Barbecue x3

by

What started as a Texas twosome is soon expanding to a trio of barbecue joints in the Idaho Panhandle. Is there room for all this finger-lickin’ fare? We’ll find out in March when the new TEXAS ROADHOUSE opens, joining PORKY G’S and FAMOUS WILLIE’S BBQ, which opened last fall.

A former welder from Texas, Porky G’s owner Gary Stinnett started out doing catering, including a barbecue he made himself. His menu is simple and to-the-point: meat and sides. A pulled pork sandwich meal with a drink ($8) includes two sides, such as smoked barbecue beans or coleslaw. Hot links, chicken and spare ribs ($17, half-rack/$22, full) round out the meat offerings. Operating out of a drive-up facility (233 W. Dalton Ave., Coeur d’Alene; 208-772-6644), Stinnett will be relocating and expanding in the spring.

Willie Spradley, who’s also from Texas, might need to expand, too. All 26 seats were packed on a recent Saturday evening at Famous Willie’s (101 E. Seventh St., Post Falls, Idaho; 208-773-0000).

“I know we’re not the best,” he joked, “but we’re the best we know.”

Spradley’s humor is evident in the décor. Farm tools, a Texas longhorn rack, and clever horseshoe-turned-paper towel holders join pictures of “famous” Willies in one room, while family photos of “not-so-famous” Willies line the other.

In the kitchen, though, Spradley gets serious: Oak-smoked ribs, pork shoulder, chicken, Cajun sausage and melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket are staples of a successful catering business that eventually led to the opening of Famous Willie’s. Try the Cowboy Stuffed Potato with chicken, brisket or pork ($7), smoked chicken sandwich ($5) or fragrant red beans and rice ($4, bowl).

Spradley’s wife Debbe makes most of the sides, like regular and “Mexican” cornbread (with jalapeño and cheese), potato salad and coleslaw with little chunks of apples to surprise you. She also makes pies — varying daily, with choices like peach cobbler, apple or pecan — including the unusual buttermilk pie that had us squabbling over the last creamy bite.

Barbecue also runs in the Davis family, who ran a Texas Roadhouse in Arizona before their anticipated opening on March 29 of the chain’s latest branch (402 W. Neider Ave., Coeur d’Alene; 208-664-1903). As expected, the extensive menu features meat (steaks, ribs, chicken, pork), along with seafood (salmon and shrimp), sandwiches, appetizers and a full bar.

“It’s a fun, casual, lively place,” says Annette Davis, whose husband Dan is managing partner. The 300-seat capacity is ideal for large gatherings — for birthdays, “They’ll put you up on the Texas Roadhouse saddle,” explains Annette, then take your picture and give you a great big yee-haw!

So who will be the barbecue champ of the Coeur d’Alene area? Find out for yourself at the first-ever 2010 Inland Northwest BBQ Championship on June 19-20 at Kootenai County Fairgrounds (smokinidaho.info). Until then, stock up on dental floss and check out what’s smokin’ in the Panhandle.