I'm sure you've felt this way.....totally pooped, half-way wiped out, hungry, and looking for something close to home. Which is why I ended up at Lightning Jack's, in the "food court" area of Clairemont Town Square.
I'm not quite sure why I decided to pick up dinner here...in the words of Captain Jack when I told him I bought BBQ from Lightning Jack's; "what the hell were you thinking?" Yeah, what was I thinking? I walked into the tiny restaurant, looked around, and almost decided to turn around.....but something kept me there.
And the gentleman running the place was very friendly...so I made a decision to just go for it. Looking over the menu, I noticed that the ribs were "St Louis Style", which made me understand that the type of ribs used were Spareribs. But I wondered if the sauce was St Louis style, a basic spicy-sweet tomato based sauce....sort of like what Phil's uses(more of that in a future post). A friend once gave me a bottle of Maull's which is supposed to represent that style of sauce. So I asked the Gentleman behind the counter what style of BBQ Lightning Jack's serves. His response? "Ummm...uhhh(blank look), we use a lot of liquid smoke!" Not very promising, but I ordered a half-rack($10.49), which came with a roll, and a side. I chose Baked Beans, which the Missus loves.
The ribs were dry and tough, and the only smoke I could detect was from the super liquid smoked sauce(the Guy wasn't kidding).
My eyesight is getting pretty bad, but I couldn't detect a "smoke ring". Which kinda goes against what the menu says:
The Missus enjoyed the beans, which I thought was very bland. I also ordered some Steak Cut Fries ($1.80), which was a very generous portion of thick cut fries which was probably the best thing about the meal.
I also ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich ($5.99), which came with 1 side. I asked the Guy if I could just get some Hushpuppies with it, and being the amicable Gentleman, he said, "no problem".
Before the big sandwich reveal, let's read what the menu says:
For me that says a Hickory Smoked Pork Butt....... I haven't had North Carolina BBQ in North Carolina, but have had said style at Mike and Ed's and Country's in Columbus, Georgia, and Dusty's in Decatur, Georgia (near Emory University - Brunswick Stew....). And I can honestly tell you, this wasn't it. The pork was on the tough side, and you really could only taste the sauce......same sauce as the ribs. And no "pile of coleslaw"......
The Missus thought the Hushpuppies were okay. Since the Gentleman was nice enough to give us this instead of some other side, I'll give it a pass. I will say that I'm glad I still have my teeth after eating them.
In retrospect, perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh. But I try to be consistent....if you say you make Sichuan food, I'll expect Sichuan Peppercorns or at least something that is representative of the basic 23 flavors of Sichuan cuisine. Likewise, if you say something is North Carolina style BBQ..... If I didn't know better, perhaps my opinion would be very different.
I really don't even qualify as a novice when it comes to BBQ, and I've only eaten in 1 of those hallowed BBQ havens. I had lunch at Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City in 1997. I did have decent BBQ at a couple of places in Fort Smith, Arkansas (the only one whose name I can remember is Jerry Neel's), a couple places in Atlanta (i.e Dusty's and Fat Matt's Rib Shack), Columbus, Georgia, and one really good shack in Fayetteville, Arkansas. So take my opinion with a grain of salt. Still, I think I've come far from the kid who only had Tony Roma's while growing up in Hawaii.
As for Lightning Jack's, the service was nice and friendly, and the prices are relatively reasonable.
Lightning Jack's BBQ
4705 Clairemont Drive (In the Clairemont Town Center)
San Diego, CA 92117