J&J Bar-B-Que is a Central Texas-style smokehouse from Jay Moore and Jon Lucas. Together, the two Js are channeling the Deep South and are dishing out slow-smoked specialties from their white oak-burning offset cooker in the backyard.
The BBQ took over the Kensington Market address formerly home to Thomas Lavers Cannery & Deli . At J&J, you order at the back while the front half of the room features long counters to perch up against, a self-serve pickle bar and a drink station stocked with Big Red cream soda and sweet tea among the typical lineup of fountain sodas.
The menu lists smoked brisket ($16), turkey ($12) and spare ribs ($7) riced per half pound, along with house-made sausages ($5 per piece), beef ribs ($32/pound) and smoked cabbage ($5/quarter cabbage). You can grab platters with any of the meaty selections and top them off at the condiments bar with slices of white bread, pickles and onions.
The brisket is especially good. The seasoned barque is crispy while the meaty interior is luscious and just melts into a puddle in the tray.
The sausages are my second favourite. The casing around Hot Guts, a peppery beef sausage snaps, when I bite into it. The milder Mac N Chz sausage oozes with cheese and is studded with soft noodles.
The ribs are good too. They're big meaty bones and the pork is smoked to a perfect firm, not fall-off-the-bone consistency.
Smokey cabbage with gently charred tips is drizzled with a tangy mustard-based sauce and sour cream. This dish does double duty as a vegetarian alternative that also offers relief from all the meatiness.
Sides-wise, there's a creamy coleslaw, potato salad, macaroni salad and pinto beans loaded with chunks of brisket and pork. Each selection is available in one of two sizes for $2.50 and $4, respectively.
A slab of warm buttered cheddar jalapeno cornbread ($3) is a welcome addition. And the sides in general excel and make this place a one stop shop for well-rounded meals.
Aside from massive meaty platters, the restaurant offers a couple of sandwiches. These include the chopped brisket with bacon, cheese and jalapeños on a danish ($12) as well as a smoked roast beef dip on a pretzel bun ($12).
For dessert, pretzel fluff bars ($3.50), banana pudding ($3.50), pecan pralines ($3) and Big Red freezies ($2) are among the tempting offerings. They're appropriately packaged for take home so you can enjoy them once the meat sweats subside.
Speaking of take home option, there's also a refrigerated case full of Czech-style charcuterie. Thick-cut smoked bacon ($12/pound), honeyed ham hocks ($4.50/pound) and maple pork loins ($10/pound) are vacuum sealed and ready to be fried up for what could possibly be the best brunch you don't have to leave the house for.
Limited quantities means the meat can, and will, sell out. On my first attempt to visit, the shop was closing up around 3:30 p.m. because it had run out of food. The next day I showed up at doors open; 11 a.m. 10/10 would do it again.
Photos by Jesse Milns