Madison, AL – I can finally cross visiting Chuck Wagon BBQ off of my bucket list after paying them a visit this week. My Roadfood buddy Jim and I saddled up and made the trek over to Madison to partake of their highly recommended smoked meats.
We arrived at Chuck Wagon BBQ at about 12:30 pm and the back lot was nearly full, there were only a couple of spaces left so we grabbed one and parked. Not knowing any better since this was our first visit, we walked around to the front entrance and went in. (There is a rear entrance through the screened in patio) There were a few people in line but there wasn’t much of a wait since the plates were being prepared at a fast pace.
The inside of the restaurant is fairly tight with seating being very neighborly, to say the least. There are several tables in the front area and then more out on the screened in patio area, and for the cooler weather they have covered the screen with plastic to knock the wind off.
When you enter and get in line the first thing you have to decide on is your meat de jure, there is a big gent standing there with a variety of knives that he uses to slice your custom order. He piles it on a plate that he sets on a scale so that there is portion control, but even with the scales, the portions served are still generous.
Since I had read that Chuck Wagon BBQ is known for their brisket and sausage more than their pork, I opted for a two meat plate ($13.99) with the smoked brisket and the spicy sausage. I chose coleslaw and BBQ beans as my side items and the meal came with a slice of Texas toast. I decided on the Spicy sauce for my brisket and then added some onion, pickles and jalapeno slices. For my drink, I went with the diet Coke.
Jim also ordered a brisket plate ($11.49), along with BBQ beans, coleslaw and a slice of Texas toast. He decided on the medium sauce with his meal.
The brisket on first taste did have a light smoky smell and taste to it. It was however overly tender in that it was overcooked, and the texture when you put it in your mouth reminded me of roast beef rather than smoked beef. I did observe that they hold their meat in plastic bags which has a tendency to continue to cook the meat even at the minimum holding temperature required by the health department. I also had gotten the spicy sausage which to me was just lightly spicy, it could have used a bit more of the cayenne pepper or whatever spice they were using. It did still have a good taste and texture to it, I definitely would order it again.
The barbecue beans were really good also, they did have a good flavor which was infused with meat chunks and was the star of the side items. My other side, the coleslaw was very interesting, it looked like it had been chopped up with a hatchet it was so coarse. It was supposed to have been a vinegar slaw, but someone forgot to add the vinegar to the batch mine came out of. The Texas toast was just that, nothing fancy about it.
Jim thought the brisket was overcooked and light on the smoke also. He stated that in his opinion we’d had better brisket at other places in the area. His opinion on the slaw was that it looked good but didn’t have much taste to it, more like eating raw cabbage he thought. Jim did like the sausage also, he thought it was the star of the meat show. The medium sauce in Jim’s opinion was just average.
After reading reviews by other diners on various sites and other bloggers on Zomato.com, we had expected to have our socks blown off with big smoked beef flavor. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, maybe we just hit them on an off day or they were serving brisket leftovers, but as always, our reviews are based on what we were served.
Our overall opinion was that it was a good attempt at Texas-style barbecue, but did miss the mark. Both of us have eaten Texas style barbecue in some of the big names and not so big name places in our travels in Texas. It was, however, worth going to try out, but we won’t be driving for over an hour again to eat there.