an owner/chef that really cares about you and your experience.
Sierra Smokehouse BBQ & Custom Catering is located at 2533 Merrychase Drive, Suite 400, in Cameron Park. Their phone number is (530) 672-7477. They are open Monday-Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sundays.