We walked into Jones Bar-B-Que, not far from downtown Victoria, at 6:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. There was no line.
The joint touts its “learned in the pits of Texas” style. “Brisket to blow you away. Pork that’ll put you down for the count. Smoked slow,” Jones’ Web site says.
Liam Harlow, the manager who greeted us at the order counter, continued with the hard Texas pitch. Before Harlow got too carried away, though, Posse member Bryan Gooding asked him if he had seen the license plates on our car, parked just outside the front door. The Goodings — Bryan and Martha — moved from Dallas to nearby Lopez Island recently but their Subaru still carries Texas plates.
When Harlow learned we were from Texas and had eaten at the great Texas places, he re-emphasized his joint’s Lone Star-methods and asked for our feedback after we had eaten.
Here it is: Not bad, overall, but Jones would not rank among the best of Texas barbecue joints, like we recently thought of Adamson Barbecue in Toronto. The meats were cooked pretty well — tender and moist — but there wasn’t enough smoke flavor. And the rubs needed more punch, starting with more salt and pepper.
We had ordered a platter of brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork and sausage, with some side dishes. I requested fatty brisket, but we got lean. Still, it was almost melt-in-your-mouth tender.
“It could be great with more seasoning,” Martha said.
Martha, our Posse food stylist, complimented Jones’ platter presentation.
“This place knows how to plate,” she said.
Of the four Posse tasters, Sherry Jacobson was the most reserved. “I would say it’s edible,” she said of the barbecue.
Bryan was the most positive. He thought Jones Bar-B-Que might rank somewhere among the Top 50 Texas joints. “It’s better than I’ve had at many places in Texas,” he said.
Bryan photographed Harlow and crew in the kitchen and learned that the joint cooks its briskets for 10 hours in the smoker, then wraps them in foil, with drippings, and puts them in the oven until they reach an internal temperature of 205 degrees. Then, they are pulled and put in a warmer.
Considering how long the meats might have been in the warmer, I was surprised at the tenderness and moistness of the brisket. The St. Louis style ribs, though, didn’t fare as well.. They seemed a bit shrunken and the meat came too easily off the bone.
The joint uses a Cookshack electric smoker and oak and maple wood pellets.
A long time ago, I was much more purist — obstinate? — about smokers. It had to be an offset, wood-fired machine. But as I’ve matured, I’ve become more agnostic on the smoking device. Good barbecue can be produced on many different kinds of cookers.
I did continue to wonder whether our late-in-the-day arrival might have affected the quality of barbecue we received. An overnight cooking routine means a long time in the warmer for meats served at dinner time.
“Maybe,” Bryan said. “But even if we had come earlier in the day there wouldn’t have been more smoke or spice on that meat.”
Jones Bar-B-Que, 1725 Cook Street, Victoria, B.C. Open daily from 11 a.m. until sold out.