The mesquite tradition is still alive at Bob’s
Well prepared lamb ribs and the all-beef sausage are winners
When Bob’s Smokehouse opened at its current spot on FM 78 in Kirby in 2009, it became the tallest rung on a ladder that reaches all the way back to 1973.
That was when the late Bob Wells opened the first Bob’s Smokehouse on Rigsby Road. He built a small barbecue empire through the years, opening and closing a handful of shops, leading up to Bob & Bob’s Smokehouse on Fredericksburg Road, where an up-and-comer named Bob Long joined in.
Wells died in 1989, but Long carried his legacy through to the last remaining corner of the Bob’s Smokehouse dynasty in Kirby.
You’ll find a couple other San Antonio joints in the old Bob’s locations with the words “smokehouse” still prominent in their names, but this is the only one with the original handpicked successor at the pits, cooking marbled brisket, handmade horseshoe-link sausage and lamb ribs over mesquite like they’ve been done for 45 years.
Grand champion: All-beef sausage isn’t all that common at San Antonio barbecue shops, and handmade beef sausage is practically a unicorn. But Bob Long packs a spicy, loose grind of beef and herb seasoning into shiny red horseshoe links for sausage with velvet texture that soaks up the twangy mesquite smoke ($14.50 a pound). As part of a $13.50 three- meat plate along with brisket, chicken and two sides, it’s one of the best barbecue values in town.
The trinity: I ordered two rounds of fatty brisket ($17 a pound) and got brisket with two different personalities. The first round bristled with salty bark that overwhelmed the meat’s juicy balance of fat and lean. The second round came with less salt, but also less color and less fat, kind of like smoky roast beef.
Somewhere in-between the two would’ve been just right. The pork ribs got everything right: a tight, shiny glaze with meat that knew when to hang on and let go of the bone ($17 a pound).
More from the pit: For chicken, Long switches from mesquite to pecan for a more mellow smoke, and it suited the juicy bird, leaving a bronzed layer of skin just starting to crackle at the edges ($7.50 for half ). A war club of a turkey leg ($9.50) reinforced two barbecue truths: the leg is forever the best part of that gangly bird, and dark meat holds up to a barbecue pit 100 percent better than breast meat.
Sides: Wide wales of cabbage in sweet mayo gave the coleslaw the character of a good side salad, and chili-style spice painted the barbecue beans dusky red. They stood out against much more ordinary potato salad, green beans and corn ($2.50 each).
Sauce: Bob Long laughed when I started guessing at what’s in his sweet, spicy sauce. Molasses? Brown sugar? Black pepper? He wouldn’t confirm a thing, but it’s some of the best I’ve had, with a taste like candied cowboy brick-
Mavericks: I’ve had some truly awful barbecue lamb and mutton ribs, gamey and tough as hobo roadkill. Bob’s Smokehouse knows the secret to taming the wily beast: Treat it like a rack of pork ribs.
All those things I said about the pork ribs? Same for the lamb, amplified by the meat’s more lyrical flavor ($17 a pound).
Meat and sides from Bob's Smokehouse. Clockwise from top left: Brisket, corn, barbecue sauce, housemade beef sausage, pork ribs, turkey leg, chicken, cole slaw and beans.
Lamb ribs and housemade sauce from Bob's Smokehouse.