Barbecue tastes doubly good at Double S in Cambridge
The flavor of East Texas is drawing people to Cambridge, and if you're a fan of barbecued meats, the 30-minute drive would be well worth your time.
Double S BBQ, the creation of Shon and Sarah Jones, opened last summer in a tiny space with room for about 16 diners. The restaurant hadn't been around for more than a few months when it won a first-place award for its smoked beef brisket sandwich at the annual Taste of Madison.
The brisket and other meats on the restaurant's tight menu are the result of Shon Jones' family recipes for dry rub and homemade barbecue sauce. The former steelworker hails from the south Texas/Louisiana border area. He and his wife opened the Double S after Shon was laid off from his Wisconsin job. His recipes had done well at his food stand at area fairs and festivals, and when he lost his job, Jones decided to give the restaurant a try.
Sarah is originally from Madison but lived in Texas when she met her husband. There she discovered a recipe for homemade buttermilk pie ($2.75 per slice; $12.75 per full pie), which also is a Taste of Madison award winner.
A companion and I visited the Joneses' restaurant a few weeks ago and, after a meat-heavy meal, left convinced we had just tasted the finest barbecue sauce this side of the Mississippi River.
The dining room is a quaint space filled with Western memorabilia, including a cardboard cutout of John Wayne. Diners order from a service counter, and the food comes out hot and fast on paper plates.
A key to the smoky flavor of beef brisket, pork ribs and other delights is a 21-foot smoker trailer the couple had custom built for them in Texas. Texas-style barbecue features predominantly beef with a dry rub, slow roasted over a wood fire.
The chopped beef brisket is served as a sandwich ($6.75) or atop a large baked potato ($7.50). I chose a sandwich and first tasted it without Shon's homemade barbecue sauce. It was acceptable, the meat sauce. It was acceptable, the meat tender and juicy, but nothing compared to the flavor after I added a dose of the sauce.
The pork ribs ($7.25) amount to an enormous meal, with little fat and meat so tender it falls off the bone. You can order the brisket and ribs together as a single meal ($9.75).
Another skill that Shon Jones picked up from his Cajun roots is the art of sausage making. The restaurant was out of his boudain (Louisiana sausage) when we visited, but we did get to sample the boudain balls ($2.50 for four), a salty deep-fried combination of rice, vegetables and pork.
The restaurant also offers Texas sausage ($7.25), which the Joneses order pre-made from back home in Bunas, Texas. The sausage comes in a large portion and looks burned, but actually it has a delicious, crispy skin and definitely packs some heat.
The bacon-wrapped, smoked jalapeno poppers ($1.50 each) were a discovery that we talked about the most after our visit. A bit greasy, these treats are smoked on the pit and have a flavor that's "out of this world," to use my friend's description.
Sarah's terrific buttermilk pie is the only dessert offered at Double S. Golden brown and filled with rich custard, the pie features a firm buttery crust and a flavor that's not too sweet.
The kitchen also offers several side dishes that we didn't try. Regardless, there is ample reason to check out this one-of-a-kind restaurant, where generous servings are paired with reasonable prices in a down-home setting.
Bill Livick is a freelance writer who writes entertainment stories and Madison-area restaurant reviews for The Gazette.