We made it! Last week marked our final stop at one of the three Rio Grande Valley Bar-B-Que places to make Texas Monthly’s “Top 50 Barbecue Joints in Texas.” As we turned onto Hidalgo Street in Mercedes, TX, we saw plenty of cars and trucks already parked alongside the road, several drivers looking for a spot to safely bring their vehicles to a halt, and others just trying to make their way through that busy residential street where The Smoking Oak is cozily tucked away in between neighborhood homes.
Finally, we were able to roll up to our last stop on our July BBQ tour. Parallel parking skills instantly improve when your belly is aching for some much raved about oak-smoked meat. Considering that we arrived so early, we marveled at the line that had already formed in front of us. So many hungry guests waiting to place their food orders. In our ravenous state, it just made us that much more eager to taste all the meats and sides listed on those shiny blackboards. So much so, that we each decided to order a 2 Meat plate, which included two sides served with pickles, onions, bread and barbecue sauce. Hey, we had to exercise due diligence in order to achieve sampling the certified Angus Beef brisket, pork ribs, smoked sausage and pulled pork.
As we made our way to our table with generously filled plates of mountainous meat stacks, we realized that we hadn’t grabbed the customary contraptions to aid in the shared distribution and devouring of our food. Yes, yes, we ARE quite capable of using our bare hands if needed, but being the considerate individuals that we are, we thought our fellow restaurant goers would appreciate a more civilized approach to the consumption of our meals.
Gaby: Not sure if we actually needed these utensils after all. The meat on this pork rib is literally falling off the bone! Ooooohh, there’s also a hint of sweetness in each bite. Maybe a bit of brown sugar that I’m tasting.
Trisha: Well, these succulent, peppery sausage links definitely don’t necessitate the use of any fork or knife to be gobbled down. Savory finger food!
The moist brisket, of course we didn’t opt for the leaner version, was absolutely scrumptious. Perfectly seasoned portions of smoky, juicy brisket with just the right amount of crispiness on the ends for a guaranteed explosion of mouthwatering bites. The puller pork stood out amongst others that we have tried due to its encrusted peppery layer.
Trisha: Oh, and don’t forget about those appetizing sides! Potato salad plus those BBQ beans for me, please.
Gaby: You know I can’t pass up the mac & cheese option with some of that recommended “tangy” coleslaw to add to my plate.
Our side choices, for the most part, were spot on. Although we both agreed the potato salad was a tad to mayo-ey for our liking, those sweet and spicy beans (an upgraded version of pork and beans with a welcomed kick) were a tasty treat. The sugared coleslaw was a crunchy mouthful of refreshing flavor and the cheesy mac was just right in its tender pasta noodles to cheese ratio.
Stop by and dine with the Dominguez Brothers, Mario Jr. and Santana, at The Smoking Oak located at 546 Hidalgo St., Mercedes, Texas, TX 78570. Open only from 11am - 4pm OR until sold out: THURS, FRI, SAT, SUN. You can also call ahead at 956-565-2246 to ensure your order. The team is also available for catering and after hours events.
For additional information and updates, visit The Smoking Oak Facebook page @TheSmokingOakBBQ or the web site at www.thesmokingoak.com.
Gaby Jones and Trisha Watts work hand-in-hand with the service industry. Jones is in charge of craft and imported beer for L&F Distributors and Watts is the communications director for Visit McAllen. Each week they will have a new adventure and provide an opinion on various locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley.