Years ago, I met my dream brisket in Lockhart, Texas, at a place called Kreuz Market. Your choice of fatty or lean beef, sliced to order from oak-fueled brick pits and piled on butcher paper. Those supple slices of smoky, juicy beef hit my carnivore DNA so hard my caveman forefathers could feel it.
So while One-Eyed Jack's brisket is the best I've had so far in Western New York, it's not tops on my personal brisket scale.
It was moist enough, and slices came apart with a gentle tug. Still, I was hoping for more smoke and a bit of "bark," spice-crusted exterior that offers contrast to the soft insides.
Even with my barbecue pickiness, there's lots to like about One-Eyed Jack's as a barbecue joint.
Its meat offerings are fairly consistent, most with appropriate red rings on the exteriors testifying to their prolonged exposure to smoke. There's plenty of non-barbecue items to accommodate people who are eating lighter, including salads and catfish.
And the prices are reasonable. It was $12.95 for a brisket platter, which came with two sides and garlic bread, like all of One Eyed Jack's entrees. We got spare ribs, too, ($22.95 for a full rack, $15.95 for half).
Two-meat combos are $12.95, three-ways $16.95. We got the chicken, sliced smoked Italian sausage, pulled pork and smoked corned beef.
My favorite meat was the salty, slightly fatty smoked corned beef. It seemed to soak up the hickory scent more deeply than the others. More aggressive spicing and you could call it pastrami. Considering how much I liked it, I would strongly consider the "BBQ Reuben" sandwich next time ($10.50 with a pickle and a side, like all sandwiches).
The ribs were better than average, rub-crusted and tender, with pork pulling cleanly from the bone. The meat was delicious without sauce. Everyone wanted more. The chicken was smoky and moist. The smoked sausage was tasty but drier than I like.
The pulled pork was sad, not particularly smoky and it was stringy in a way that made me wonder how it had been reheated. It was the only meat left on any of the plates when we were finished.
We also tried the chili and the Brunswick stew, a traditional concoction of leftover barbecue and vegetables. The chili was smoky, with chunks of meat and assertive chile pepper flavor. The stew was lighter, slightly sweet, with chunks of potatoes, corn and other vegetables.
The sides were solid, but short of swoonful. Beans were sticky as molasses, the coleslaw crunchy and plenty sweet. Salt potatoes were firm and tender, French fries were crispy enough and corn with red and green bell peppers was a bright spot. The potato salad was fresh tasting and colored with chile powder, but otherwise unremarkable.
Cat liked the macaroni salad best, built on firm pasta that wasn't drowned in mayonnaise. No cornbread.
The consensus favorite was the garlic toast, crunchy slabs that vanished swiftly. Iced tea, available unsweetened, tasted freshly brewed. Orange cream soda from Saranac was also popular among the younger crowd.
Service was pleasant, with our server getting major points from the assorted minors for producing "Star Wars" coloring books and crayons.
We didn't get the honey-garlic and raspberry barbecue sauces we requested to accompany the ribs. But the ribs didn't scream out for sauce, and there were two kinds on the table.
Dessert was slices of chocolate chip cookie pie and peanut butter pie.
Warmed up, the chocolate chip pie resembled cookie dough dotted with whipped cream. Others devoured it, a touch too sweet for me. The peanut butter pie contained a rich, frozen mousse that could have been enough for two people.
All in all, a satisfying meal. As long as the pitmasters keep their eyes on consistency, you should expect the same.
7 (out of 10)
Veteran Niagara County barbecue ?specialist offers reliable, smoky meal.
WHERE: 5983 South Transit Road, Lockport ?(438-5414, www.oneeyedjacksbbq.com)
HOURS: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through ?Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon ?to 8 p.m. Sunday.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers, soups $3.50-$10.50; ?sandwiches, burgers $6.95-$10.50
PARKING: In the lot.WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes.