From the BBQ Guy of Low Budget Reviews…..
While reviewing BBQ places far and wide along the BBQ Road, it is always interesting to hit a local spot to see if they have changed over the years. So I was looking forward to the recent visit to “Pok-E-Jo’s BBQ” in Round Rock. This 5-store local chain has been serving the Austin area since 1979, when several guys, after an evening of beer and not-so-good BBQ at a local joint decided they could do better. The Round Rock location is their second-oldest, opened in 1992 and is the hub of their catering business. They have the sign from the original store.
Walking through the heavy wooden doors, the smell of smoking meats washes over you like high tide on the beach. There are 3 actual BBQ pits in the restaurant and they are going 24-7. The décor is standard Texas BBQ with mounted deer heads, license plates, old metal logos from gas stations and soda pop. Even an post office sign from somewhere in New Mexico. The serving line is close to the carving stations where a large, but difficult to read sign posts the offerings, and specials of the day. The staff is young, competent, very friendly and quick. Instead of the usual 2-meat plate, I opt for the 3-meat plate instead, adding ribs to the brisket and sausage and 2 sides with Texas Toast on my plate. The sides offered are extensive, unusual for a BBQ place, including baked spuds, jalapeno corn bread casserole, fried okra, and others along with the usual suspects. My companion opted for the coleslaw and green bean casserole while I stayed with coleslaw and potato salad.
So how was it? Well the sides had a mixed response. The coleslaw was obviously freshly prepared, unusual in that the cabbage was sliced in large strips. It made for an appealing dish, but was very bland. The potato salad had a little kick, extra dill pickle perhaps, and was very chunky, but could have used additional mustard. I won’t say bland, but perhaps just OK-not-quite great. The green bean casserole was delicious, hot, smooth, crispy. Very well done.
The sweet tea tasted commercial brand and was a disappointment.
The brisket was thoroughly cooked, but was not particularly tender. There was no evidence of a smoke ring. The sausage was cut into thin slices and looked prepared on-site. It was very coarse ground, not greasy at all, with what appeared to be black pepper and some other seasonings not often tasted elsewhere. The ribs were small, not tender, average in meat content, but good smoky taste. You are given the option of sauce or no sauce and there is a table in the middle of the place for more sauce if’n ya need it. There are two types of sauce, once is spicier than the other.
Grade? The sides get a solid “B” for wide selection, but need some work. The Brisket gets a “C”, just average. The sausage gets an “A” and the ribs a “C”. Overall, I give a “B-“ (B-minus). I believe that when restaurants get into the catering business, they learn to deal with economies of scale, finding ways of preparing foods economically, quickly, and intentionally bland food tastes downward so they can be all things to all customers. While this may make for good restaurant business, it doesn’t make for great BBQ. Pok-E-Jo’s—you could do better! The portions are large, especially the sides. The prices are average-to-above-average. The 3-meat plate and sides were $10.79.
We will see you down the Barbecue Road!