Sam’s Barbecue in Bonham is a joint, and when it comes to barbecue, that can be a good thing. As any good barbecue head will attest, the best chow often comes from less than elegant surroundings. Sam’s place is in an old fast food building of some unknown origin and vintage with a couple of booths and some picnic tables for seating, but the brisket, ham and sausage that end up on the plate easily make up for the lack of decor.

For lunch, I ordered a two-meat plate with brisket and ham as well as fried okra and stuffed peppers on the side. My friend had the same but with brisket and sausage, potato salad and coleslaw. Both plates came with a couple of slices of toast.

Sam’s sliced brisket is more of a flake than a slice. It is tender enough to slice easily, but the slices fall apart under the fork. The ham is served in medium size chunks, and between the two there is more than enough to satisfy most people. The sauce is different. It has something I cannot quite identify, not too sweet but tangy with a pleasant undertaste that goes well with the meat.

Perfectly smoked meat does not need sauce, the flavor is in the meat and the sublime smoke, but then perfect anything is rare indeed, so a good sauce can make or break a barbecue operation. Many places use sauce to cover up something less than stellar, and you might be wary of what I call “soaked barbecue,” where the meat is drowning in an overly spicy or, more often, cloyingly sweet sauce. Sauce should compliment the meat, not dominate it, and Sam’s sauce has a nice balance to it.

The okra was hot, and crunchy, and was like eating popcorn. The stuffed peppers — there were two of them — were disappointing. One bite and the pepper slipped out of the coating and a sliver of cheese slipped out of the pepper. I swapped the second pepper for a taste of my friend’s slaw, which was OK, but bland, and the potato salad, which was quite good. It will be potato salad and okra next time for me. The best value is Sam’s Special, a sandwich with two sides.

Sam does not skimp on the meat or the sides. My friend’s plate was piled high with the sausage, beef and fixins so neither of us left hungry, and you feel like you’ve had your money’s worth and value for your dollar. The joint may not be much on decor or ambiance, but the food is good and atmosphere is just about what a funky barbecue joint should be.

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