Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bandana’s Bar-B-Q

103 Truman Blvd
Crystal City, MO
To celebrate Adam’s upcoming birthday* we let him choose a place. I know, it was probably his turn anyhow, but it’s the thought that counts, right? We did tell him there was no pressure to find a new place, he didn’t need to consider the review at all, even if it was a place we’d been to recently. Free choice without pressure or repercussions, that’s the greatest gift of all.
I was a little surprised when he chose Bandana’s but only a little. I knew he liked it, but not that it was at the top of his list.
I had been shopping earlier in the day, mostly finished but a little frustrated. None of the stores I went to had those big cans of popcorn, the ones with three kinds, cheddar, plain and caramel. Granted, I’d only gone to two stores, but for me that’s an ambitious shopping trip.
The evening was simply gorgeous. The setting sun enflamed the few wispy clouds, the temperature was nearly perfect, high fifty’s or low sixty’s. The drive was uneventful and rather quiet. On arrival I was expecting the outdoor loudspeaker to be blasting that awful country music. I was pleased to note they’d turned it down considerably from the hideous shouting level it had been set to on our previous trips. Inside it was pleasantly, barely audible at all.
The Place:
It was only half full, or maybe less. Not bustling, a very relaxed pace. The place was only modestly decorated, felt red stockings hung from above the opening to the kitchen, each with a name written on it, maybe one per crew member. A small tree sat in a corner and that was pretty much it.
A few families were spread around the long aisles, the black-clad crew scurried about clearing tables, sweeping the floor, carrying orders.
We were shown a booth near the back and situated ourselves. The menus were dropped off, drinks ordered (tea, sweet tea and Pepsi) and the server drifted off and left us to consider options.
The birthday boy, and my tea.
Our drinks arrived quickly, we weren’t quite ready to order yet. It took another five minutes or so before we finally decided. After much internal debate, I chose the turkey sandwich and fries. Angel, the chicken and pork plate with ‘fried corn’ and fried okra. Adam went for the beef and chicken plate with fries and coleslaw.
While we waited, in what has become a sort of ritual, Angel pulled out her new-fangled smartphone, checked her Facebook and email, then browsed through some online comics. Adam didn’t. Instead he occupied himself tearing the straw wrappers into tiny little shreds, then rolling the shreds up into tiny little balls.
Angel then showed Adam one of the comic strips, he seemed only slightly amused. “Comics are for old people.” He said, which caused his mother to get all red-faced and defensive. “I didn’t mean old like you, I mean old-old.” He defended himself, though it didn’t really help.
I think he was just trying to get a rise from her. He does that a lot, something he inherited from his mother. She’s always trying to rile me up, pointing out petty infractions and forgetfulness, just trying to ring my buzzer; I don’t take the bait though.
The Food:
Turkey Sandwich, pre-sauce
The food arrived quickly, just as advertised. There are no surprises at Bandana’s, just tasty smoked meats.
The meat is served dry allowing one to sauce it up to individually desired levels. They provide four different sauces at each table, I think there used to be more.  I’d tasted them all before and went with my favorite, Chicago Sweet, and plenty of it. This doesn’t mask the smokiness of the meat, it’s chopped into thick chunks, it merely perfects it. My bun was toasted and buttered, the fries were  just right.
Angel’s fried corn turned out to be corn on the cob, cooked, then grill-fried until most of the individual kernels were a light brown. It was diapered on the plate in what looked like an oblong coffee filter. We debated this, and decided that it might not actually have been a coffee filter since we couldn’t figure out how or why a coffee maker would require an oblong filter. On subsequent research, and playing off a brilliant hunch, I looked up 'restaurant supplies' and ‘hot dog wrappers’ and sure enough, voila! You can see them here.
Fried corn on the cob.
The corn itself was very good. I know this because Angel said it was almost as good as Jeff’s. Jeff is my younger, but bigger brother. He smokes meats himself but unfortunately he lives a couple of hundred miles away in the sprawling metropolis of Cerulean Ky. When he prepares a meal he puts his heart and soul into it. Lots of planning, hand chosen wood, days of preparation. His corn is indeed awesome. For Bandana’s to come even close by comparison is quite a commendation.
Her okra looked just like it tastes, like breaded and deep-fried cow snot.
Adam tried his coleslaw then never touched it again. I asked him about that. “It’s not their fault, I’m just really, really picky about coleslaw.” He responded without further explanation. He is indeed rather picky about certain foods, another unfortunate trait he gets from his mother.
Adam asked me about the tea. “Flat, tasteless, but I knew it would be.”
“Then why did you order it?” he asked as if the answer wasn’t obvious.
“I had to see if they bothered to improve it, they haven’t.”
He doesn’t seem to understand the harsh sacrifices that are required to become a professional, highly rated and respected restaurant critic.
The food was, as I’ve said, very good. Adam didn’t like the coleslaw, but even he properly blamed that on flawed genetics rather than a failed effort by Bandana’s. The tab was a bit high, forty six dollars before the tip, but good food is good food, and really good comestibles** are worth a few extra farthings.
After we finished we hopped over to Big Lot’s to see if they had the tins of popcorn. Nope. The next day, on a tip form Angel, I found some at K-Mart. Mission accomplished.


* Birthday.  Adam’s is the day after mine but we agreed to split the celebrations. He would choose a place to eat, I’d choose a movie to go to. None of these celebrations would actually occur on our actual birthdays. We’ll be going to see “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” on Friday.

**Comestibles. An established author and Facebook friend Nicola Griffith used this word in a post last week. I had to look it up since I’ll admit that there are a still a few (a couple of dozen at most) pretentious English words missing from my otherwise vast arsenal. I thanked her for the generous gift and assured her that I would try to use it in the near future. This almost-superfluous usage was an intentional means of increasing my word power (it pays). As for ‘farthings’, I only need to mention that this same friend is British by birth.

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