Sometimes it's as plain as the nose on your face.

Since coming to central Texas, I've passed numerous businesses to and from my daily obligations.  I always say to myself, "Hey, there's a place I have to try." One of these has been Chuck's barbecue restaurant.  Actually, the full name of the establishment is "Chuck's Pea Ridge Bar-B-Q and Steakhouse."  That's very helpful: it tells you exactly where the restaurant is, on the corner of W. Adams Ave. and South Pea Ridge Road.

This past Saturday, I was hankering for some genuine Central Texas brisket.  There are several options in Temple that are just dandy, not to mention the surrounding areas, but I was famished and didn't feel like driving.  I had passed Chuck's a thousand times and had noticed there were usually plenty of cars out front. That's always a good sign. However, I didn't know the kind of seating that was available in the restaurant, and being a plus-size guy, I didn't want to risk the embarrassment of walking in to a place which had nothing but booths.  (Restaurant owners, just so you know, the customers most likely to spend more in your restaurant, namely fat guys, detest booths because they are an impediment to eating more food. And breathing.)

I needn't have worried.  There were some booths, but also tables and comfy chairs all around. (For the record, there's a barbecue place which will remain nameless that I have not frequented for the simple reason that their dining room is full of picnic tables and benches. Highly uncomfortable. For fat guys, that is.)   Once I sat down and settled in, I was in the zone, a mood for eating some Q.


Lemme tell you something: after ordering a two-meat plate - my go-to selection at all bbq joints - I was quickly rewarded.  It took virtually no time for the food to arrive.

The sliced brisket was moist and tender, the way it should be.  The pulled pork was tasty as well, although it seemed slightly chopped. I'm no sticker as long as the finished product tastes great. It did, and with that tangy, savory sauce which came on the side, it was just the right balance between smoky and sweet.

As for the two sides, I chose two southern styled stalwarts, namely potato salad and fried okra.  It seemed the potato salad was made with mashed potatoes. Some purists bemoan this, and I must admit my mother's recipe – which is my gold standard, naturally – uses sliced russet potatoes. Chuck's potato salad was very tasty and, as I'm a fan of mashed potatoes myself, I thought it was perfectly satisfactory. As for the okra, I'm of the belief there's one fried okra factory in the whole world and that everyone uses it, which is why fried okra everywhere looks and tastes the same. I could be wrong. Still, as long as the cook doesn't screw it up, you can't go wrong with fried okra.

As with every barbecue place in Central Texas, I was given complementary onions and pickles. These I put to good use, chopping them up and putting them into the meat and potatoes. I was also given two slices of Texas toast which I initially thought were burned in the toaster given their dark coloration. However, these appeared to have been cooked on the grill and possessed a lot of the same delightful spices as the meats. The center of the toast was soft and warm - just perfect.

Upon completion, I was asked by my friendly waitress if I had saved room for cobbler. I wish I had.  If it was half as good as the rest the stuff I ate, it would've been fantastic.

I'm sorry I didn't pop in to Chuck's sooner. I found out that some of the dishes they are known for are not exactly barbecue: chicken fried steak, steak fingers, and fried catfish.   As it turns out, they are really known for that fried catfish. The thing is, I grew up near some of the best fried seafood restaurants on the planet, so it would have been unfair to a barbecue restaurant to judge them based on the fish given a Cajun palate was doing the judging.  I will try in the future.

Open since 1979, Chuck's ranks up there with some of the other renowned barbecue places in the area. And since they're convenient to me, chances are they'll be seeing me again.

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