Cranky Frank’s BBQ – Fredericksburg, TX

I love to cook.  Part of the reason for that is the fact that I love to eat.  What’s more, I really like to eat good stuff.  So, Mrs. NH and I have put our cooking skills to use over the past 5 or so years in order to recreate the flavors from the US that we miss eating.  However, there’s one flavor that we haven’t been able to completely master in our Prague apartment.  That’s barbecue.  We’ve tried and even had some good success with ribs cooked in dark Czech beer and the legendary Coca-Cola brisket.  They hold our cravings at bay.  Well, I should say they did until this last trip to Texas.  Then, darnit, my folks took us to Cranky Frank’s and ruined everything.

Cranky Frank’s, quite simply, is the best Texas BBQ I have ever had.  No, I’m not the biggest Q expert on the planet but I do know the good stuff when I have it.  On our last swing through Texas, we hit the aforementioned Frank’s (Fredericksburg), Rudy’s (Austin), Strack Farms (Spring), and Salt Lick (Dripping Springs).  All had something to love, but honestly, Cranky Frank’s kicked the butt of all of them.

I ate there several years back when it was still Ken Hall BBQ and it wasn’t as good.  This time, it was superlative.  Tender, moist and succulently salty ribs.  Pull apart brisket laced with just enough fat to equal tons of flavor.  And the right “bang” of vinegar in the potato salad to stand up to Frank’s signature sauces.  Smokey beans with a nice, silky texture.  Wow, wow, wow.  It so hurts to write this post from over 3000 miles away.  I topped all of those flavors off with a Lone Star beer (criminally underrated brew, by the way) and haven’t stopped talking about the meal since then.  To add to it, I brought a Cranky Frank’s bumper sticker to a Welshman named Frank who works down the hall from my office.  Lo and behold, he’d been to Fredericksburg but sadly for him, not to Frank’s.

No, that meal hasn’t left my mind since I took the first bite off of those beautifully smoked ribs.  It’s the gold standard of Texas BBQ as far as this blogger is concerned.  The fact that it’s something we can’t replicate at home makes it all the more legendary – and that makes me cranky.

Baby Ruth Stuffed Jalapeños

Sometimes simple is the most surprising.  You know, like stuffing a jalapeño with 1/2 a mini Baby Ruth and throwing it on the grill.  Who on earth ever thought of that?  I’m not quite sure who came up with the dish but I had a couple as an appetizer at my folks’ house in Fredericksburg, Texas.  Yes, chalk up one more Texas surprise from my trip down south.

The picture above actually does the dish justice.  If you know what a grilled jalapeño tastes like and if you’ve ever had a Baby Ruth, you can imagine the dish.  The slightly crunchy, smoky jalapeño envelopes the gooey caramel peanut crunch of the Baby Ruth.  Heck, the whole thing is a bit of an assault on the senses.  The sweetness of the candy is the first flavor to hit your tongue but eventually gives way to the tang of the pepper and, if the cook missed a few veins of capsaicin, the spice.  The ones we had were just spicy enough to register on the palate but not over power the dish.  Delicious and really, really interesting culinary fodder for conversation.

I also got to enjoy a proper bubble tea while we were there.  The stuff my folks made was loads better than what I tried to make a few months ago.

Yeah, it’s a creative kitchen there in Fredericksburg.  It’s no wonder that when I was a little kid and people asked what my favorite food was I said ‘artichokes.’