And we begin our fourth-most Barbecue Restaurant Review, we invite you to proceed with a sense of caution, as what we might express to you could be louder than what you thought you heard. Why do you suppose that people choose where they will dine at one particular venue versus another, on a repeat basis? The answer can be broken down to a very simple possibility, either A: They like the food, B: They always get good service, or C: both A & B are true. Below these more upper level type truths lie a whole swarm of conditions that must also be met prior to even being considered being worthy of an 'upper truth'. These other requirements can sometimes be more of a why you "definitely should not" marker, than a "I'll be back" marker depending on one's own level of tolerance for these things.
This BBQ joint is housed inside a smaller building, roughly 1,000-1,500 square feet. The kitchen is completely segregated from the dining space minus the service window which is directly across from the drive thru window. The barbecue pit area is located between the walkway to the seating area and the driveway for pick up service, allowing for the sweet aroma of the smokers to fill your senses as you approach and/or wait in line. If you have ever driven north on Richards Road from Rayford, you might be familiar with the blinking traffic light sitting next to the aforementioned smoker. Traffic lights as you know, typically cycle through three colors signaling whether or not it might be safe or even lawful to proceed past the light. This particular traffic light however, always has the red light illuminated while the green and yellow just flash intermittently. Most law abiding people would recognize this as being an indication that proceeding past the red light could be a mistake.
While Country Time does offer a dining area, there is no obvious place for patrons to do things like wash their hands... a brief inquiry points you toward the garage in the proprietor's nearby house. It's not exactly an outhouse, but it is external to the eatery. Not a big deal in most cases - except of course during inclement weather. The tables are all picnic style, where one has to either slide in from the side, or climb over to sit down and eat. There's not a beverage fountain or condiment bar, either, except for some fresh, Sunbeam white bread sheathed in plastic wrap on a nearby table. The room was clean and climate controlled, so if you want to have a seat and eat, you can do it there.
Mustard Potato Salad
She Said: I went with the Two Meat Combo Special. For only $10, I got three, smallish slices of some pre-formed (and, likely) pre-cooked turkey breast, with almost no flavor - not to mention the lack of any indication it had ever been near a smoker, much less in one. Also included were eight, bite-size pieces of sausage that were all different in color - and possibly age - so it's unlikely that they were all cut from the same original sausage link; or even the same day for that matter. My two chosen sides consisted of a six ounce cup of bland coleslaw that tasted two or three days old, and six ounce cup of dry mustard potato salad that had nothing to offer in the way of flavor. And then there was a tiny little cup of what could easily be commercial, pre-made BBQ sauce. In a word - DISSAPOINTING.... very disappointing.
Country Time Two Meat Combo - $10.00
He Said: Many of you might recall Luther's Barbecue, now Papa's Bar-B-Q - Luther's had a really good chopped baker. It was comprised of a baker potato the with approximate proportions of a child's football, with lots of the good stuff - cheese, chives, butter, sour cream - and some of that delicious barbecue brisket. Just before the demise of Luther's, the BBQ sauce changed a little and became a little too tart for my taste, but at least they made it in-house. The Barbecue Baked Potato at Country Time is a different story. The potato was dense, yet small. It was thoroughly cooked, but probably in a gas or electric oven rather in a smoker. It wasn't really loaded with anything - other than carbohydrates (which are included at no extra charge). I asked for 'everything' but the small serving of meat nearly covered any signs that other toppings had been added.
Loaded Baked Potato $6.53
One good thing I can say about the brisket is that I found no discernible chunks of fat in the mix, but it was a bit dry, and I had to request additional BBQ sauce for moisture if nothing else. The overall flavor was simply unremarkable, and the portioning did not make me feel like I got my money's worth. It's been several years since I have eaten at Country Time BBQ - the last time I did, I purchased a similar loaded baked potato and a turkey sandwich - which actually wasn't very memorable. But in deference to the subconscious message of that solid red light, and due to the matter of convenience of location and time - coupled with a friend telling me how great it was that same afternoon - I found myself remembering too late why I hadn't been back before now.
We've heard others talk about how much they enjoy this particular brand of barbecue, and the drive thru traffic while we were there was slow but consistent, so we know that some people still get their BBQ at Country Time.... We just don't know why, when there are decidedly better options for barbecue available within driving distance. Maybe it's all about the location and convenience on the way home for the residents of nearby Imperial Oaks. Yes, they have been in business for quite some time, but they haven't expanded at all, so that leads us to the possible conclusion that they don't have a very large customer base. Corkscrew BBQ, for example, is a small operation - but they consistently sell as much BBQ as they can produce on a daily basis. That's some 500 pounds of meat per (five-day) week, and with their recent expansion - at the end of 2012 they will be able to produce even more of their fantastic brand of BBQ. An expansion we look to with great anticipation.
Depending on who you ask and where you are from, you may consider great barbecue to be different than others consider to be great barbecue. Some say that Texas has the best, while others claim that the best barbecue can be found in Kansas or even Tennessee. Whichever version of smoked meats you prefer, we can all agree that a good value is an important part of the equation. None of us would necessarily expect a barbecue restaurant to be Michelin star rated with a professional chef on staff because after all, barbecue is a traditionally "blue collar" food - the best of which seemingly always coming from tiny places known better by word of mouth than by commercialization. We don't mind paying a higher price when either the quantity is larger than normally expected, or the quality and flavor is at a minimum, acceptable. When the flavors exceed expectations but the quantity might not be as large as we would like, we can still rationalize the cost. Country Time Barbecue and Fixins is neither, and we have no plans to return any time soon.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide!
Country Time BBQ is located at 25330 Richard Road, Spring 77386