"Word of mouth" is an odd phrase, if you think about it. What else would our mouths do, but make words? Well, eat, duh. Eat, and then talk about it. Eat roasted meats and bright vegetables and creamy desserts and then tell everyone you know.
This is the magic that Double S BBQ has managed to harness. In the few months since opening the Cambridge storefront, owners Sarah and Shon Jones have bagged high honors at La Fête de Marquette and Taste of Madison.
Despite the distance - a half-hour drive from the center of Madison - Double S has generated a good deal of chatter by offering a few menu items not found in Cambridge or the capital city. Thanks to Shon's far-east Texas heritage, Cajun specialties like boudain (a Louisiana sausage also known as boudin blanc) are a natural fit. And crunchy, savory, deep-fried balls of boudain and rice have quickly become a Double S calling card.
Haul yourself out to Cambridge and hope that the tiny dining room isn't full. It's maybe a 25-seat joint if the outdoor tables are included. The owners can frequently be found either chatting up a guest or otherwise working the busy ordering/takeout counter.
The menu is tight, and not prone to casually overserving the customers. There are no combo meals, no included sides. You want it? You gotta ask for it. Definitely ask for the pork ribs. Served in monolithic portions of three bones each, these ribs are an exercise in eating. Best to just strip the meat from the bones and eat by the fork- (or sure, finger-) ful.
There's an unusual flavor component to the dry rub that I haven't quite pinned down yet - and what dern fool would ask a pit master for his secrets? But this isn't a complaint. I would like it, though, if the bark had a little bit more crunch to it; the exterior can get a little paste-like.
Chopped beef brisket comes either on its own, atop a large baked potato, or as a sandwich. It could stand to be smokier, but it's definitely juicy and tender. The made-in-Texas sausage has made me reconsider the oiliness of the smoked sausages at Dickey's; I think maybe Texas sausage just has that snap-squish thing going on all the time. Regardless, Double S's has a little heat to it, and the portion is huge. Think a half of a ring of kielbasa.
Sadly, I missed out on the boudain link. It was temporarily pulled from the menu for conscription into Double S's Taste of Madison service. But judging by the funky, salty fried boudain balls, the standard sausage should be worth further inspection.
Early reports from the Joneses indicate that expanded menu offerings are coming. In the meantime, if you see the four-piece smoked chicken on special, order it. This is where the smoke really sinks in, and the skin is crispy and taut. A little dunk in the house barbecue sauce will alleviate any dryness around the edges.
A dish of Alsum sweet corn is the simplest side, and this time of year it's the best bet. Slightly smoky potato salad is certainly fine. (I'm not sure if the smoke is intentional or just a contact buzz.) The bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers have made a name for themselves, and rightfully so. They're a bit spendy, but a delicious mouthful nonetheless.
Sadly, the cornbread disappoints. Spongy and off-tasting, it's nothing I'd recommend, unless you really gave it a serious hit of butter. But the homemade buttermilk pie? That I can recommend. A firm custard, golden-brown on top, rests on a sturdy and buttery crust. Give serious consideration to just buying a whole pie. Eleven bucks' worth of down-homey goodness.
The last time there was this kind of buzz for new barbecue in Madison, everyone was talking about Porky Pine Pete's on the west side. Pete's didn't last long (or long enough, anyway), and the disappearance of the Double S website in the midst of this review gave me a bit of a palpitation. (Don't worry; Shon says the website will be back, and there's always Facebook.)
Thankfully, the word is out on Double S BBQ, and between all the festival bookings and accolades, and the quality Texas barbecue being served, I think it's safe to say this place will stick.