Last fall, I wrote about the side trip I made to Elmer's Authentic Texas BBQ outside of Battle Lake, MN here. I had met the owner, Tim Nanson, at the River Rockin' Ribfest in Davenport earlier in the summer. I was on my way to Fargo in the middle of October, so I wanted to stop in and have dinner at his place.
Being that Elmer's Authentic Texas BBQ is smack-dab in the middle of the western Minnesota lakes region (see map), they cater primarily to people who have summer homes in the area. They go to a limited operation schedule after the end of September. It so happened they were closed that night when I got there. I was bummed.
During my recent trip up to North Dakota, I decided to stop in at Elmer's and surprise Tim and have dinner. I made it around 6 p.m., but it turned out that I was the one who was surprised.
Oh, Elmer's was open, but I was greeted by this message on their marquee out front. New ownership. Hmm... I wonder what happened to Tim? And closed on Tuesday? It was a Monday night so I was lucky. Geez, I would have been pissed had I come all this way out of my way on a Tuesday night.
I went in and was greeted by a cute little blond girl who showed me to a booth. I noticed immediately the decor was a little more bright than when I was there last fall. I said to the girl, "So, Tim doesn't own this any longer?"
She said, "No, my older sister, Mary, owns it now."
I asked what happened to Tim and she said, "He moved back out to California to be closer to his family."
Mary Wilson, who worked with the original owner, Elmer Neumann, when he first moved to the Battle Lake area from Texas, bought the place from the Nanson's earlier this year. She also worked there when Tim Nanson ran the place. She has a partner in the business, Matt Oothoudt.
When Mary first opened this year, she had Elmer come back in and help her get started, showing her smoking techniques, changing the sauce back to Elmer's original recipe and just making sure things were going OK. She also changed the decor a bit, repainting the walls to a lighter color and making the place a little more presentable.
I ordered up a beer and took a look at the menu. In addition to the various barbecue items, they'll do steaks and burgers at Elmer's. Well, I wanted barbecue, but I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted brisket or ribs. Suddenly, I found on the menu where I could order both - the combination platter of a quarter pound of brisket and a half rack of baby back ribs with a choice of two sides for $15.95. Sold! For my two sides, I took baked beans and onion rings.
When the platter came to me, I was a little underwhelmed with the portions of meat. The half rack of ribs was actually only about 5 or 6 bones, and the quarter pound of brisket was only three slices. They were very good, though. And the sauce was very good, as well. Except they only give you a small container of sauce - they don't keep it on the table.
I liked Tim Nanson's sauce, but thought it could have had a little kick to it. I bought some of his sauce at the ribfest last year and I did some experimentation. I added a tablespoon of garlic powder and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne to the sauce. I thought it picked it up tremendously. Well, Mary Wilson's sauce, supposedly the original Elmer's recipe, was even better. It was much more thick than Tim's sauce. It did have that nice little after kick to it, and had a distinctive black pepper taste. And it was served warm. Maybe that's why they didn't keep any on the table.
The baked beans were OK, but were better when the sauce was added. And the onion rings were also, OK. Nothing special. Actually, they were a little cold when they came out.
I saw that they sold the sauce in pint, quart or gallon sizes. I asked the waitress if I could get a quart of the sauce and she said it was no problem. Well, the problem was that she came out with a styrofoam quart cup of the barbecue sauce with a plastic lid on top. Since I was traveling and had another 1800 miles to drive that week, I thought, "Oh, great. One sudden stop and that's going to be all over the car." But when I got to the hotel that night, I went to the front desk and had them use packing tap to keep the lid on. There was no spillage and I transferred the sauce to a quart jar when I got home and it's resting comfortably in the refrigerator.
Being that Elmer's Authentic Texas BBQ is about 35 miles off the interstate, it's definitely out of the way when you're going from Minneapolis to Fargo. I don't know if I'll be back through, but I wanted to try it at least once. But if you're in the western Minnesota area on vacation, and you don't mind a little drive, Elmer's Authentic Texas BBQ is worth the trip. Based on the amount of people in there on a Monday night, they must do some pretty good business in the summertime.