Actually, the blogger, Jimmy Ho, didn’t weigh in. “I did help contribute to the list,” he wrote, but he added, “I am not going to write about any of the places I visited on my blog.” (I’m guessing that maybe his arrangement with Texas Monthly prohibited him from using his work for the magazine on his own blog, but that’s just a guess, and, really, an irrelevant one.)
Ho instead posted photos of the many joints he’d visited in and around Houston, Victoria, Gonzales, and Elgin. (I won’t quibble with his counting a barbecue-and-sushi restaurant in Spring as a barbecue joint).
“I will let the pictures tell the story,” he said.
He then quoted a tweet by Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly’s barbecue editor, who said last summer:
I truly believe I could write barbecue reviews to 90% accuracy based on photos of the meat alone. https://t.co/dTfQcLIekH
— Daniel Vaughn (@BBQsnob) July 26, 2016
I’ve known Daniel casually for years, since before he was hired in 2013 as Texas Monthly’s first and only barbecue editor – “a position,” The New York Times noted at the time, “that exists at no other magazine in America.”
We’re hardly close – I doubt that he would recognize me if we were standing in line together at Franklin or Snow’s – but the Texas barbecue universe, while vast, is not infinite, and we’ve run into each other more than once on the road. While I sometimes find his reviews to be overly kind (his Twitter handle is @BBQsnob, but he really isn’t), I have great respect for his energy, his enthusiasm, and the vital role that I believe he has played in elevating Texas barbecue to the status of a nationally prized native cuisine.
So I have to believe that he sent that tweet out in jest.
Because otherwise, he’s full of smoked baloney.
It’s plainly silly to suggest that one can judge barbecue by its looks. Many members of this Posse are professional photographers, and damned talented ones, and even they would never make such a claim.
In visiting scores of joints, we’ve seen brisket that was beautifully crusted but had no more smokiness than cafeteria roast beef. We’ve been served meaty, picture-perfect ribs that were tougher than a plug of tobacco, or utterly bland once we got past the rub and glistening veneer of sauce. We’ve bitten into plump, juicy sausages, only to discover that a few hours in the pit hadn’t carried them far from their previous home, the frozen-foods section of Sam’s Club.
We’ve been disappointed more than once – and, I daresay, more than 10 percent of the time – by the looks of a plate of barbecue.
I suppose Daniel is correct that you can spot crappy barbecue from a photo. (If it looks crappy, it probably is.)
But other than that … No.
A photo of a rose doesn’t smell like a rose. A photo of a sunset doesn’t convey the majesty of a sunset. A photo of a Victoria’s Secret model … well, you get the idea.
In the end, there’s only one true test. It’s the one at the top of our homepage, a slice of timeless wisdom from Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins:
Let the meat speak for itself.