Supplemental: Storm King BBQ

Barbecue is not what the Twin Cities food scene is known for. Long dominated by mediocre Famous Dave’s, there’s been a rash of new Q joints opening up lately, giving Twin Cities residents a taste of what quality BBQ is.

Storm King is the latest addition to the growing collection of new barbecue spots in town from the team behind Black Sheep Pizza. Professing to be Texas Style BBQ, I had high hopes for Storm King (they have burnt ends!).

Full disclosure, when it comes to BBQ, I like sauce to compliment the smoke flavor and a good dry rub, combining different American BBQ regions into a hodgepodge of saucy meaty goodness. 

Texas style Q is known for its focus on brisket and smoke, traditionally not using sauce at all.

To give Storm King a good try, we ordered the 3-meat combo and chose brisket, chicken and spare ribs. We really wanted some burnt ends, but they sold out before 6PM (because they’re the best BBQ meat obviously) so we settled for just the three meats mentioned above.

The Brisket:

This is the most important option Storm King has, if the brisket isn’t good, this place can’t pretend to be Texas BBQ. No worries no this front, their brisket passed with flying colors. There’s three important components to a top of the line smoked brisket; bark, smoke and juiciness.

It’s clear that the pit master knows his way around a brisket, the slow and low cook created a thick, crispy bark on the outside that packed some peppery flavor from the rub combined with the smoke of whatever wood they use in their smoker. It was jam packed with flavor.

The smoke. There’s a few ways to tell how well the brisket was cooked. First, just straight up taste, does it make your mouth happy? Good, that’s #1. #2, the brisket should have a nice, clear smoke ring around the slice of meat. The thicker this is, the more time and care was put into smoking the meat. Storm king clearly cares about their cook process, because not only did the brisket pack a smokey flavor, but the ring was damn near halfway to the middle of the slice of meat. Well done!

Juiciness, nobody wants to eat a dry piece of brisket. Whatever flavor is packed into the meat, it’s a moot point if its dry. Again, no problem here, Storm king smoked one of the best briskets I’ve had the pleasure to sample, it’s worth the trip to try this masterpiece.

4 out of 4 noms

All the meats

The Chicken:

Not everybody loves smoked chicken, me on the other hand, I f*$%ing love it. The challenge is to get a good seasoning on the bird that stands up to the smoke. When the person behind the counter asks you what type of meat, light or dark, there is also only one correct answer. Always get dark meat, it has so much more flavor, thank me latter.

The chicken at Storm King was truly special. It was mouthwateringly juicy, smokey with a bit of a spice kick from the rub. It was awesome and just like the brisket, is worth a visit unto itself.

4 out of 4 noms

The Spare Ribs:

Ribs are my favorite BBQ meat, when they’re fall off the bone tender and smoked through to the bone, there’s nothing better. It was a bold choice for Storm King to choose spare ribs over baby backs. They aren’t as tender, making it harder to get that fall off the bone experience. The ribs were smoked through which carried a nice flavor, but they didn’t have much of a rub on them so they came across as a bit one note. Additionally, they were rather tough, and tearing the meat off the bone like a caveman may sound fun, but it detracts from the taste because you’re working so hard just to get a bite of meat.

The foundation of the smoke is there for a solid BBQ rib, I suggest upping the price a couple bucks and switching to baby backs or adding in some kind of basting to the smoking process to tenderize the meat.

2 out of 4 nomsHere is where things fell apart for Storm King. I know, Texas style Q is all about the beef, and they passed with flying colors on that end, but ribs are my favorite BBQ meat and an important part of the menu. First, they only offered spare ribs, no baby backs, which is a tougher cut and more difficult to work with. When I eat ribs I want them to be fall off the bone tender, tearing into them and ripping the meat off just isn’t as pleasant of a way to enjoy BBQ.

The Sauce:

As I mentioned above, sauce is not part of Texas BBQ. That being said, people like their sauce (me included). Storm King’s sauce was generic, it looked and tasted like it came out of cub brand BBQ sauce bottle. It was a style of sauce most think of when they think of BBQ sauce, the thick brownish red, sweet near paste you get at the grocery store. This sauce was also on the bland side, which is weird for BBQ sauce in general. It was particularly disappointing because the ribs really needed the sauce to be enjoyed. Up your sauce game Storm King!

.5 out of 4 noms (because it exists)

The Sides:

For our sides we got french fries, Asian coleslaw and some rolls. The fries were thick and crispy, nothing special but really solid. The Asian slaw had a good foundation but needed a flavor punch, more of the vinegar sauce, more peanuts and some cilantro or something, but still solid as is. The rolls, as usual with BBQ joints were a fluffy white bread, usually meant to soak up sauce, so kind of unnecessary when you don’t want to do that. I also got a bite of the broccoli salad. It was creamy, had cheese and bacon so it was great.

Overall, the sides we tried were solid but not special, 2.5 out of 4 noms.

The Experience:

Simple counter serve BBQ, the way it’s meant to be. You get your food on a tray with butcher paper, also the way it’s meant to be. The crew behind the counter was excited to serve you and answer questions, they were obviously overjoyed to be there and love what they’re doing. We also had somebody come clear the table for us and ask how everything was, she told us how happy it made her that we enjoyed our food and I quote “that’s the dream”.

BBQ with a smile, what’s better than that?

4 out of 4 noms.

The Conclusion:

Having been open less than a week when we went in, Storm King is a fantastic addition to the growing BBQ scene in MSP. The chicken and brisket are worth the trip and with some tinkering, everything else could be on the same level (except the sauce, just start over). The team is proud of what they’re serving, their prices are totally reasonable (lower than expected actually) and they have curbside pickup, making it stupidly easy to swing by to bring home some delicious brisket.

I whole heartedly encourage you to give this place a shot, but get there early or you won’t get any burnt ends!

Overall, 3 out of 4 noms