In Sodo, Texas native Jack Timmons is making BBQ magic in his 22-foot smoker.
Slapping the backs of regulars, chatting up strangers and trying to make babies laugh, Jack Timmons is equal parts master of ceremonies and maitre’d at Jack’s BBQ. His restaurant, modeled after a Texas roadhouse, is a heckuva lot of fun.
He was easy to spot, even on a busy Saturday night, a tall, lanky dude wearing a cherry red shirt with pearly snap buttons, a match for the restaurant’s red vinyl bar stools and Formica tabletops — or what you could see of them. Most were crowded with parchment-lined sheet pans laden with smoked meats, slices of white bread, pickles and paper cups of sides.
“Jack wears a different cowboy shirt every night,” our pert, ponytailed waitress divulged. You could tell she was itching to take our order — there wasn’t an empty seat in the house — but she was willing to give us time. “Low and slow, that’s how we do everything here,” she said.
Jack’s BBQ ★★
3924 Airport Way S., Seattle
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday
Prices: $$ (appetizers and salads $5-$8; sides $4; meats $8-$30 a la carte; meat plates $14-$24 with bread, pickles and two sides; sandwiches $11 with one side; Beef Rib Tuesday special, $38 a la carte, $58 dinner for two)
Drinks: full bar; Shiner Bock and other beers on draft; vintage sodas
Service: real friendly
Parking: free on site
Sound: rowdy when full
Who should go: carnivores
Credit cards: all major
Access: no obstacles to entrance; restrooms not wheelchair accessible
Low and slow is the way they smoke meats in Texas, whence Timmons hails. After a dozen years at Microsoft, he returned to the Lone Star state for BBQ camp at Texas A&M. Back here, he launched the Seattle Brisket Experience, refining his technique in a series of roving pop-ups that developed a fervent fan base.
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Last fall, Timmons found a permanent home along an industrial stretch just north of Georgetown and opened Jack’s BBQ. Out back is a 22-foot smoker, the West Coast’s largest, says Timmons. Fed with Texas mesquite, hickory and post oak, it can hold 80 briskets at once. The pitmaster is Tony White, late of Louie Mueller’s BBQ in Taylor, Texas.
Inside are two dining areas, one with a bar, paneled with varnished plywood and old, weathered shutters and doors. White lights strung across the ceiling and a country- music soundtrack made me itch to dance the two-step. (That will be possible starting in April, on Thursday nights, to live music by the Ganges River Band and others.)
My first taste of Jack’s much ballyhooed brisket was an epiphany. The smoke-haunted slices drooped languidly over the fork, flaunting the ribbon of pink running along a blackened rim. So exquisitely tender, the meat pulled apart with little effort. It would have been a sin, in my view, to put sauce on it — and in Texas they don’t — but for Philistines elsewhere, two squeeze bottles of tomato-based barbecue sauce (mild or hot) are on each table.
When I had the brisket again, on that Saturday night, as part of the “Picnic for 4,” only some of the slices achieved that exalted state. The rest looked and tasted dry. Still there was a great deal else to enjoy on that heaped sheet pan.
Keeping its promise of “lots of everything,” the “Picnic for 4” includes all five meats on the menu: seductive pulled pork; long, slender, spice-rubbed pork ribs; a couple of sassy sausages (one a chorizolike hotlink, the other stuffed with cheddar and jalapeño); and chicken, which like the brisket, varied. The breast was dry; the dark meat succulent.
The picnic comes with a choice of two sides, as do all the meat plates. (The pulled pork, brisket and sausages are also available as sandwiches with one side.) My favorites were the pickle-y rémoulade coleslaw, the sharp collards, the mild-mannered mac and cheese, and the brawny brisket-and-bacon chili. The potato salad and the “Texas caviar” (black-eye peas, corn and bell pepper) were good, but a little bland.
These meats and sides are more than filling, but you could start things off with buttermilk hush puppies. Ours arrived a little burnt. Looking around that seemed not to be the norm, but they were also too salty. House-smoked bacon bits may be the best reason to try the iceberg wedge salad, served in a paper-lined plastic basket that was ill-equipped to contain the blue cheese dressing, which oozed onto the table. You might be better off saving room for desserts. They include a terrific pecan pie, crafted by Matt Bumpass, previously Poppy’s pastry chef, and a comforting banana pudding crunchy with vanilla wafers.
Shiner Bock may be the ideal beverage match, but dirty-martini drinkers will cotton to The Austin Statesman, a smooth blend of Tito’s vodka and Sapphire gin mussed up with pickled okra juice. The Rusty Spur is a Manhattan that gets extra giddy up from sarsaparilla bitters.
Hush puppies $5
Pulled pork sandwich and 1 side $11
Brisket plate and 2 sides $17
Picnic for 4 $47
’Cue connoisseurs: Make a note of Beef Rib Tuesdays. Place your order in advance for a two-pound chuck steak smoked on the bone. Clinging to a single Flintstonian rib, this ridiculously delicious meat revealed a wide pink smoke ring beneath its black crust and restored my faith in Jack’s.