Las Vegas has established itself as one of America’s, if not the world’s, preeminent dining destinations. Many of the world’s most famous and successful chefs have launched flamboyant restaurants that celebrate their self-aggrandizing greatness in magnificent pantheons of gustatory grandeur.
Fortunately for true gastronomes who don’t worship exclusively at the tables of gastronomic glitterati, Las Vegas has also attracted its share of chefs with whom those of us of the common clay can identify–chefs who didn’t refine their skills at a snooty culinary institute but in the backyard on the family grill. With a recent influx of pit masters migrating to Las Vegas from America’s heartlands, Sin City may someday compete with Memphis, Kansas City, Texas and South Carolina as a bastion of barbecue. Witness:
- Mike “The Legend” Mills, a four-time world champion at “Memphis in May,” the most prestigious barbecue competition in the world chose Las Vegas as the site of his four Memphis Championship Barbecue restaurants. In recent years his restaurant has been a mainstay on the annual “Best of Las Vegas” awards.
- It’s been said that when it comes to Texas barbecue, all roads lead to the award-winning Salt Lick Barbecue restaurant in the tiny backwater town of Driftwood, Texas. That may have been true until 2006 when Salt Lick launched its one and only franchise outside of Texas within the confines of the Red rock Resort in Las Vegas?
- Buckingham’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Q is perhaps the very best barbecue in the Ozarks and now in Las Vegas, sole site of its only franchise outside of Springfield, Missouri.
Don’t assume that because of its gentrified, British sounding name Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q is a high-end establishment with starched linen-tablecloths and a bowtie-sporting wait-staff. Take a close look at the “Buckingham” logo–a rodeo wrangler on a bucking pink pig–and you’ll understand the sobriquet.
The restaurant’s interior is almost stark in its decorum. Several pink pig figurines adorn the counter while vintage photographs of starlets and golfers of bygone eras festoon one wall. Speakers play both kinds of music–Country and Western–while a sole television is tuned to a station playing old western movies. An unfurled banner over a counter proclaims Buckingham Smokehouse as winner of the 2006 Editor’s Choice award for best barbecue in Las Vegas.
The Buckingham Smokehouse is co-owned by Marc Leeds and Mike Simpson, a gregarious entrepreneur whose ambitious visions of expansion could mean as many as ten restaurants by decade’s end. Simpson is the consummate host with an impressive business pedigree and an obvious customer orientation. Since purchasing the restaurant in May, 2006, he has both opened and closed every day, slowly implementing the personal touches and marketing campaigns that will have his fine swine on the lips of all Vegas diners.
If you had to work 80 hour weeks, too, you’d want to be surrounded by the olfactory arousing aromas of hardwoods as they weave their slow-smoked enchantment on some of the very best pork and beef in the west. The menu is replete with all the usual barbecue standards. What sets them apart is savory, slow-smoking that imbues meats with a rare combination of tenderness, moistness and deliciousness. Two sauces are available–a fiery sauce with a genesis in the Ozarks and a sweet Georgia sauce. Both are excellent, albeit absolutely unnecessary because the pork and beef need no amelioration.
The pit combo for well under $20 can easily feed two hungry diners. The turkey-platter-sized combination plate includes the very best hickory smoked chicken I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. It was, in fact, the very first poultry I’ve ever considered worthy of the plumes of hickory smoke. The sliced beef brisket, a USDA quality cut, dry-rubbed with spices was a formidably delicious bounty comparable to the brisket you’ll find in Texas. The pulled pork is sinfully tender, the hot links spicy and juicy and the ham mouth-watering and surprisingly lean.
Buckingham Smokehouse’s signature piece are its baby back ribs which are profusely meaty and as tender enough for denture-wearers. The pigs from whom these ribs were extricated were obviously well fed. In general, all the meats are of obviously high quality.
The combo also includes two sides: a tangy horseradish coleslaw that bites back and molasses perfected pit beans. The menu will also soon include Brunswick Stew, a Civil War era concoction that includes a medley of meats and vegetables. The Georgia-based recipe of “Grandpa Davis” is circa 1887 but has the timeless goodness savvy diners will appreciate.
For dessert, you can’t beat the peach cobbler a la mode. The peaches are reminiscent of those your grandma may have canned–fresh, sweet and delicious. This is some of the best cobbler of any sort we’ve ever experienced.
For a taste of Buckingham’s incomparable barbecue, I’d gladly don my chaps and sit astride a bucking pig.
Buckingham Smokehouse Bar-B-Q
2341 North Rainbow Blvd.
Las Vegas, Nevada
LATEST VISIT: 10 June 2006
# OF VISITS: 1
BEST BET: Pit Combo (Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Pit Ham, Ribs, Quarter Chicken, Hot Link), Horseradish Coleslaw, Pit Beans, Peach Cobbler Ala Mode