Restaurant Review: Off-the-Hook Oxtails at Les Barbecue Sandwiches | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly

Restaurant Review: Off-the-Hook Oxtails at Les Barbecue Sandwiches 

A Texas native brings a barbecue classic to Draper.

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  • Alex Springer

Though the two worlds don't often intersect, chefs and rock musicians share an awful lot in common. Both vocations attract people with larger-than-life personalities, a drive for perfection and a passion for their craft. Les Rhodes, Jr., a Texas native who now calls Utah home, is a good example of what can happen when those two worlds do collide—and all that smoked-meat swagger is happily on display at the recently opened Les Barbecue Sandwiches in Draper.

In true rock star fashion, Rhodes just kicked off a national tour where he'll be hosting barbecue pop-ups throughout the Southern U.S., including plenty of stops in his home state of Texas. While he's away doing the Lord's work on the barbecue front, interested parties are blessed to have a brick-and-mortar sandwich shop that does things Rhodes' way—the Texas way—right here on the Wasatch Front.

Texas barbecue favors a low-and-slow smoke preparation that is often applied to proteins like brisket, chicken and ribs, but one of Rhodes' storefronts wouldn't be complete without the self-proclaimed Oxtail King's protein of choice. Barbecued oxtails are a rarity in Utah; though several of our African and Vietnamese restaurants have had some great oxtail dishes on their menus, we haven't seen them done Texas-style since Rhodes came to town. Those who have only had the opportunity to enjoy Rhodes' barbecue talents and his signature oxtails at his pop-up events now have a place to go whenever they want to indulge that craving—and it even has a drive-thru.

First-time visitors who have yet to indulge in the primal delights of getting wrist-deep in a pile of piping hot smoked oxtails will want to start with a bowl of the Famous Oxtails ($40). Each bowl has about three softball-sized oxtails, and they provide plenty of meat for two reasonably hungry diners. The oxtail meat surrounds a beef tailbone, but keep in mind that these babies have been smoked for hours before they get to your plate. All that luscious beef requires little effort to pull off the tailbones, and it's completely saturated with flavor. Rhodes and his team don't fuss about dry rubs, marinades or sauces; they know how to dress and serve their proteins without moving those tricks to the forefront. Instead, what you get is a concentrated dose of pure beef flavor that offers plenty of time to meditate on the nuances you never knew were there last time you had some smoked beef.

As the storefront is billed as a sandwich shop, its sandwiches ($18) should definitely be on your list. You can choose smoked brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken or rib meat to go on your sandwich, and they'll even whip up an oxtail sandwich if they happen to have enough in stock; they do tend to run out of oxtail fairly quickly each day. Such occasions provide a good opportunity to try out some of the other barbecue talents on display, however, and I've tried the brisket sandwich so far.

I was pleased to see that they really stuff the sandwich full, so if you do plan on frequenting the drive-thru, don't try and eat this one while behind the wheel. Their sandwiches also have some sliced onion and pickle, along with a dollop of housemade barbecue sauce, and the acid is a perfect foil to all that rich protein. The brisket has all the telltale signs of a classic Texas barbecue: pink smoke ring around the edges, impossibly tender texture and a deep flavor with each bite.

Dig deeper into the menu and you'll see plenty of great barbecue vehicles. The current winner for me is the Frito Pie ($16) with either chicken or pork. It's similar to their nachos ($20), but they swap out the tortilla chips for some crumbly Fritos corn chips. Call me basic if you must, but getting a scoop of those crunchy Fritos with some cheese, guacamole, sour cream, barbecue sauce and spicy jalapeños gets me all nostalgic for the travelin' tacos that I had for school lunch. Of course, the Frito Pie at Les Barbecue is quite superior to the school cafeteria crap, but nostalgia is nostalgia.

The loaded baked potato ($20) takes the same barbecue goodness on display with the nachos and Frito Pie and piles them on a warm baked tater. It's a nice, starchy complement to whichever protein you prefer, and you can tell everyone that you're eating a vegetable alongside all that barbecue, which is always a bonus.

It's true that we have some great regional barbecue places in Utah, but I still feel like we've got plenty of room to grow and evolve. With Chef Les Rhodes, Jr. bringing all that Texas swagger, technique and penchant for spectacle—you see it every time you open a bowl of those signature smoked oxtails—our overall barbecue status level is becoming more legitimate. When you consider how revered pitmasters and sauce bosses are in their own communities, you've got to be grateful to personalities like Rhodes who bring the brisket right into our collective back yard.

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