Saturday, January 23, 2010
Johnny T’s Round Rock B-B-Q
With the plethora of internet rating and review sites these days, anyone can be a food critic, me included. This democratization of the ability to publicly rate and review restaurants has both its good and bad points. On the positive side, there are a lot more opinions, from a lot more people. No longer do we have to rely solely on the comments of those stuffy food editors, who it always seems to me, have some kind of mysterious rating formula that they rigidly follow instead of just using their common sense and letting us know whether the place was worth visiting or not. I always laugh when some of the professional critics come out with something cute like, and I’m only slightly exaggerating here, “I found the beans rather tepid for my palate.” How is a comment like that at all helpful to me when deciding whether to eat somewhere?
The down side to the general public's reviews and ratings is that there are a few people who don’t offer responsible and balanced comments. Many seem to take great delight in being mean. So many times I’ve read comments where, because of some slight imperfection, or inconvenience, it suddenly made the restaurant and it's dining experience no good. These thoughtless and unfair comments relate that the food was bad, the bathrooms weren’t clean, the waiter combed his hair the wrong way, the tables were arranged in the dining room oddly, and the parking lot was paved with concrete instead of asphalt. I have to laugh at these comments also, because, I can’t take them seriously. In all the years I’ve been eating at restaurants, if I’m truly honest with myself, I can’t remember a single one that did not have at least one redeeming quality.
No place or nobody is perfect, and both good and bad reviews are part of the cost of being in the restaurant business. And, there can be variances from day to day, including the mood and attitude of the person doing the eating, which may account for a disappointing result on one or more things during a visit. That’s why almost all restaurants on the new online review and rating sites usually receive a mix of both good and lesser reviews, but for the most part, they seem to be balanced. With respect to those reviews in which the reviewer can’t find a single thing likable with a restaurant, I discount it completely. I chalk it up to either a hidden agenda, or the fact that the reviewer is miserable person.
Now, why have I spent so much time writing about all this when I’m supposed to be writing about Johnny T’s Round Rock B-B-Q? The answer is simple. Unlike any other restaurant I’ve ever written about, I didn’t see a single negative comment about Johnny T’s on the review and rating sites whatsoever. And, I’m not just talking about not seeing mean or unfair comments; I’m talking about not seeing any negative comments at all. Perhaps there is one out there, but I found nothing but rave reviews about the place. Naturally, this piqued my curiosity, and so I drove over to Round Rock the other day, to check it out for myself.
Happily, Johnny T’s is no different from a lot of other barbecue places in and around the Texas Hill Country. It’s owned by real people, and not some large corporation disseminating a chain of franchised or corporate-owned restaurants all over the place. As I was not familiar at all with the menu, it took me a minute or so to get my bearing before placing my order. That was no problem to the man taking my order. He waited patiently for me to make up my mind and politely answered a couple of questions I had regarding the sides. Part of the problem I had, was that for a relatively small place, it had quite an extensive menu. I really hadn’t expected that. In the end, I opted for the large (moist) sliced brisket sandwich combo, which comes with a choice of a side and a drink. I took the beans and an unsweetened tea.
The food came quickly, and I was delighted with the overstuffed sandwich which was set in front of me. The extra large toasted bun was piled several inches high with thick slices of juicy beef brisket. Coming out with the food, was my very own “squirt bottle” filled with temperature warm barbecue sauce. The sauce was slightly sweet, a little tangy, and very good. I added to my sandwich by topping it off with sliced dill pickles and pickled okra. The end result of the combination of meat, bun, sauce, and toppings, was an excellent sandwich.
The beans were also first-rate. Flavored with what tasted like a little chili powder, there were also generous pieces of meat and onion floating among the beans. Washing it all down with the cold tea, it was a perfect lunch.
Johnny T’s has a wide variety of food offerings, which include, brisket, Elgin sausage, pulled pork, turkey, pork ribs, chopped beef, and chicken. The meats are complimented with a nice selection of sides. Those getting a side can choose from a list which includes coleslaw, potato salad, fried okra, cream corn, green beans, baked beans, pinto beans, fries, sweet potato fries, and something called tamale potato casserole. There is also a senior plate and a kid’s meal. Of course, a number of homemade desserts are also available, if you are so inclined.
The patience shown during my slow ordering at the cash register, the fact that I was asked how the food tasted, and that I was thanked for my visit and told “good-bye” when I left, demonstrated that the customer service matched the delicious food.
Like most barbecue places in Texas, Johnny T’s isn’t a fancy place, but, then again, it’s not supposed to be. This is, after all, a Texas barbecue joint. Like all the other common folk who have rated Johnny T’s highly, for both food and customer service, I absolutely concur.