But after a couple of trips to Slick's Que Co., a pit-style barbecue on Revere Avenue owned by Roy and Kim Slicker, where every smoky bite puts my previous 'que attempts to shame, I think this year I will finally take the tongs into my own hands. Maybe even ditch the liquid smoke, and try the real thing.
Formerly known as "The Left Handed Chef" before starting the original Slick's in Sisters, these Slickers have definitely evolved far beyond their catering roots. But it wasn't easy. Roy traveled for years, attending seminars and tasting food from Texas and the South to as far away as Portugal and Spain. He even served on the National Barbeque Association's board of directors, and now sits as President-Elect. The result is the "St. Louis-Texi-Memph" style for which Slick's is quickly becoming known.
I showed up at 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday. The sweet aroma coming from the smoker hit our noses before the car doors even closed. Slick's was smokin' something good. In fact, they smoke all of their meats with special chips like apple and pecan wood hand-selected by Roy, and prepare every side dish daily. The benefit of this is obvious: the food is fresh and nothing is ever reheated or re-served. The drawback is they sometimes run out of certain items.
The Western-themed dining room was clean and bright, but the highlight for me wasn't the Western flick playing on the flat screen or the cowboy hat lampshades above the lacquered pine picnic tables. It was the space-age hand washing station along with a handsome mannequin named Charlie in the driver's seat of an antique tractor. The walls are lined with pictures of Roy, his daughters and a slew of strangers posing with Charlie.
The menu board offered multiple options for meat consumption, mostly sandwiches or combo platters. I sampled a bite of the burnt ends, which were not burned at all but just tender brisket ends swimming in sauce. Wow.
My male companions both ordered ribs, but were told there was only one half-rack left, so one ordered the brisket instead. The other two of us ordered pulled pork and smoked turkey. They were out of both the mac and cheese, and the garlic mash side dishes, so we settled for baked beans, 'slaw and potato salad.
The brisket was moist and delicate. The pork was shredded and tasty, made even better by a drizzle of Slick's sweet and smoky private label sauce. But the turkey was my favorite. Juicy, slightly pink and buttery with smoke - it was the best I've ever tasted, hands down (sorry mom). The meat on the baby back pork ribs did not fall off the bone as I had hoped. But evidently, according to the National Barbecue Association, it's not supposed to. If it did, it would mean the ribs were reheated or boiled, disqualifying them in any competition. I still found them a bit tough, but the dry rub gave them a great flavor and my friends enjoyed them nonetheless.
The coleslaw and the potato salad were both so-so. The baked beans, however, were a hit. Tiny pieces of pineapple and pulled pork were a perfect complement to the brown sugar-baked pinto beans.
My second visit fell on Tri-Tip Tuesday, so I ordered a combo with the garlic mash and the mac and cheese. The beans were still ranking as, by far, the best side and the slice of white bread and orange garnish were also a little lackluster. The meat, however, was good. We were surprised to see, though, that they were out of several things again.
"It's tough," said Kim Slicker. "It's a hard call. If you don't make enough, you run out. If you make too much, you're throwing away your profits."
Finally I understood, and could respect not just Slick's killer meats but this fresh philosophy.
Next time I will gladly call ahead to assure I get my favorite meats, which are also available by the pound for take-out, holidays, or special occasions like my family's "Too tired to cook Tuesdays."
Slick's Que Co.
212 NE Revere Avenue, Bend
Open Monday to Saturday 11 to close