LYNYRD SKYNYRD (and a couple of critics) Ought to be Skynned

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Las Vegas is where barbecue goes to die.

Mike Mill’s Memphis Championship Barbecue may have held down his wilderness forts over the past two decades, but at the same time, places as passionate as Struttin’ Gates, Paul Kirk’s R.U.B. and Salt Lick have crashed upon the twin, palate-parched boulders of tourist and local’s collective eating idiocy. What remains are awful chains like Lucille’s and Famous Dave’s, and even awful-er local joints like Buzz and T. C.’s Rib Crib — all standing for the proposition that Las Vegas never met a piece of smoked meat mediocrity it didn’t embrace.

Into this sorry state of affairs we now have a place named after a has-been (and we mean has-been!) band from the 70s, that has gotten more mileage out of  two hit songs than anyone since the Ohio Express. What is obvious from the second you see it is, this is a licensing deal made by MGM Resorts with whatever company owns the rights to whatever can be sold with the name of a has-been (and we mean has-been!) Southern rock band on it. Think of it as a barbecue joint tacked onto a t-shirt shop and you’ll get the idea. Take a taste of the food and you’ll get the idea too.

It is a testament to ELV love of  ‘cue that even a place promising to be as bad as this could get us into the Excalibur Hotel — somewhere we hadn’t set foot in over 15 years. “Well,” we thought to ourselves, “those noted barbecue experts Brock Radke and Max (“On Wisconsin”) Jacobson have both written positive things about it.”

“But then again,” we thought, “Brock loved Mastro’s (seriously denting whatever food cred he has been accumulating), and Max (a Wisconsin-er ite by way of Massachusetts), has spent about as much time in the South as we have in Mozambique, so maybe we shouldn’t get so excited.” (In case you’re wondering, ELV, even in his thoughts and dreams, always refers to himself with the imperial “we.”)

So we trundled in, sort of against our own will, and found this big, empty room, smack dab in the middle of the casino, with a giant video screen playing an eclectic mix of music (thankfully, no “Freebird”), and serving barbecue from steamer trays. Yes, steamer trays. Which it tasted like — more on that below.

We ordered from a sexy, little brunette who sat at our table and explained how we were supposed to take our ticket up to the feeding trough….er..uh…buffet line, and tell them what we wanted and they’d check it off on the ticket that we would bring back with our cafeteria tray of food. We got two lunch special sandwiches for ten bucks each and two sides. We couldn’t resist the allure of the “Lynyrd Skynyrd” beer and got a mason jar of that as well. The beer was an inoffensive pilsner, with perhaps a little more body than the carbonated water fans of this sort of music (and this sort of food) usually enjoy. In retrospect, though, it was one of the highlights of the meal.

All of the lowlights concerned things you actually had to chew. Jacobson and Brock both bloviated about how they’ve “imported the style and recipes of the legendary Kreuz Market,” in Lockhart, TX — taking their cues on this ‘cue straight from the press releases — and how “spectacular” the meats are…which only signals to us either 1) their laziness; or, 2) their cluelessness about ‘cue. Or probably both. They also gassbagged about how the real owners (something called Drive This Entertainment) drove all over somewhere searching out the best barbecue. Which means not a thing unless you employ someone who actually knows how to season and cook the stuff.

Neither of our meats (brisket and pork) had even the merest hint of smoke to it. Whatever vaunted “rub” so enthused our two clueless critics wasn’t discernible on either pile of tangled, mangled meats. That mangling was most malevolent on the pork. Neither chopped nor pulled, it looked like something a careless cook would hack from a cooked roast and haphazardly throw into some bread. Which was exactly what happened before our eyes. The meat tasted steamed and canned, again without a hint of smoke or kitchen talent behind it. The brisket was slightly better, if only because there is but one way to slice it. And the buns were stale — at least a day past their peak condition.

On the plus side, fans of gummy, gloppy, overly sweet barbecue sauces will be in hog heaven, and the cheese grit fries and collard greens were both darn tasty and worthy of a place at any Southern table.

And our waitron had a nice caboose on her….so at least there was that.

Our lunch for two with a single beer came to $33 — including a four dollar tip for that nice caboose.


In the Excalibur Hotel and Casino

3850 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


17 thoughts on “LYNYRD SKYNYRD (and a couple of critics) Ought to be Skynned

  1. The one and only time I had bbq in Las Vegas (Memphis), I had to stop at Bryant’s in Kansas City (going home) to gargle the sauce to get the nasty taste from my mouth. Gates is 4th place around here. We have great “q” in this town.

  2. ELV responds: Harry O’s is so bad it is beneath demeaning. Further proof that my fellow critics in this town: Yankees and Californians all, haven’t a clue about good ‘cue.

  3. Thanks for the warning, not that I would ever venture into the Excalibur; the sandwich looks like something only an OB/GYN should ever see?

  4. Wait, wait, wait! Let me get this straight: Take The Excalibur (a godforsaken place since the day it opened), add barbecue (the one cuisine that has never, ever been created with any level of quality in this city), and mix it in with a marketing campaign around a band that has been and “has been” since before time, and it failed to deliver????

    That’s just crazy talk! I can’t imagine what wouldn’t work about this idea! Let’s use a washed up marketing angle to sell lousy food to people walking through the land that hope forgot!

  5. I grant your status as a Southern preppie, and that’s Wisconsin-ite, not er, by the way, although I realize spelling isn’t a law school requirement. However, I still say that regardless of your pulling rank, your taste in cabooses is far more sophisticated than your taste in food.

  6. Last time I was in the Ex it smelled like a dirty diaper, I imagine the placement of even a bad BBQ joint would at least serve as a giant air freshner for the rest of the place.

    David Byrne? I would have loudly demanded PLAY FREE BIRD!

  7. Anytime someone puts true BBQ in a steamer tray, it is not BBQ. So even if we assume that they smoked the pork shoulder and brisket for the requisite 12 hours, they then tear it apart and let it sit in a steam tray, which ruins the hours of time (allegedly) spent in the smoker. What a shame. I have come to the conclusion that the only decent BBQ (I am from NC) is whatever I put in the smoker in my backyard. I know that after laboring for 12 hours on pork shoulder, I am not going to steam it. I also know for sure that at Kruez or anyplace in Lockhart, they slice the brisket when you order it.

  8. They claim they imported the style and recipes of the legendary Kreuz Market, in Lockhart, TX ???

    That is a bold, serious claim. Not so shockingly, they don’t come close to delivering.

  9. I just saw the photos of the interior. They have a Kreuz Market sign hanging up!! There ought to be a law…

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