Back Porch BBQ

We had driven past Back Porch BBQ in Jacksonville for seven years, always bemused by its aggressively period exterior and somewhat dowdy appearance. We had some of their takeout barbecue and finally got around to actually visiting the place.

We arrived to a crowded parking lot on a Friday night and received a truly warm welcome from both hostess and waitress. We were guided away from a lively (and smoky) bar and to a plank-floored dining room festooned with hints of the Old West.

A careful study of the wine list evidenced a limited selection but extremely fair prices. Glasses run $4 and no bottle is more than $19. Back Porch also offers draught Mirror Pond, Black Butte Porter, Widmer Hefeweizen, and Caldera Pale Ale at similarly humble prices. My Caldera was very tasty albeit served in a Budweiser glass.

More attention should be paid to beer glassware in the U.S.

A quick scan of present and arriving customers told us we'd stumbled upon a restaurant with a large and loyal following. Who knew? Apparently the Collins family did. These folks, owners for almost two decades, don't bother tap-dancing to get to the head of the parade of the newest and trendiest, and they don't have to.

Our appetizer of Santa Fe Egg Rolls came with sides of ranch dressing, jalapeño jam, and very tasty pico de gallo.

Four plump rolls cost $8 and my wife dug them the most. I found the cheese spilling from them off-putting.

Still pampered by our waitress, we went down a menu of Plates and Suppers ranging in price from $11 to $21. My wife went for a prime rib $20 Cowgirl 10-ounce cut and it arrived well-rubbed with rosemary and juicy. It was a delicious piece of beef and she was further enthralled with her dinner salad's freshness and a well-baked tater.

I went for the Longhorn Platter again with pork loin and ribs and beef brisket. Even though I'd asked for the pared-down senior helping ($16), the meal was much more than I could put away at one sitting. Moreover, each cut was succulent in its own way. A few moments of slapdash Internet research had made me an expert on authentic Texas Barbecue and it seems The Back Porch has the style under control. Prepping the meat with spicy rubs and slow-cooking over cool smoke produces tenderness without masking important flavors.

Sauce recipes can be all over the map, from state to state and even town to town. But it seems Texans are accustomed to a vinegary twang, although not the way North Carolinians are, and a good dose of heat. Back Porch sauce is appetizing but sweet with just a hint of warmth. Perhaps I should have asked, but I saw no alternatives on the menu.

Desserts looked scrumptious at around $4 and included Glazed Walnut-Apple Pie, Chocolate Pecan Pie, and Glazed Blackberry Cheesecake. Yet we were content, savoring our meals, listening to Beatles' covers at a modest volume, and picking away at the remnants of some superior onion rings and a king-hell Texas Chili I'd gladly brave shark-infested waters to taste again.

You can haul your special squeeze over to Jacksonville and please him or her mightily with a meal at The Back Porch BBQ.

— Hubert Smith

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