First, the disclaimer. I'm not a barbecue guy. Sure, I once had a memorable barbecue sandwich in Memphis, and I appreciate the way barbecue inspires a certain culinary sophistication in people otherwise supremely uninterested in the culinary arts, but I'm no barbecue aficionado. Nevertheless, the minute I stepped into the new Double T's Real Smoked Barbeque in Carytown, I knew this place meant business. Double T's is the culmination of a 15-year dream that its owners have entertained since the day they arrived in Richmond from Missouri. I expect part of that fantasy was being able to walk up to a table and say, "Hi there, they call me Double T, why don't y'all step on up to the line there and sample a little of our Texas Beef Brisket!" which is exactly what Mr. Double T did on the evening we dined. Whether or not you like his product, there is no denying this guy is serious about his mission. A sort of minister from the Church of Barbecue, the Rev. Double T brings to us this important message: Never expose barbecue to direct heat, instead let the smoke do the magic so the meat cooks low and slow. He uses hickory and applewood in his custom-built cooker/smoker, and the results are worth a try. The menu at Double T's features several basic barbecued meats: ribs, pulled pork, Texas beef brisket and smoked chicken. These are offered variously on sandwiches, in salads, over baked potatoes, with rice and beans, or as platters accompanied with one or more of 12 sides. Many dishes are also available in a larger "Double T size" for an extra buck or two. Sandwiches with a side start around $5. Basic platters with a choice of cornbread or buttermilk biscuit begin at about $8. Things get pricier as you move into the combination platters that come with a choice of two sides and peak at $16.95 for the "Pick Four Combo, Double T size." [image-1]Photo by Hilary Benas / richmond.comDining at Double T's is an interactive culinary experience. The meats arrive mostly unsauced and flavored only by the barbecue process. Diners are then confronted with the perplexing dilemma of choosing among five available barbecue sauces: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas Hot and Double T's. A hint order fries or onion rings as an appetizer (both are good), ask for a separate plate, create a painter's palate of the five sauces on your plate and begin studying. Tennessee's is loose and pungent with vinegar; South Carolina is laced with mustard. Texas is thick and hot; North Carolina is like Tennessee but not as pungent. And Double T's (a variation on Kansas City-style) is thick and sweet with molasses and brown sugar. Sample and learn but don't agonize over it as I did they're all good. As for the meats, the ribs were the hands-down winner tender with complex smoke overtones and a nice rich glaze. Coming in a near second is Texas beef brisket which is sliced thin, varies from lean to well-marbled and has a flavorful smoky exterior crust. While the ribs arrive in a state that almost defies improvement, the brisket benefits from a splash of one of the thinner sauces try Tennessee or North Carolina. Pulled pork, on the other hand, needs liberal saucing and is a good way to sample the richer Double T or the Texas sauces. Finally, the pulled chicken begs for saucing, but then gets a little lost in the sauces' intensity. Try the pulled pork or chicken in sandwiches or assimilated into other dishes, but order your ribs and brisket as center-stage on any platter. All of the sides we tried were good, but fried hominy grits with apple-smoked bacon was a standout. This stuff tastes as good as it sounds and makes you feel downright blessed to live south of the Mason-Dixon line. Enough said. Sweet potato "casserole," a rich sweet-potato puree, and corn relish, a vinegary corn and bell pepper melange, were also welcome complements to our meat-filled platters. The collard greens, however, suffered from an unfortunate lack of salt. Between biscuits and cornbread, the cornbread was the better choice warm and moist while the biscuits were a little dry. For dessert, forego the mediocre apple cobbler, and resist the homey mousselike mud pie if you can, for the real treat here is the bread pudding. A dense and moist cube of warmed-up comfort with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I'm not a barbecue guy but this place has me
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