Dating a Texan has certainly given me a taste of my own medicine. Over the years, people have called me a food snob, beer snob, wine snob, etc. And I'd always try to explain that, no, I'm not a snob-it's just that once you get used to a certain level of quality, it's hard not to notice when something doesn't measure up.
I am learning to accept that I am dating a barbecue snob. In her defense, I've been to Texas and eaten the barbecue. She's right. There really is no comparison between there and here. This was hammered home the other night, when we went and checked out a new (to us, anyway) barbecue spot in Clairemont, Lightnin' Jack's.
She was cautiously optimistic as we scoped the menu. Not only was there brisket, but also fried okra-two Texas staples. Me, I was pleased with the beer selection-heavily weighted toward Stone and Ballast Point, both of which produce some great barbecue-friendly beers.
We settled on brisket, pork ribs and fried okra. For the included sides, we opted for coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad.
It wasn't long (a little too quick, in fact) before the food got to our table. Everything looked good to me, but she cast a critical eye on the brisket, pointing out that it was swimming in far too much sauce. The brisket was a little disappointing. The meat wasn't juicy, like it should be, and it was tough. Any traces of smoke were obliterated by a sugary blast of barbecue sauce.
Texas-style sauce is typically sweet, and a little goes a long way. I thought Lightnin' Jack's sauce was actually pretty good, tangy, with a mild kick on the finish. I'm guessing that it's a doctored-up commercial product, but it's tasty nevertheless. That being said, less is definitely more.
The ribs were much better than the brisket. Brushed with just the right amount of sauce, they had a nicely browned crust and were very tender and flavorful-with meat that pulled easily away from the bones. My girl even gave them the thumbs-up, which is high praise, indeed.
The sides were also good, for the most part. The slaw and potato salad tasted fresh, and were not excessively dressed. Both were clearly made on premises; the potato salad had a nice onion flavor, and the slaw was mildly sweet and crisp. The only weak spot here were the baked beans, which tasted canned.
Overall, Lightnin' Jack's offers decent Q by San Diego standards. It's not the best in town, but I've definitely had worse. Prices are reasonable, with brisket and pulled pork going for $9, ribs for $13 to $17, depending on whether you get a half- or full-slab. Lightnin' Jack's is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, and to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.