Photo by Anthony Mair
Photo by Anthony Mair Ribs, potato salad and beans.
Photo by Anthony Mair Brisket sandwich
Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and UNLV alumnus, may be more knowledgeable about what Las Vegas has to offer than any other national TV food host.
In late May, his show ran a segment on John Mull’s Meats, a hard-to-find butcher shop on a residential street that specializes in barbecue for large parties. Owner Chuck Frommer had a large local following before the show, but he reasoned there would be a rush after the show aired, and has made food available in an informal restaurant format, Road Kill Grill. Order in the shop and eat outside. So far, this is looking like a runaway hit.
Frommer was born here, in a house literally across a fence from the butcher shop in the northwest not far from Decatur Boulevard and Cheyenne Avenue. The name John Mull was chosen to honor his maternal grandfather. When Frommer was a child, the old man schooled him in the art of barbecue.
Early on, he realized he had passion for it, traveling all over the country to taste various regional specialties. I’d describe his ’cue as eclectic—Texas brisket; dry-rubbed Memphis spare ribs, pulled pork and chicken; and Southern-style chicken perfumed with red oak.
The secret of good ’cue is what barbecue aficionados call “low and slow,” and Road Kill Grill takes its time with meats, up to 18 hours for the brisket, and even longer for his spare ribs. That, and the quality of these meats, make Frommer’s smoky meats the best in the city.
This isn’t a complicated menu. There are excellent side dishes, such as a rich mac and cheese; stellar beans mingling with ground pork, bacon and jalapeños; and a beautifully balanced, tangy potato salad. The one dessert is cobbler, dished up from a metal tray kept in a hot case. You can usually get either apple or peach, both crusty and a tad too sweet.
Frommer makes his own rubs, too, visible in bags inside his shop. The ribs get a dry rub, and then are put inside a bag with water, so the rub can be absorbed, the same concept as used at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, N.Y., where the famous wings originated.
All the meats he makes use different techniques and smoking times. His own hot links, all-beef and with a spicy kick, use a natural casing. Brisket is fall-apart tender, perhaps the one brisket in town able to claim that distinction.
This isn’t the Ritz: Enter the shop and get in line. If you are here for lunch, trust me, there will be one. Choose your meat from a steam table and pay a cashier. Two barbecue sauces, mild and hot, sit in tubs against a back wall. (Look out—the hot one sneaks up on you!) You sit outside, as I mentioned, on benches next to an outdoor potting shed, under misters.
All dinners and combos include a choice of two sides. Perhaps the best choice is the five-bone rib dinner, but a three-meat combo, at $16, provides an astonishing amount of food. They dish it up with gusto at this place. No one leaves hungry.
If you only have appetite for one meat, though, ribs are the menu’s star dish. They come without sauce, and remind me of ones I ate at the famous Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous in Memphis, the only ribs in the city that approach Memphis-style ribs in stature.
Chicken is another good bet. Barbecue places generally prepare chicken with rubbery skin. This chicken, on the other hand, has a nice char and crisp skin.
Sure, I’d prefer the hot links whole, not cut into small pieces, and dry, not smothered in sauce. But those curmudgeons who insist there is no good ’cue in Las Vegas are just dead wrong.