The $2.50 ‘Chris Rock’ Rib at Branded ’72
This weekend, I stopped by Branded '72 at the urging of co-owner Mark Johnson, the son-in-law of founder, Ken O'Brien Sr., whose Rockville smokehouse bore his name for decades until the newcomers rebranded it last year. More on my meal in just a second.
But before I ordered a thing at Branded '72, I noticed the 'cue joint was selling a single "Chris Rock" rib for $2.50. (See the bottom of the middle column on the menu.) I asked the meat carver behind the counter what the story was. He looked as perplexed as I was. Only when I got home did Carrie turn up this video:
Looks like inflation has bumped the price of that lone rib from 50 cents to $2.50.
Personally, I'd skip the rib(s) altogether, at least if you're looking for Texas-style spare ribs. Branded's third-rack is fall-off-the-bone moist, which might play in some circles, but not in Texas where you want a little chew left on those bones. The ribs also rely too heavily on sauce instead of smoke, time, and a thick coating of seasonings.
But I think Johnson and his team are headed in the right direction with their brisket, which they now smoke with the deckle on. This rich, fatty section of the brisket helps keep the flesh moist during its long stay in the smoker. Even better, the Branded team is wrapping its briskets warm, deckle still attached, before throwing them in the holding unit. The fatty sections are then trimmed to order. This technique prevents the brisket from drying out in the holding unit.
Branded's brisket is certainly moister than the first time I tried it. It also has a deeper level of smoke. But the brisket doesn't boast a ton of bark, the result, I presume, of smoking with the deckle on, and without a good crusty coating of seasonings, the meat is rather one dimensional. I'm also not a fan of Branded's chopped-up approach to serving brisket. I prefer those thin strips of perfumed beef, which I can leisurely drop into my mouth like long strands of pasta. Meat pasta, that is.