Barbeque is like visiting an Orlando theme park. Most people tend to have at least a part of it they like, nearly everyone has an opinion yet those opinions are almost universally positive. This is a cooking technique that, as any amateur in the backyard with an over-priced smoker has learned, that is difficult to master yet has a low entry point to still being palatable.
So what about local joints? Well, since the long ago demise of Mike's Smokehouse it's difficult for any spot to lay claim to being "THE" BBQ spot for the Chippewa Valley. There are a few locations, each with their strengths and that includes Karl's BBQ which recently opened a location on Hastings Way to compliment their Chippewa Falls spot. Of course, the people behind this restaurant long ago were behind the Embers on the city's westside and have for many years been involved in catering.
Ordered: Pulled Pork & Slaw Sandwich
Price: $25 total for two adults
Entrée’: As a customer, barbeque is great because it's fast food (in that it's served fast) yet still has the time and effort (and usually the layers of flavor) that comes from a more individually cooked meal. It's also good because BBQ can make for a quick and easy lunch or a full sitdown dinner.
On this visit, the Hungry Italian took in the Eau Claire location just before a lunch rush. The physical location has served as a sitdown restaurant over the last few years yet the floor space is tiny. A few tables lay in front of a walkup counter where a customer orders. The meats and sides are laid out in front, which makes for a good visual. Service was a little slow, but the passion behind those preparing your individual plate definitely comes through. A line was forming as the Hungry Italian finished but the wait is understandable.
The Hungry Italian ordered a pulled pork and cole slaw sandwich with french fries. Be smart! Order the pork and slaw sandwich, then get an additional side. Don't order just a sandwich and cole slaw...that's a rookie move!
One thing is for sure, you aren't cheated on portions. The sandwich buns were the size of a giant's palm and overflowing with tender pork and at least a cup of creamy coleslaw. There is no debate that this is very good value.
What about the taste? The sandwich buns and cole slaw were excellent. The slaw in particular is of the creamy variety with a savory flavor and a hint of sweetness to go along with a fun mixture of smooth and crispy texture.
The pork, while extremely tender, didn't seem to have much flavor too it. Not that it was bad, but considering the reputation was slightly dissapointing. However, the Hungry Italian loves BBQ sauce and when paired with a house's sweet variety it was still very good. The pulled pork, mixed with sauce and cole slaw was all very good.
The only true dissapointment were the french fries. If one likes heavily salted fries (think McDonald's times 100) then you'll love these and there are those who will. Not this guy though. Now let's be honest, they're french fries and they were still eaten just not something that would be ordered again especially when other more decadent side options are available.
Second Helping? Karl's is deserving of another visit. It has a easy to get to location.
Final Score 3 out of 5 cheese curds