BBQ for Father’s Day — and every day
THE GIRL CAN COOK
Barbecue is built into the name of Santa Fe’s infamous Cowgirl BBQ (319 S. Guadalupe St.). But the dishes for which the bar and restaurant are named could get lost amid the fairly encyclopedic menu, which offers an array of other comfort-food staples — fried chicken, mac and cheese, burgers, nachos, and the like. Luckily, there’s no chance you’ll get lost finding the place. It’s practically a local landmark, with one of the city’s best and most popular patios (you’d be advised to make a reservation for any alfresco meal on a summer weekend, but especially on a holiday like Father’s Day). On particularly breezy afternoons and evenings, the wafting meat-laced mesquite smoke will lure you from blocks away. The nose knows. Follow it.
Some folks claim that less is more, but in the case of barbecue, more is usually more. That’s certainly the case with Cowgirl’s sampler platter, which affords you the opportunity to taste smoky pork-sweet ribs; falloff-the-bone-tender glazed chicken (an item I’d never noticed on the menu before, and one I’ll order again); and slices of earthy beef brisket that’s somehow easily cut with a fork but tough to chew. Everything’s slathered in a sharp, not-too-spicy brick-red sauce. The platter also includes respectable, not-cloying baked beans, surprisingly commendable Texas toast, and above-average coleslaw, though the tubers in our mayonnaise-heavy potato salad were undercooked to the point of being crunchy.
If Dad’s a fan of sauce-soaked bread, sandwiches are a good option. Smoky spice heats up the chipotlesauced pulled pork and the simmered shredded beef, each a generous tangle of meat piled on a tender brioche bun. If he wants the full complement of fries and slaw, direct him to the page cataloging burgers and sandwiches, but note that if he chooses a slider instead, he can enjoy a smaller version of the same sammich, topped with a heap of slaw and served on a buttery-sweet King’s Hawaiian roll, for half the dinero. Anyway, that’ll leave him room to enjoy the Cowgirl’s popular-with-the-ten-and-under-set ice cream baked potato, if that sort of thing is his druthers. Hey, he raised you; let him be a kid for a day.
— Laurel Gladden
TRUCKIN’ WITH TRADITION
What do you call a pig in a pit, cooked long and slow with smoke rather than fire? Although some might argue the point, I call it barbecue — and Steve “The Meat Man” Schmidt, pitmaster of Santa Fe Barbecue (600 Old Santa Fe Trail), serves it up from a vintage red-and-black truck pulling a mobile smoker.
Schmidt’s baby back pork ribs are the best I’ve had in Santa Fe — tender, juicy, and deeply infused with the scent and flavor of woodsmoke, they literally fall off the bone. What Schmidt calls Black Angus petite beef ribs are also on the menu, for folks who cut their ’cue teeth in another part of the country and prefer their meat to moo rather than squeal.
Santa Fe Barbecue’s website says Schmidt combines the slow smoking traditions of the South with New Mexico flavors. Ask him what’s in his dry rub and he’ll admit to cocoa and coffee — but not the native herbs and spices; that’s a trade secret, he says. Although the ribs are the rock stars of the truck, Schmidt also smokes pork and beef sausages, gigantic turkey legs, and beef brisket. Some of the pork and brisket is pulled to make iconic barbecue sandwiches. Piled into a soft roll (all the better to absorb those smoky drippings) and topped with a goodly amount of chunky roasted green chile, these
sammies are big enough to share — if you could bring yourself to do that.
Schmidt offers three sauces to complement his barbecue. The “regular” version has just a touch of vinegar, perfect with the ribs. The brown-sugar sweetened variation brings out the best in the chile. The third is hot. Really hot. You can find Schmidt in the parking lot of the New Old Trail Garage on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10:30 a.m. “until the meat runs out.” To be sure you can get what you want, when you want it, call the Meat Line (505-573-4816) to put in an advance order. And bring cash: that’s the only currency Schmidt accepts. — Patricia West-Barker
Those who are truly serious about eating grilled and smoked meats should head over to Whole Hog Café (320 S. Guadalupe St.) — they only do barbecue, and they do all the barbecue. With offerings like Memphis-style (meaning slow-cooked in a pit) pulled pork, pulled chicken, beef brisket, and ribs, as well as sausage and pork loin, you can get all of those meats as sandwiches, garnished with house coleslaw, or go all out and order one of their platters. The Whole Hog comes with pulled pork, brisket, and ribs as well as a scoop of delightfully vinegary potato salad, coleslaw, and beans. It’s supposed to be enough for one capacious individual but easily serves two, and the Ultimate Hog is even bigger, and includes pulled chicken. If you want to riff on the concept of barbecue, try the Barbecue Nachos or the Loaded Baked Potato topped with the meat of your choice.
While Whole Hog does a bustling business in takeout and catering, the experience of dining in is made particularly decadent by the six-pack of different barbecue sauces sitting on every table. That’s right — you can have unfettered access to an array of that magic, sweet-smoky liquid for the duration of your meal. The sauces span the gamut: 1 is sweet and molassesbased, 2 is a more vinegary sauce with tomato, 3 is a spicier version of that, and so on. Particularly good is number 6, a tangy mustard and vinegar sauce that also works well when liberally doused on the side dishes. If you want a little more adventure (or the hiccups), ask the person behind the counter for the request-only volcano sauce, an almost painfully spicy concoction best tested out before you go splashing it all over your brisket. — Tantri Wija
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
Santa Fe may not be a barbecue destination along the lines of Austin, Memphis, or Kansas City. But chefs here are eager to put a spin on the tradition of slowcooked or smoked meats. BBQ-adjacent items appear on menus all over town, including at Dr. Field Goods Kitchen (2860 Cerrillos Road), where chef-owner Josh Gerwin has created one extraordinary sandwich: a crisp pressed torta layered with lean, tender slow-roasted local goat barbacoa and a smear of creamy refried beans, along with sliced apples, slivered cabbage, and honey-habañero goat cheese.
Southern California transplants who miss the LA tradition of Korean barbecue tacos would do well to stop for lunch at the Bonsai Asian Tacos truck (1599 S. St. Francis Drive) for an ample serving of their signature pulled pork tacos. Served on three corn tortillas with Red Rooster hot sauce, kale and cabbage slaw, and ripe avocado slices, the smokysweet meat has a complex spice profile. Vegetarians or vegans seeking a simulacrum of barbecue flavor might try the tasty tempeh tacos, which combine saucy, nutty deep-fried soybean squares with the above ingredients and a cashew crema. They pair well with Bonsai’s watermelon agua fresca, affirming the genius of culinary hybridity.
Speaking of cultural exchange, the new Trinity Kitchen food truck (1352 Rufina Circle) has brought some much-needed Cajun-country sunshine to town. The truck, run by Shreveport natives Eliot Chavanne and Connor Black, opened in late May but is already a heavy hitter on the soul-food scene, judging from the menu’s real-deal cochon de lait po’boy. The Southern sandwich nestles perfectly seasoned and sauced pulled pork and crunchy coleslaw into a crusty halfbaguette that’s served alongside some seriously good curly fries. Those spuds also make a toothsome foundation for Trinity’s pulled pork fries, which are layered with an abundance of heavenly pig, cheddar cheese, and finished with stripes of a tangy and addictive rémoulade. These dudes are serious about meat — see the USDA Prime tattoo on Chavanne’s forearm — as well as about Louisiana culinary traditions, judging from the jumbo bottle of Crystal Hot Sauce that stands out among the condiment offerings. Santa Fe is lucky to have them smoking it up in the Meow Wolf parking lot. — Molly Boyle
On particularly breezy afternoons and evenings, Cowgirl BBQ’s wafting meat-laced mesquite smoke will lure you from blocks away. The nose knows. Follow it.