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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Smoked to Perfection

Silver Spur’s Southern-flavored barbecue

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Finding really good barbecue is a challenge in this area. By “barbecue,” I’m referring to meats that have been wood-smoked, not beef brisket or ribs drowning in an overly sweet, smoke-flavored sauce. In the South, the telltale sign of real barbecue is a wisp of smoke emanating from the smoker’s chimney. There is one local place that passes the test: Silver Spur, which opened its new quarters in Elm Grove just a year after a fire destroyed its former Brookfield location.

The new place is the site of the former Elm Grove Inn, which originated in the 1850s. With its wide variety of flowering plants, the front porch is an inviting place to sit. The interior has been remodeled, mostly for the better. Each dining room has a fireplace and the front bar has become more charming, thanks to its restored windows. It can be noisy when the place is full, which is often. And, yes, in the back parking lot there are piles of hardwood and a smoker issuing that wisp of smoke.

This is Texas-style barbecue, which always means beef brisket. There’s also pork, chicken, sausage links and turkey. The meats arrive with sauce served on the side—not too sweet or too spicy, the sauce is just about right. Bottles of chipotle pepper sauce are available for added spice. The menu also has a number of appetizers, sandwiches and additional entrees of the Tex-Mex variety. Think tacos, fajitas and chicken-fried steak—the whole shooting match.

But the barbecue takes center stage here. The beef brisket ($12.95) is thick slices of meat so tender that they cut with the touch of a fork. The meat retains some succulence and seems made for the provided sauce. The St. Louis-style ribs ($12.95-$22.95) also shine, served as a half or full rack. These pork ribs take to the wood-smoked treatment even better than the beef. The meat barely sticks to the bone and the flavor is so good you might skip the sauce completely.

The squealer ($7.95), a sandwich of pulled pork, is a heaping serving that benefits from the sauce. All plates include a choice of two side dishes, so be sure to order the squealer with a side of homemade coleslaw and put some on top of the pork, just like a real Southerner. Other sides include a delicious dill potato salad and ranch beans that have a welcomed spicy kick.

The comfortable bar calls for some finger food, and the menu obliges. Eat the red chile onion strings (haystack onion rings with just a hint of chile pepper in the batter) quickly before they cool off. Chipotle mayonnaise makes the strings even mellower. Fiery Buffalo wings ($8.95) live up to the billing. They are coated with what tastes like a Louisiana hot sauce, giving them just enough punch without being overly spicy. Crispy calamari ($8.95) nearly succeeds, but the thin pieces of squid tend to be dry. If dining as a group, consider the Silver Spur combo platter, a huge serving of onion strings, Buffalo wings and a few St. Louis ribs—enough to start four people.

Daily specials include a Friday fish fry serving cod and lake perch, plus a Saturday prime rib special. The new Silver Spur recaptures the menu and the friendliness of the old one. The only thing missing is the large outdoor deck and its surrounding trees. It almost feels wrong to have this much fun in quiet Elm Grove, but this should prove to be a good location.

Silver Spur Texas Smokehouse BBQ13275 Watertown Plank Road (262) 821-1511 $$ Credit Cards: All major Smoke-free Handicap Access: Yes


Silver Spur | Photos by Kate Engbring and Miranda Chaput