by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here! Due to some computer issues, this column is a week later, but hey better late than never.
In the past, the Great Food Search has done theme articles, comparing pizzas, donuts, hot chocolate, Mexican restaurants, or soups. More recently, the articles have featured one restaurant at a time. Now, it seems, I have stumbled into writing a series of single-restaurant reviews on one theme: it started with a lighted sign in the night: Dickie’s. I have wandered into Barbecue Land.
Where have I found myself, now? Oddly enough, it’s a location I’ve been before, on Clovis Avenue, between Shaw and Barstow, in the Barnyard Shopping Center. It has been the late-lamented QN4U (and a pizza place, and an Indian restaurant). Now, it’s Todd’s Cookhouse BBQ, a mess o’ Q with a Cajun/Creole beat, by way of Oakhurst.
To some degree, it appears as it did in the QN4U days, but it looks like the interior redecorating was done by the crew from “American Pickers,” the guys who find collectibles and antiques in old buildings. Classic metal signs, rescued windows with wooden frames, and galvanized-bucket light shades with gunshot-hole decorations are part of the new/old-fashioned style. While many barbecue joints offer Texas-style, Todd’s goes for a Louisiana flavor. Catfish, shrimp, gumbo, and jambalaya all have a place of honor on the menu, along with the more-expected ribs, brisket, tri-tip, sausage, and turkey.
Oh, the places your taste buds will go!
I’ve plunged into the menu several times, wanting to try new things, I said, so I could get a better picture of what was served. It was all selfishness, because–in truth–I wanted it all! The brisket is meaty and juicy, rich and thick. The house barbecue sauce is like an anointing unto it, bringing the blessings of tastiness. The turkey is creamy and tender, a white offering of flavor. The sausage is spicy and robust, not searing the tongue but tantalizing it. The tri-tip is solid and full-bodied, calling up images of Californios roasting meat in front of a hacienda. The pulled pork is shredded down to the component fibers of the muscle, moist and messy, a good reason for the roll of paper towels at each table. The catfish? Hold on! The catfish needs a paragraph of its own!
The coating on the fish is crispy, but thin. Some catfish is fixed like an afterthought to the breading, but this succulent layer is an adornment to a radiant monarch of the river: Queen Catfish! Tender, juicy, delicate! These people know how to treat a catfish!
Since this is Louisiana style, there must be gumbo, a liquid home for meat chunks, little shrimp, okra, and things that go yum in the night. The jambalaya has bits of sausage, pork, and chicken scattered through rice that has been boldly flavored where no rice has gone before. The potato salad is fluffy. The slaw stands for truth, justice, and the Cajun Way. The pinto beans are stallions (think about it). When there are fries, there are mountains of them.
I have to admit, there are dishes I haven’t tried…yet. The salads look tempting, the po’boys are probably rich as millionaires, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the chicken wings fly south for the winter.
One thing I did try was the bread pudding. O, what a wondrous thing! A single serving will feed three non-gluttons, and the sauce is a gloriously cinnamon-y concoction that screams “Take me home and pour me over gingerbread, cinnamon rolls, or anything you want to turn into Food of the Gods!”
OK, I like Todd’s Cookhouse BBQ. You will, too…but get there early. With food like this, they run out. The lines may get long, but be patient. It’s worth it.
Check out more food articles and more of Terrance’s Great Food Search column in our Food Fun section.