Versus: Battle of the Barbecue Brisket

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Pecos Pit: a hot, beautiful mess
When it comes to barbecue, everyone's got an opinion. (Often, it seems, a deeply personal and impassioned one.) Over the years, a slew of recommendations, combined with my unfortunate inability to stop the names of all of Seattle's barbecue places from running together in my mind (Roy's, RoRo, Jones, Slo Joe's, Smokin Pete's, Pecos Pit, Pig Iron, Steel Pig), has resulted in a muddled and incomplete picture of the city's offerings. This week, Versus focuses its attention on beef brisket sandwiches at Roy's BBQ and Pecos Pit BBQ.

Roy's is a long sliver of a joint tucked into the heart of Columbia City. It's a small place, big on smoked meats. The brisket ($7.20), hickory smoked, comes off fairly mild with just a clean, straightforward beefy flavor shining through. It's topped with a smattering of tart, tomato-y barbecue sauce that's spiked with lots of black pepper and heavy with the scent of cloves. The texture of Roy's brisket is a triumph--tender, practically silky, then thinly sliced and so neatly arranged as to resemble pieces of precision-cut sashimi. All this is nestled inside a remarkable sesame seed bun from nearby Columbia City bakery.

While Roy's brisket sandwich is a masterpiece of composure, Pecos Pit's ($7.85) is a hot mess: thick, juicy slabs of fatty, fall-apart beef smothered in a puddle of a tangy barbecue sauce so spicy that I could feel its burn on my lips an hour later. (And I only ordered medium.) But it's not just the spice that sticks with you: each bite holds the full-on flavor of masterfully smoked beef. It's impossible not to notice that each slice of Pecos brisket is rimmed by a purple smoke ring at least one-eighth of an inch thick. You will need a fork for this meal, as trying to pick this sandwich up by its fire and meat juice-soaked bun is an invitation for disaster and stains.

Roy's: quite composed
Verdict: While Roy's brisket is done well, it's not the best sign when the thing you enjoy and remember most about a barbecue sandwich is the bun. (Though seriously, that Columbia City Bakery sesame bun is amazing.) When compared directly to Pecos Pit's boldness, beefiness, and long-lingering hot sauce, Roy's simply fails to make much of an impression. Pecos Pit for the win.

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