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Smokin' Bob is back


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POSTED: Sunday, March 08, 2009

The cult of personality is a strange and powerful force. I don't normally follow celebrities just for their celebrity. There must be some substance about them that earns my respect. Yet, on Twitter.com, I found myself strangely drawn to follow Jimmy Fallon and, far stranger, for reasons still unfathomable to me, Britney Spears.

               

     

 

BOB BARR'S SMOKIN BOB BARR-B-Q

        46-132 Kahuhipa St. / 235-4004
       

Food: ;*;* ;*
        Service: ;*;*;*
        Ambience: ;*;*;*
        Value: ;*;*;* ;*

       

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays
        Cost: About $25 to $35 for two

       

 

       

This is the reason I don't pal around with chefs. Any closeness could be called into question when writing a review, and it's hard to gauge to what extent a restaurateur's personality comes into play in one's experience of a restaurant.

Bob Barr's Smokin' Bob Barr-B-Q is back, after a seven-year absence, at its original location next to Barr's muffler shop. When I found out, I rushed over for old times' sake, to see if the ribs and sides were truly as good as I remembered.

The original restaurant opened in 1996 as a way of helping to pay the rent, allowing Barr to keep his muffler shop prices low. The makeshift endeavor, which closed in 2001 due to illness in the family, has been formalized over the time it was taken over by a Mexican restaurant, fortified by fencing and Barr's welded saguaro cactus creations.

I kind of miss the old days and the food that came out of his small customized Texas Pitts & Spitt Smoker. His new smoker is a shiny, formidable bit of culinary gadgetry occupying prime real estate in the dining room, and the results aren't as backyard casual and delectable as I remembered. And the missing ingredient might well be the personality of the big guy himself.

Some might describe Bob as grumpy, but I think he's a colorful straight-talker whose company can add flavor to a meal. If he's not on the floor, it feels like something is missing. You can check out one of my interviews with him, in which he shares the tale of his startup, here: archives.starbulletin.com/98/07/17/features/story1.html.

I ALWAYS feel the only thing worth ordering at a smokehouse is the pork. Here, you have the option of ordering $9.99 small plates (two rib bones and two sides) or $21.50 large (five rib bones and three sides). Try the thick steak fries as one of your side choices.

The pork is slathered with a treacly, tart barbecue sauce that I wish was served on the side instead. I've never understood why so many want to cover up the flavor of the smoke and meat. Adding the sauce almost defeats the purpose of smoking.

Because the flavor of the meat is buried, you can almost get the taste experience by ordering the smoked tofu ($9.99 small, $14.99 large). Yes, the texture is totally different, but the flavors of smoke and barbecue sauce are the same as any of the meat dishes, and it would be a little more healthful.

The staff made a great sales pitch for their foot-long “;Bob-asaurus”; ribs bearing a pound of meat. In all my experiences with beef ribs, the result has been more wearable than edible, but this was something I had to see, and it was truly like something out of “;The Flintstones,”; overhanging the Styrofoam container so it wouldn't even close. Yes, there was a lot of meat on it that they nicely sliced for us. (I couldn't even imagine picking up and gnawing on that giant rib.) But for me the flavor and texture of smoked beef doesn't match the succulence of pork.

Smoked chicken ($9.99 on a small plate) was dry as part of Smokin' Bob's Tex-Mex Special ($19.99), which also included fatty smoked beef brisket, cole slaw, delicious Barr-B-Q beans with a good helping of diced smoked pork, and a large taco. The taco was a pleasant surprise, filled with smoked chicken and spicy chipotle aioli. Next time, I'd probably consider getting a taco plate ($10.99 for one, $15.99 for two) or quesadilla plate ($10.99). Both come with beef, pork, chicken or smoked tofu options.

Also on the menu is meat and tofu by the pound, at $7.99 for tofu to $14.90 for Chicago-cut ribs.

No dessert is offered, but after such heavy intake, resting your stomach would probably be a good idea.

 

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin.