ROBERT Thaves knows a thing or two about barbecue.
The Singleton-born and raised operator of barbecue joint Smokin' Hot 'N Saucy fell in love with Texas-style barbecue when he met his Texan wife Randi a decade ago.
But, as Thaves explains, he wasn't always a fan.
"It think it was Thanksgiving in Canada when I was living there in 2005, I had my first try of brisket and I absolutely hated it," he says.
"It was dry, tasteless and I didn't really enjoy it at all. It put me off barbecue for the next couple of years."
When he met Randi, she convinced him to give it another chance.
"She said 'Barbecue in Texas is really good' and I asked 'What do they cook?' and she said 'Brisket' and I said 'I don't like brisket' and she said 'Well, you've gotta come to Texas and try it'."
He has been hooked ever since.
Together with Randi, Thaves established Texas barbecue food truck Smokin' Hot 'N Saucy, which has a permanent home in Islington.
He also takes his offset smokers - he has gathered quite the collection - on the road to cater at events, including barbecue festival Meatstock in Sydney earlier this month where they sold 1.4tonnes of meat across two days.
It also gave him the chance to show off his newest smoker - the biggest in the country - which he built in his backyard and nicknamed Jolene. The contraption can fit up to 102 8kg briskets at any one time.
Here's five places to try barbecue:
Smokin' Hot 'N Saucy
116 Maitland Road, Islington Online reviews declare Robert Thaves' food as "the best BBQ meat in town". Fresh from feeding the masses at dedicated bbq festival (yep, there's a whole festival for meat) Meatstock in Sydney - where they also competed to defend their title as Sydney 2018 Meatstock Grand Champions - you'll find this food truck parked in a lot on the main road at Islington. They have a solid following for their beef brisket and ribs, and also pump out tasty pork and burgers. If you're new to Texas barbecue, don't forget to order the burnt ends, too. These super flavoursome chunks of meat are a prized delicacy on any barbecue plate.
The lot is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11.30am until sold out, and is now also trading on Sundays from 11am.
1/2 Honeysuckle Drive, Newcastle If there is such thing as being a meat coma, MEET is the place to do it. The restaurant offers unlimited service of its meats which are carved and served at the table, Brazilian churrasco-style for $55 per person. The menu includes a big selection of meats, which are all spit-roasted over wood and charcoal on a custom-made barbecue, as well as house-smoked meats prepared on a Texas-style pit smoker. Add to that the selection of sides and house-made sauces, then you might have to get someone to stick a fork in you because you'll be well and truly done. For the non meat-eaters, there's also a vegetarian churrasco which is not only delicious, but also equally filling ($44 per person).
It's your last chance to check out MEET at Honeysuckle before they move to bigger premises on Darby Street at the end of the month. Stay tuned.
175 Myall Road, Cardiff There's burgers, salads, schnitzel and pasta on the menu at Bluey's, but this joint (located at Cardiff Bowling Club) has gained its biggest following for its low and slow barbecue menu. All of the barbecue meats are smoked on-site, from the beef brisket to the ribs and the rump. Try a mini platter for $20, a half rack of ribs coasted in house-made barbecue sauce for $22, or a platter two for $70 which is a generous portion of smoked brisket, pork, and Texan sausage, with a full rack of ribs and three sides.
If you're after a smokey burger, try the brisket roll or pulled pork roll - both with slaw and barbecue sauce for $16, or the double beef n bacon with ground beef, smoked brisket, double cheese, bacon and barbecue sauce for $18.
Yellow Billy Restaurant
697 Hermitage Road, Pokolbin If you like your barbecue on the refined side (yes, it is possible), Yellow Billy Restaurant in Pokolbin offers a fire-focused menu. The chefs cook both protein and vegetables over a custom-built fire pit - think anything from smokey-flavoured baba ghanoush to smoke-infused barbecue squid on the restaurant's international-inspired menu.
You can also try the beef brisket with chimichurri sauce (ranging from $34 to $64) or the suckling pig - sourced just down the road from Lovedale - accompanied by jus, apple jam and crackling ($32 to $60).
Texas Bar-B-Q Grill
Wests Mayfield, 32 Industrial Drive, Mayfield The club has joined the Texas barbecue brigade with their latest restaurant unveiling. Cooking on a smoker imported from the States, the menu includes 18-hour slow smoked rib eye steak, American spare ribs ($38 for a half rack or $48 for a full rack), baby back beef ribs ($30 for half rack or $38 for full rack), and beef short ribs ($35), which are all coated in a smokey, sticky barbecue sauce.
As well as barbecued meats, the menu includes classic American flavours such as corn bread, served with whipped jalapeno honey butter and corn salsa, mac and cheese balls, onion rings, coleslaw, and crispy chicken wings.
The chef has even stuck with the smokey theme on the dessert menu, with the inclusion of a smoked banana pudding.