Thursday, December 12, 2013
Larry & Harry's Bar-B-Que
During my occasional travels, I try to sample BBQ at those near and far away places outside the Quest area. I just really, really like that stuff ...
My experience after now three years of working on the Quest is that BBQ places in North Alabama are on average better than anywhere else I go. Once in a while you find a jewel also in other areas, but they are few and far between. Because my job involves frequent trips to Orlando, I had the opportunity to try many BBQ restaurants there over the years. I found many that are easy to forget, and only two that are up to par with the best ones at home - Yellow Dog Eats in Windermere, and Bubbalou’s Bodacious Bar-B-Que in Orlando. Today, this short list received a new entrance - Larry & Harry's Bar-B-Que in Winter Garden.
A hole in a wall – seldomly has this expression described the actual situation better than with Harry & Larry’s. Winter Garden is a town of about 35000 people some fifteen miles northwest of Orlando. The historic downtown has been beautifully restored and today contains an assortment of restaurants, shops, and cafés, a couple of museums and a performing arts venue. And, of course, a BBQ place, which you might miss driving by, because it is hidden behind a big old tree that covers almost the entire front. Immediately after you enter the place, you stand in front of a counter where you exchange your money for a card out of a poker deck that is sitting in a metal base. This you carry to your table and place it there, so that the server can identify who gets what. The dining room itself is a long narrow tube with five simple red wooden booths on each side. The decoration consists of several old signs for food and drink products from an era long gone, a large print of the place’s name, and some odd wooden birds. It is one the most cozy atmospheres I ever found in a BBQ place. Also, the staff is extremely friendly and nice, and if you want to, you can even sit outside on the boardwalk on a couple of iron garden tables and eat your Q.
Although it was 86 degrees in the middle of December, I chose to dine inside. As usual, I had the pork plate, which came with two sides – baked beans and fries in my case – and a slice of Texas toast. Unfortunately, they did not have potato salad, but I do not hold that against them, because nobody is perfect.
Nevertheless, the baked beans were almost perfect. There were two kinds of beans in it, Pinto and Red Kidney, with a good helping of smoked meat. Top notch. Very savory - maybe a bit more sweetness could have improved the taste - and with a smoke aroma you would not believe. That of course came directly from the meat – the pulled pork had a very distinctive smoke aroma, a perfect pink ring and an intensive BBQ taste straight out of the BBQ bible. Marvelous. The pork was pulled, but came in big chunky pieces, and I had a lot of very tasty bark on it. It was very tender and juicy, without being mushy. Unfortunately I also found a few pieces of fat, but due to the coarse cut of the meat, it was easy to spot and remove them. A little bit more diligence when pulling the meat would have prevented that.
They have five sauces there, of which four are of the thick red variety, in different stages of hotness. Nothing special there. But the fifth sauce is something else. It is mustard based and has just the right spiciness to make your mouth tingle when eaten on the Texas toast. Together with the smoked pork it is just BBQ heaven.
All this wonderful food has its price, though – over thirteen bucks for the plate with a fountain drink is not cheap. But it was surely worth every cent.