A accolade from two years back brought me to this renovated Sonic on the east side of San Antonio. A local media outlet (I don’t recall which one) wrote that Ed’s Smok-N-Q served the best brisket in the city. That claim in San Antonio doesn’t carry quite the weight as the same utterance in Austin, but it’s still noteworthy. In the list of Texas’s largest cities, San Antonio’s barbecue scene has taken the longest to mature (the El Paso wasteland notwithstanding). Seeking out what might prove to be a feather in the barbecue community’s cap made this visit a hopeful one.
You’ll recognize the red awnings and angled parking spots when you pull into Ed’s, but the Sonic speakers boxes and car hops are long-gone. Ed’s was originally run out of a food truck which now sits behind the building and serves as the over-sized smokehouse. Orders are taken through a window between the small dining room and the kitchen. A huge menu/banner hangs on the wall showing one of my favorite menu items – the four meat plate without sides. They were fresh out of turkey and the Lockhart sausage, so I knocked it down to three meats – brisket, spare ribs, and chicken. Pulled pork tacos would also come along for the trip out to my trunk.
They smoke only with mesquite here, which can either create an initial pop of hearty smoke or saddle you with heartburn that tastes like a forest fire. After a bite of the ribs, I think licking the inside of the firebox would have been less harsh. One bite; Didn’t swallow.
I needed a bite of that chicken like a sunburn needs aloe. The juicy, salty meat beneath a crispy, if a bit parched skin was welcome relief. Perhaps as a side effect from the ribs, the flavors of the brisket were a bit muted. It was over-tender and therefore cut too thick, but the slice from the flat was still moist and it had a cap of well rendered fat. It was a decent brisket, but not the city’s best.
A pair of generously filled pulled pork tacos provided some heft in a second container. The store-bought flour tortillas stuck out like a good brisket in North Carolina. There are just too many great homemade tortillas in this town, even at the two barbecue joints I’d visited earlier that morning. In the end it’s the filling that matters in a barbecue review, and Ed’s pork was spectacular. It has got to be pulled to order (you can’t really see back into the kitchen) because the meat was incredibly juicy with just enough salt and not too much smoke. It might be a contender for San Antonio’s best pulled pork, and it’s probably the best item at Ed’s. Get the brisket if you must, but don’t skip the pulled pork.