Lexington: J.J. McBrewster’s American Smokehouse Gets Mean
J.J. McBrewster’s bills itself a Western Kentucky barbecue joint, which means they smoke mutton. Smoked mutton is Kentucky’s real claim to barbecue fame, with Owensboro as mutton ground zero. McBrewster’s brings it to Lexington.
McBrewster’s is a place once visited by Food Network ‘Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives’ journeyman/showman with bad hair Guy Fieri. His visit is much ballyhooed on the website, and I won’t blame them. Online reviews are mixed, however. You never know what you might find.
On my recent lunch visit I ordered the two meat platter with pulled pork and mutton. It came with their Corn Off the Cob muffin and two sides. I chose maple glazed baked beans and fried okra.
The food came quickly, which it should at a barbecue restaurant. The meat should already have been smoked for hours upon hours. Of the meats, I found the pork the better of the two. It was properly moist with good flavor. The mutton, a dark meat with a bit of a gamey whang, was overly dry. The taste was good, but the dryness hurt it.
McBrewster’s touts its sauces, which is a bit of a double edged sword. A bad sauce will absolutely ruin good barbecue (I’m looking at you, KC Masterpiece). But the star of barbecue should be the meat, not the sauce.
The waitress brought a condiment tray of four sauces: Melon Sauce, Daviess County Dip, Western Kentucky Sauce, and Mean Sauce. The Melon Sauce is McBrewster’s take on the “traditional” sweet barbecue sauce far too many people have come to associate with barbecue. The Melon Sauce certainly is a vast improvement over the typical sweet sauce, and although not my favorite style of sauce, is quite good. Daviess County Dip has a steak sauce flavor, and is really designed for their brisket (which I did not have a chance to try).
The Western Kentucky Sauce and the Mean Sauce are sister sauces, with the Mean Sauce being the spicier version of the Western Kentucky. While the Western Kentucky Sauce is quite good, it’s the Mean Sauce where one really strikes gold, so to speak. It’s a mustardy sauce with excellent flavor. The mustard does not overwhelm like, say Maurice’s South Carolina sauce might. I really couldn’t get enough of the Mean Sauce, and I think it’s the star of the show.
I want to give J.J. McBrewster’s proper credit for their sauce creativity. They’re not simply giving people the generic sauces that so many expect, and many misguidedly actually want. It takes gumption to do that, and skill to do it well, and I salute McBrewster’s for it.
The sides were fine, and weren’t a detraction. They claim all their sides are homemade, but I was a little suspicious that the okra was simply frozen okra. Both beans and okra came out hot, the corn muffin a little cooler than it ought to have been. Service was attentive and friendly, something I had seen knocked in some reviews.
J.J. McBrewster’s is worth your visit. My experience was positive. I plan to return to try the ribs and the brisket, and, I admit, for that heavenly Mean Sauce.
J.J. McBrewster’s American Smokehouse
3101 Clays Mill Road
Lexington, Kentucky 40503