Dimples Spicy BBQ Sauce

Dimples Original BBQ sauce was one of the very first products to receive a 5 Star review back in 2011. The sweet, tangy North Carolina sauce remains one of my favorites to this day. It's got nearly everything I'm looking for in a BBQ sauce: loads of natural sweetness, balanced savory spices and moderate vinegar tang. The only thing missing is a touch of heat.

It's not easy to improve on a 5 star product, but Dimples has really outdone themselves. They've kept everything that's great about the original sauce and added another dimension to just the right degree. Many companies release spicy versions of their sauces. Unfortunately, what's great about the original product often gets overshadowed by the newly added heat. To their credit, Dimples has found the perfect balance.

Like the original, Dimples Spicy is a medium/thin sauce. The spicy version seemed to be a bit darker red, but that may have just been my perception. I didn't actually have the two sauces side by side. Both are packaged in 16 oz. plastic bottles.

Because of its consistency, Dimples is incredibly versatile. It's equally effective as a grilling glaze or dip. The flavor pairs perfectly with pork and chicken, but it's delicious on brisket and burgers as well. I also love it poured over any kind of fried potato (tots, fries, hash browns).  Most importantly, Dimples Spicy was a key ingredient in the best pulled pork sandwich that I've ever created.

To date, I've reviewed more than a hundred sauces. Dimples Spicy ranks among the very best. I've already contacted a close friend in North Carolina and requested that they bring plenty of Dimples Spicy with them on their next trip to Michigan.

If you like sweet, tangy sauces and can stand a little bit of heat, Dimples has exactly what you're looking for. Check out the Dimples website to learn more about their products and order some of your own.

Rating: (5/5)

Maui Pepper Co. Hot Sauces

Maui Pepper Co. hot sauces are another great line of products from Tahiti Joes. Like "Joes", these sauces feature unique pairings of fruit with a variety of scorching hot peppers. Each sauce is island inspired with tropical flavors and plenty of heat.

Thanks to Tahiti Joe, I've had a bit of experience with sweet, Polynesian hot sauces. However, I've never tasted anything like the flavor combinations that Maui Pepper Co. has put together. The sauces are the sweetest I've tasted. However, you don't get to enjoy that sweetness long because it's followed up by a wave of heat.

There are currently nine different offerings in the Maui Pepper line. The entire product line is intriguing, but I will focus on two particular sauces for this review. Strawberry Meltdown and Chipotle Raspberry sounded so strange (and delicious) that I had to try them immediately.

The base for nearly every hot sauce that I've encountered has been vinegar and peppers. Strawberry Meltdown completely bucks tradition by using sweetened strawberries as the primary ingredient. They even add honey and apple juice for additional sweetness. So far, it sounds like a dessert syrup that you'd drizzle over ice cream.

I was really surprised by the sauce's sweetness when I first tasted it. I'd never had a hot sauce that was quite so sweet. That initial surprise was followed by slow building burn. The sauce is hot, but not "super hot". Having never actually tasted a strawberry sauce before, I wasn't sure what to use it on. However, I found several potential applications. It's great on things like grilled fish or chicken. Strawberry Meltdown adds a nice bite to fresh salads. It can also be used to add heat to your favorite sweets.....even ice cream.

Chipotle Raspberry is another sweet offering from Maui Pepper Co. Though I didn't find it nearly as sweet as Strawberry Meltdown, it still had a distinct fruit flavor. This sauce uses vinegar, raspberries and mangoes for it's sweet and tangy base. It too, is great for chicken and seafood.

Maui Pepper Co. proves that hot sauces don't have follow a particular set of rules. With creative  and deliciously sweet flavor combinations, these sauces have carved their own niche in the market.

Check out the Maui Pepper and Tahiti Joes' product lines at http://tahitijoeshotsauces.com/

Strawberry Meltdown Rating: (4/5)
Chipotle Raspberry Rating: (3.5/5)

Kyvan Sweet BBQ Sauce

As tailgating grows in popularity, the relationship between football and BBQ becomes even more evident. These days, competition quality Q can be found smoking in stadium parking lots all across the country. Saturday and Sunday afternoons have become showcases for pit masters to both feed and entertain fans before and after the big game.

It's no surprise that football players sometimes get into BBQ as well. Ex Mississippi State standout and 13 year NFL pro, Reggie Kelly, is a prime example. After completing his football career, Reggie transitioned to the food business. Leaning on his Southern roots and love of cooking, Reggie Kelly started Kyvan Soul Food Selections (named after his children, Kyla and Kavan).

Kyvan's product line includes several sauces (BBQ / Wing), spice rubs, salsas and fruit spreads. Since we try to focus primarily on BBQ, Reggie was kind enough to send me some of his Sweet BBQ Sauce to review. Kyvan sauces are packaged in 16 oz. plastic bottles. The color scheme and design is very similar for all of their sauces. The Kyvan logo is featured prominently (front and center) on each bottle. The sauce is a rich, dark brown in the bottle. It's consistency is "syrup like" and pours pretty quickly from the bottle.

The label says "Sweet BBQ Sauce" and that's no lie. The tomato based sauce uses both brown and white sugar, along with HFCS, for a multi layered sweetness. Savory ingredients like onion and garlic are present, but don't quite balance the sweetness. There is also a significant smoke factor that was somewhat unexpected, but very enjoyable.

When tasting the sauce, I also felt like their was a slight Polynesian note to the flavor that I couldn't quite place. Whatever it was, it worked well with the smokiness. As I've said time after time, I'm a sucker for a sweet BBQ sauce. It doesn't get much sweeter than Kyvan's.

My family and I used Sweet BBQ Sauce a number of times as a dip and grilling glaze. It won rave reviews from everyone at the table. It was especially good on baby back ribs. The sauce brushed on smooth and glistened on the ribs as they finished grilling. All those sugars got even richer when heat was applied.

Kyvan's Sweet BBQ Sauce is an excellent compliment to ribs and chicken. It also works well as a dip for chicken fingers / nuggets. When using as a grilling glaze, it's important to be conscious of open flames because of the high sugar content. Sweet sauces will char in a hurry when near an open flame.

Kvan Soul Food Selections can be found in Walmarts and several independent grocers throughout the South East. You can also purchase Sweet BBQ Sauce directly from the source at www.kyvan82.com .

Rating: (4/5)

Willie's Hog Dust

I reviewed Willie's Hog Wash a couple of months ago, but it was actually the rub, Hog Dust, that initially interested me in Willie's products. Hog Dust is a great name for a BBQ rub, especially for a company based in South Carolina where pork is king. It's a product I'd had my eye on for quite some time and was anxious to give it a try. 
Blended specifically with pork in mind, Willie's Hog Dust is a sweet and salty mix with a hefty amount of paprika. Onion, garlic and a variety of other spices provide savory accents and balance the flavors. Salt, sugar and paprika are always a solid foundation for a good pork rub. The key, of course, is how skillfully the core ingredients are blended.
Hog Dust comes in three varieties: Original, Sweet and Spicy. All three are quality blends with similar base ingredients. I've been using each of them constantly for the last couple of months. I've applied Hog Dust to ribs and pork butts, but I've also used it on everything from burgers to veggies.
I've found Willie's Hog Dust to be a versatile product. The sweet and salty blend  has been solid in nearly every situation. My favorite use thus far has been pork ribs. I dusted a couple racks liberally with Hog Dust and smoked them for five hours with aromatic pecan wood. The rub created a delicious mahogany bark that was perfect on the beautiful racks.
The salt / sugar ratio in this rub is right on point. I love the caramelization that I get from the sugars, but also the savory flavor provided by the salt and spices. Regardless of what type of meat your grilling or smoking, Willie's Hog Dust will provide ample flavor.
It's been quite some time since I've had a rub that I liked as much as Hog Dust. Hot, Sweet or Original, It's all fantastic. It's a product that I would recommend for both home cooks and competitors.
Check out Hog Dust and all of Willie's fine products online @ http://willieshogdust.com/
Rating: (5/5)

TexJoy Steak Seasoning

Though they new produce a full line of spices and blended seasonings, TexJoy's roots can actually be traced back to a small coffee company founded in 1921. The Texas Coffee Company supplied Beaumont and the surrounding area for years before the TexJoy line of seasonings was born. 

Tex Joy's product line is incredibly vast. In addition to grinding and packaging nearly all the common spices found in your pantry, they also have a variety of steak, BBQ and fajita seasoning blends. These products can now be purchased in retail stores all over the Southern United States. 

The first product I got my hands on was their original steak seasoning. Like all TexJoy products, the Steak Seasoning is packaged with a bright yellow label and their contrasting red label. My sample came in a 5.25 oz. shaker, but most of their seasonings are available in a variety of sizes.  

The first three ingredients listed on the package are salt, garlic and black pepper. As far as I'm concerned, that's a pretty good place to start (and stop) for steak seasoning. It also lists "other spices" and MSG. Oddly, the seasoning primarily orange in color which may provide hints of what the "other spices" are. The spices are finely ground making it difficult to spot the individual elements. 

I've been using this seasoning regularly on everything from steaks to fish and vegetables. It's essentially become my salt replacement and all purpose seasoning. For steaks, I prefer a more coarsely ground seasoning blend. However, it's been pretty tasty on fish and veggies. 

In today's crowded market, TexJoy's Steak Seasoning does little to stand out. I've used the product with moderate success, but it doesn't quite rate as a top shelf option. However, it does work well as a seasoned salt for nearly any application as long as you're not scared off by the inclusion of MSG.

Check out TexJoy's entire line of seasonings, spices and coffee online HERE

Rating: (3/5)

Tahiti Joe's Hot Sauces

Hot sauces can be categorized in a variety of ways. Heat level is the most obvious characteristic. They're also often grouped by pepper type. Additionally, the sauce's origin can generally be traced back to one of three main regions: Mexico, The Caribbean or Asia.

Though countless quality sauces can be found from any of the aforementioned categories, I'm always on the lookout for "outsiders". When I discovered Tahiti Joe's, I was immediately intrigued. Their line of hot pepper sauces runs the complete spectrum of heat levels while the ingredients and flavors have a distinct Polynesian flare.

Despite what their branding and flavors would indicate, Tahiti Joe's is not based in the South Pacific. The sauces are produced in West Palm Beach Florida.  There also appears to be an Ohio connection based on a couple novelty offerings. As a die hard Wolverine, I can't say that I approve of their "Buck U Michigan" offering, but I'll try not to hold that against them.There are currently eleven different sauces in the Tahiti's Joe's lineup plus nine additional sauces in their Maui Pepper line (to be reviewed at a later date).

The eleven Tahiti Joe's sauces range from tongue tingling spicy to hotter than ghost pepper hell. Each one also features sweet, complex Polynesian flavor profiles that make them very unique in the hot sauce market. I won't be able to review EVERY flavor offering, but I'll address a couple of my favorites in this review and circle back to some of their other offerings at a later date.

As with any company that offers multiple products, I like to start with the original product. Every sauce company starts with that original flavor that was just soooo good that they had to bottle it for the masses. For Tahiti Joe's, it was the Polynesian hot sauce.

Polynesian hot sauce blends habenero and jalapeno peppers with vinegar for a spicy, tangy base. Most hot sauces would stop right there, but it's the additional ingredients that separates Polynesian (and all Tahiti Joe's sauces) from the pack. Clam juice, honey, tomatoes, carrots, garlic and parmesan cheese are all crammed into the 5 oz. bottle.

The result is a really complex melody of sweet, savory and spicy flavors. The flavor is so good that the heat takes a back seat. The moderate spice is tolerable, but does build steadily. The rich, well rounded flavor was a fantastic surprise. The sweet elements are great with fish tacos. If you can stand the heat, Polynesian makes an incredible wing sauce as well.

After thoroughly enjoying Tahiti Joe's Polynesian Hot Sauce, I decided to tackle their hottest sauce, Uhane Akai XXXX Hot Sauce. This sauce uses the infamous ghost pepper (as well as habeneros) as its heat source. Like all Tahiti Joe's sauces, the peppers are accented by a variety of unique ingredients like key lime juice, clam juice, honey and ginger. Unfortunately, with a sauce this hot, the other ingredients aren't necessary.

Flavor be damned with Uhane Akai. I'm fairly certain that your taste buds totally shut done as soon as a drop of this evil concoction hits your tongue. Like all the other extreme hot sauces that I've tasted over the years, I have a hard time evaluating the sauce's merits. I can't exactly say that I "enjoy" it. On the other hand, the sauce delivers on its promises. It's CRAZY HOT!

In a crowded hot sauce market, Tahiti Joe's is in a category of its own. Infused with sweet and savory elements of the South Pacific, their original Polynesian Hot Sauce is as good as it gets. Uhane Akai will singe, sear, and blister your tongue. If your the type of sadist that enjoys those sort of sensations, then grab a bottle and have at it. Based on the initial impressions that first two sauces made, I can't wait to try their other offerings.

Check out Tahiti Joe's entire sauce lineup at http://tahitijoeshotsauces.com/

Polynesian Hot Sauce: (5/5)
Uhane Akai: (4/5)

Sugar Hill Smoke House Sweet & Tangy BBQ Sauce

Sugar Hill is sleepy Atlanta suburb in Northern Georgia. It's also the namesake for Mike O'Rourke's newly produced BBQ sauce. The Georgia native's sauce is a blend based on childhood memories of the tangy vinegar dip used by the local smokehouse as well as the sweet, tomato based recipe that his mother brewed at home.

The result is a medium / thin red sauce that's both sweet and tangy (as stated on the label). Sugar Hill Smokehouse BBQ Sauce is packaged in standard 16 oz. glass bottles. The label / logo is simple, but appealing.

Like many Georgia sauces, Sugar Hill Smokehouse also includes a fair amount of mustard. This balances the sweetness and adds to the tang. The all natural sauce is sweetened with sugar and molasses (no HFCS). The spices / seasonings include the usual suspects.

I first used Sugar Hill as a finishing glaze for two nicely trimmed racks of St. Louis ribs. The sauce looked fantastic on the racks. It brushed on smoothly and created a great glossy shine. The color darkened just a bit under the heat, giving the ribs a magnificent mahogany bark.

The flavor of the sauce held up well to the heat. It lost a bit of tang, but a hint of mustard was still evident. The sugars got richer and deeper which complimented the salty rub and smokey meat. The sauce made the each bone appropriately sweet and sticky.

I later poured Sugar Hill Sweet & Tangy over a mound of smoked pork shoulder. I love tossing smoked pork into medium/thin tangy sauces. Sugar Hill proved to be a perfect BBQ sandwich sauce. It's thin enough to penetrate every piece of pulled pork, but thick enough to stand on it's own and be poured over the sandwich.

Sugar Hill Smokehouse Sweet & Tangy is great because of it's versatility. It's the style of sauce I constantly have on hand. It's suitable for nearly any BBQ application. Additionally, since it doesn't feature any real extreme flavors, it's the type of sauce that nearly everyone will enjoy.

Pick up a bottle of this delightful sauce Here.

Rating: (4/5)

Triple Crown Organic BBQ Sauce

Minnesota based, Triple Crown BBQ Sauce, started in the home kitchen of Richard Schaaf in the early 90s. Richard entered his home brewed sauce in the Minnesota State Fair on several occasions where it won multiple blue ribbons. Word of Richard's sauce spread quickly until the market demanded that the sauce be sold commercially. In 2009, Triple Crown hit the shelves of local markets.

In 2012, the sauce and brand were acquired by Andy Wright who made some tweaks / upgrades to both the recipe and packaging. Even more recently the sauce became USDA certified organic making Triple Crown only the second organic BBQ sauce that I've reviewed.

Triple Crown's packaging is stylish and appealing. It's definitely tailored to the organic / hipster market. The slender, 12 oz bottles fall right in line with the aesthetics commonly seen in Whole Foods and other organic markets. This alone, makes it a standout among most sauces.

Thick, sweet and smokey are the three defining adjectives for describing Triple Crown BBQ Sauce. One taste leaves little doubt as to it's region of origin. This is a Midwestern sauce to the core. It's the type of sauce that I grew up with. What sets Triple Crown apart from other common tomato based sauces is the ingredient list. Thick, organic tomato puree is sweetened intensely with pure cane sugar and given depth with savory ingredients like salt, garlic, and chili pepper. They then go the extra mile to enhance the flavor with exotic spices like tamarind and allspice. Natural hickory flavor (liquid smoke) is also very evident in the flavor and aroma.

With ribs on the menu, I chose Triple Crown BBQ Sauce to give two racks of meaty spares a sweet, sticky finish. After smoking the ribs for 5 hours, I applied Triple Crown liberally and grilled each rack for a couple minutes per side. As with any sweet sauce, I took care not to allow the hot flames too much contact with the ribs to prevent burning.

Thanks to Triple Crown, my ribs were a tantalizing ruby red. I probably should have heated the sauce a bit before applying it to get a smoother, more glossy finish. Even without doing so, the ribs were still beautiful. Better yet, the ribs' taste surpassed their appearance. The sweet, smokey profile was just what I was looking for with those ribs.

Triple Crown has all the components of a top notch tomato BBQ sauce. Thanks to the extra attention and care given to each of those components, Triple Crown separates itself from familiar favorites. Organic sauces are few and far between. I'm thankful for another tasty option. It's the type of sauce that you can serve to a crowd...especially a health conscious crowd.

Featured primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin markets, Triple Crown can also be purchased online through Amazon and Yumzar. Check out their website for additional information about Triple Crown.

Rating: (4/5)

Willie's Hog Wash

Willie's Hog Dust is a South Carolina based company founded in 2009. Like most BBQ start ups, Willie began cooking regularly at home and experimenting with his own flavor combinations. Years of testing led him to develop his Hog Dust rubs formulated primarily for pork and chicken.

To compliment his rubs, Willie also developed a tangy sauce that blends the various tomato, mustard and vinegar sauces found South Carolina. Willie's Hog Wash is unique in that it really can't be categorized as either a tomato, mustard or vinegar sauce. It's truly a blend of all three.

Hog Wash is dark red in the bottle. The sauce is on the thin side, but not nearly as thin as traditional Carolina vinegar sauces. Coarsely ground dark spices can be seen scattered throughout the sauce. It pours quickly as the bottle has a wide open mouth.

While Hog Wash evokes many of the flavor attributes that I became accustomed to while living in the Carolinas, it definitely deviates from tradition. Thanks to ketchup and additional sugar, the sauce has a sweeter profile than standard vinegar sauces. That's just fine with me. I love using sweet ingredients to balance the vinegar tang. The sauce also finishes with just a touch of heat thanks to the inclusion of cayenne pepper sauce.

Anytime a sauce with Carolina roots comes my way, I'm compelled to use it on smokey pulled/chopped pork. I poured an entire bottle of hog wash over a large mound of hickory smoked pork shoulder that I cooked for the holiday weekend.

Willie's website suggests a variety of uses for the sauce, but I can't think of better use than pairing it with smoked pork. The thin sauce covers and penetrates the meat perfectly. The tangy flavor is a natural compliment (enhancer?) to the mild, smokey pork. It's probably thick enough to use as a finishing sauce for ribs and chicken, but it's tailor made for pourin' or dippin'.

I've tried my share of sauces from the Carolinas. Willie's Hog Wash is the real deal. It belongs right along side of other top shelf vinegar blends. It's sure to please Carolina traditionalists and maybe even convert a few Yankees.

Willie's Hog Wash and other products can be purchased here.

Rating: (4/5)

Nando's Peri Peri Sauce

Man has been turning chili peppers into spicy condiments for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Nearly every culture on every continent has found a way to incorporate hot peppers into their diets. The African bird's eye chili or "peri peri" has a particularly robust history. This well traveled pepper is featured in African, South American and European cuisine. Thanks to companies like Nando's, peri peri is also catching on in the United States.

Nando's is a thriving franchise with restaurants all over the world. In the United States, Nando's can be found in and around Washington DC. Nando's specializes in the traditional Portuguese method of using peri peri peppers. After all, it was the Portuguese who were credited with"discovering" the pepper. Nando's combines the peri peri peppers with garlic and lemon juice to create a savory, spicy sauce. The sauce is then used as both a marinade and finishing sauce for chicken grilled over an open flame.

While I haven't been able to visit a Nando's restaurant, I did get the opportunity to sample their peri peri sauce. Nando's sells their thin, orange sauce in 1.4 oz (40 gram) glass bottles. It comes in a variety of heat levels and flavor variations.

I wanted to stay true to the Nando's style of cooking when testing their sauce. However, I received the samples in the midst of a record breaking Michigan winter. My grill was buried under two feet of snow making open flame cooking impossible. As a result, I had to make due with my oven's broiler.

I was cooking four medium-large chicken breasts for my family. The bottle didn't appear to be large enough to both marinade and finish the chicken so I skipped the marinading. I dusted the chicken simply with seasoned salt and pepper and slid it under the searing broiler. Finally, I brushed the sauce on heavily just before the chicken finished cooking.

Since I was cooking for my family, I started with the medium sauce. It's a good thing I did. Nando's medium peri peri sauce packed quite a punch. The sauce was tangy and the garlic was evident. As I mentioned, the burn was more than I anticipated.

The sauce's low sugar content makes it perfect for high heat cooking. The chicken didn't char as it would have with a high sugar (BBQ) sauce. Though it's thin, it still manages to cling to the meat. It also colors the surface nicely.

Though I'm new to Nando's, this wasn't my first experience with peri peri. I really enjoy the unique sizzle provided by this sauce. It's unlike the cayenne / tabasco / jalapeno sauces that are typically featured in North America. Nando's take on the sauce is simple and delicious.

More information about Nando's and the peri peri pepper can found here.

Rating: (3.5/5)

Firebud Brands Alabama Salvation Sauce

For the most part, white BBQ sauce is still a regional product. Born in the deep South, Alabama in particular, the mayo based product isn't what most people think of when they picture BBQ sauce. Fortunately, companies like Firebud Brands are working to bring this unique style of sauce to the rest of America.

Firebud Brands' Alabama Salvation Sauce is packaged in 16 oz. plastic bottles. The labels are simple (see above). The sauce isn't bright white. It's somewhat of a cream color with dark spices visible throughout. Salvation Sauce is quite thin and pours quickly.

Salvation Sauce is a blend of mayo and cider vinegar making it equal parts creamy and tangy. Accented with plenty of pepper and savory spices, Salvation Sauce goes beyond the traditional Alabama version. Additionally, the Firebud sauce adds a kick of spice with the inclusion of horse radish.

I used Salvation Sauce on several occasions. It was fantastic right out of the bottle. Though thinner, it had a very similar flavor profile to the horseradish sauce that I make to accompany prime rib. I used it as a dip for vegetables, french fries and chicken strips. I also poured Salvation Sauce over smoked chicken and roasted venison. Regardless of how I used the sauce, it was exceptional. The flavor was bold and complex, but managed to compliment just about everything we paired it with.

Salvation Sauce's strength is its versatility. It can be used like a BBQ sauce for smoked or grilled meats. It can also be used as a mayo substitute in salads and on and sandwiches. It's been my "go to" condiment for the last few weeks.

I've only sampled a few white sauces in my time. Each was very good. Thanks to the addition of horseradish, Salvation Sauce is the best of the bunch. It's the type sauce you can use daily and pair with nearly every meal. It's as good as any product that I've reviewed in recent memory.

Rating: ***** (5/5)

Learn more about Firebud Brands and purchase your own sauces here.

Moonshine Hot BBQ Sauce

Few edibles have deeper roots in Tennessee than moonshine and BBQ. One Murphreesboro, TN company is blending those two Volunteer state staples with undeniably delicious results. Moonshine BBQ Sauce Company produces four different sauces, each with the unique kick of Tennessee moonshine.

I've been asked to review Moonshine's Hot BBQ Sauce. Moonshine sauces are appropriately packaged in pint (16 oz) mason jars. A few scattered pepper seeds can be seen floating in the smooth, bright red sauce.It's on the thick side, but pours quickly from mason jar's wide mouth.

As soon as I cracked the seal on the first jar, it was evident that Moonshine wasn't your average sauce. The potent aroma was dominated by the smell of chili powder. In all my time sampling and reviewing sauces, I had never encountered anything that smelled quite like it. I was really interested to see how this would translate to the sauce's flavor.

Like most sauces, the initial flavor was sweet. However, sweetness was not the dominant element. Savory spices like garlic, onion and chili powder also stood out. The inclusion of moonshine gave the sauce an additional Tennessee tang. This version also includes spicy finish.

I used the sauce both as a dip and a glaze. Additionally, I cooked with the sauce on a couple occasions. While the thick sauce was tasty as a dip, I found it best used as a finishing glaze for ribs. Unlike many other sauces, Moonshine didn't seem to lose any of its bold flavor when hit with high heat. If anything, the flavor became even more robust. The kiss of an open flame really seemed to do wonders for the sauce.
Another great thing about Moonshine BBQ sauce was how it glued to the meat. I brushed it on thick and enjoyed the sticky, finger licking goodness.

It's always a treat to review a sauce that breaks convention. The flavor profile of Moonshine Hot BBQ Sauce is totally unique. I give it high marks for originality and expertly blending spices. It may not be what you expect from a BBQ sauce, but sometimes that's a good thing.

RATING: **** (4/5)

Moonshine sauces can be purchased online HERE.

Hogzilla BBQ Pit (Battle Creek, MI)

Hogzilla BBQ Pit is a full service BBQ joint and catering company with locations in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, Mi. I'd had my eye on the Battle Creek location for quite some time. My co-workers and I frequent the Mexican place next door for lunch. Each time we pulled into the parking lot I'd stare longingly at the roadside smoker that always seemed to be rolling.

Eventually, the temptation was too much. I set up a lunch date with co-workers and we all ventured to Hogzilla for some pit cooked BBQ. The unmistakable smell of authentic, pit cooked BBQ was in the air when we pulled into the parking lot. Like most BBQ joints, the interior was ultra casual. It's the type of place that serves everything on plastic ware. There were roughly a dozen tables inside and some additional exterior seating for the summer months.

I was surprised to learn that Hogzilla offered a lunch buffet. It's not very often you see a real BBQ buffet. I figured the buffet would allow me to sample a variety of what Hogzilla had to offer. It featured smoked pork shoulder that was "pull apart" tender, pork bites (chunks of pork shoulder heavily seasoned and smothered in sauce), pulled chicken, BBQ Spaghetti (noodles and smoked beef chunks tossed in a spicy tomato sauce) and various hot and cold sides. I added a 2 bone rib sampler for good measure.
2 Bone Rib Sampler w/ Hogzilla Original BBQ Sauce

Pulled Pork, Pork Bites & Smoked Chicken
I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the food on the buffet. The pork was moist and adequately smokey. The pork bites were peppery and loaded with flavor. The pulled chicken was pretty bland, but at least it was moist and tender. I also really enjoyed the mac & cheese and slaw. The highlight of the buffet was the spaghetti. The tender, smokey beef was a great accent to the tangy, spicy tomato sauce.

The ribs were big, meaty spare ribs. They were definitely smokey, but the smoke ring wasn't visible because they were dipped in sauce. I thought all of Hogzilla's signature sauces were pretty good, but I would have preferred to add my own sauce to the ribs. They had a bit more chew and fat to them than they should have, but the flavor pretty solid.

I'm certainly glad we finally made it to Hogzilla. Everyone walked away satisfied. The buffet was also an exceptional value. You can bet I'll be returning for lunch in the near future.

Michigan BBQ Tour 2014

In 2014, The "Q" Review is on a mission to sample the best BBQ in the great state of Michigan. Each month, I'll feature a new Michigan BBQ restaurant in the hopes of finding truly great BBQ. It's my belief that great BBQ can be found all over this country and Michigan is no exception.

The tour kicks off this month with Hogzilla BBQ (Battle Creek). Additional stops will include West Texas BBQ (Jackson) and House of Pizza & BBQ (Hillsdale). To fill up the calender, I'll be soliciting suggestions from my readers. If you've got a favorite Michigan BBQ joint, let me know.

For now, enjoy a sneak preview of Hogzilla (below).

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