A small bit of backstory first. Mad Jack himself, who appears to be in his 40s, is from Lockhart, Texas. Now obviously, being from Lockhart doesn't a great pitboss make, but it does mean you've grown up around some of the best cue on the planet, unless you're a vegan or suchlike, and I don't think those are too heavy on the ground in Lockhart.
The joint itself is in a two-story, wild west type of structure on Cloudcroft's main drag. And you won't have any trouble whatsoever finding this place--just look for the long line of customers streaming out onto the porch area.
One word of caution: when we visited Mad Jack's there were two raucous dogs on the balcony above the porch. As we were making out way slowly to the head of the line one of those pooches cut loose with a stream of wizz that dripped through the slats above and almost hit a girl in front of us. The whole mob of customers, myself included, guffawed heartily, but she was not amused.
At any rate, the setup is like a typical Texas cue joint. Concrete floor. Open roof area with exposed beams and timbers. Taxidermy specimens and various rural Americana on the walls. You place your order at the beginning of the counter and then make your way down the line where it gets filled. Mad Jack himself runs the the carving station and he's a friendly guy who keeps up a steady line of patter with the customers as he carves the brisket. Your meat is placed on butcher paper. You pay at the cash register on the far end of the counter.
The menu is also typical Texas: brisket, pork ribs, turkey, smoked sausage (including jalapeno cheese), pulled pork, tater salad, beans, cole slaw, mac & cheese, etc. Beef ribs are also on the roster. I don't recollect seeing beer as a drink option, but that's not to say you couldn't bring your own. I really don't know.
Now for the chow itself. I had pork ribs, sausage, cole slaw and beans. The CW had a mix of lean and moist brisket with some burnt ends thrown in for good measure. Two sauces are available on the tables and benches, should you feel compelled to use them.
The ribs have a dark and slightly crispy bark, and the meat itself is tender, requiring a slight tug to separate from the bone rather than falling off the bones. In other words, they have the perfect texture for ribs. The rub is, I suspect, a salt, pepper and brown sugar mixture. The overall sensation is a bit of salt with sweet back-notes. The ribs are simply superb.
The sausage comes from Kreuz Market in Lockhart, and naturally, is exceptional. Each sausage is dark with smoke and curled into a teardrop shape. The filling is slightly coarse and loosely packed, and cutting produces a subtle snap from the casing. The sausages are not particularly spicy, which allows the flavor of post oak smoke and the meat itself to come through. I believe these are mostly beef sausages, but am not absolutely certain. Whatever the meat, it's mighty fine.
As for the brisket, well I'm dam' happy CW allowed me to sample it. Like the ribs, the brisket has a crispy, near black bark, and there is a faint smoke ring around the periphery of each slice. Pretty sure Mad Jack uses a simple salt-and-pepper rub. And oh mercy. This brisket is absolutely out of sight. Tender, flavorful and smokey.
A note on the moist brisket: it is indeed very moist, if you get my drift. If that's the way you like it, you are heaven bound. If considerable fat content scares you, stay away.
The sauces are fine, but nothing really spectacular. The orange sauce has quite a bit of mustard and I figure it would pair well with the turkey. The red sauce is your traditional Texas style, meaning tomato based with a hint of vinegar and sugar. It is quite good, and reminds me of Underwood's BBQ sauce, which is one of my favorites.
Cole slaw is excellent. The vegetables are finely minced and do not drown in mayo. In fact, this slaw leans toward the tangy side with just enough mayo to cut the sour to the perfect level.
But the beans are special. Lots of chili powder and plenty of lean brisket bits to add flavor and interest. These are so good you wouldn't go wrong making a meal of them alone. I've never had better.
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