The first thing I noticed, walking into Kaiser's Bar B-Q and General Store, was that the place reeked of smoke.
That's a good thing, by the way. That's possibly the best thing, actually, when it comes to hopeful signs about the barbecue meats you're about to consume at a given restaurant.
Not just any smoke, mind you. I'm talking about pungent, meaty smoke that, even as you're breathing it in, is busy out back twining itself around various ribs, sausages and briskets, turning them from ho-hum regular old meats into something special.
That's what you'll get at Kaiser's, anyway, where the meats we tried during a recent lunch were succulent, smoked perfection.
The menu at Kaiser's is simple, and that's as it should be with this kind of food. There are the typical combo plates, several other meat dinners, a few sandwiches and some sides. Drinks are served out of a big open cooler by the counter.
There are a few dishes that, if I see them on a menu, I know that my husband will most likely order them. Chicken chimichangas. Homestyle lasagna. And pulled pork sandwiches, which he had at Kaiser's and which they do as well as anyone around.
The pork, piled on and around the bottom of a substantial bun, was tender, juicy and smoky, and otherwise unadorned (though he did get cheese on top for an extra 30 cents, which seemed a little sacrilegious to me). My husband kept it simple, though I liked it with a squirt of the piquant barbecue sauce waiting at each picnic-style table.
Speaking of those tables, on them you'll see the de rigueur barbecue accoutrements, like a roll of paper towels and a packet for each diner containing plastic knife and fork, salt, pepper, barbecue wipes and a toothpick. And they're surrounded by yards and yards of for-sale Texas kitsch, from Mexican blankets and wrought-iron ornaments (some of them quite beautiful) to painted cow skulls and velvet paintings of sunflowers. Even if you don't buy anything, it's fun to look.
I had the two-meat combo plate, choosing beef brisket — the meat that makes Texas barbecue great — and a jalapeno cheddar sausage, plus pinto beans and coleslaw.
The sausage was a departure for me, but I enjoyed its spiciness, which grew with each bite but never overpowered the flavors of meat and smoke. And the sliced brisket had a thick, enticing smoke ring and a beautiful char protecting the tender, smoky meat inside. You can get it on a sandwich, too, whimsically called the Hillbilly Burger.
Our sides were decent but pedestrian, not quite living up to the fabulous meats they accompanied. The pinto beans were uniformly tender and moist, but bland — until they were transformed in the dish of "cowboy beans" we ordered for our little boy.
The cowboy beans, layers of pintos, cheese and darkly wonderful chopped beef, would pull me back to Kaiser's for another visit, even if the other meats weren't so good.
Combo and other plates $5.95-$13.85, sandwiches $5.49-$6.99, a la carte and sides 95 cents-$3.95, barbecue meat by the pound $10.95 per pound, desserts about $1.
Kaiser's Bar B-Q and General Store
Where: 962 S. 300 West
Hours: Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; closed Sunday
Payment: Major credit cards accepted; no checks
Wheelchair access: A little tight but accessible
Also: Call-ahead orders accepted; prime rib served Fridays
Stacey Kratz is a freelance writer who reviews restaurants for the Deseret News. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org