Take it from a Texan: Double S BBQ in Cambridge is legit.
“This is the real deal,” said a friend with roots in Houston and San Antonio. “If I had people in town from home, I would drag them here.”
To us northerners, Texas may as well be a foreign country. It’s a concept some Texans like to encourage — Lone Star Beer, which Double S serves ice cold (in addition to Shiner Bock), brags that it’s the “national beer of Texas.”
So it seems slightly exotic to find Shon Jones, a native Texan and experienced barbecue man, smoking such wonderful brisket, ribs and sausage in his small Cambridge kitchen. Located near the Piggly Wiggly, Double S BBQ does mostly takeout, with room for about a dozen people to eat in amid horseshoes, chaps and John Wayne memorabilia.
“We have tons of regular Texan customers. They’re all very, very thankful that we’re here,” said Sarah Jones, who owns the barbecue with her husband.
Given hearty portions of tender brisket ($6.50 on a sandwich), warmly spicy Beasley’s Texas sausage with a crunchy, blackened exterior and ribs that literally fall apart on your plate, Madisonians will be thankful, too.
Lunch or carryout dinner at Double S is an economical indulgence — on one visit, a pair of us got out for less than $20, soda and water included. A single-meat plate of brisket, ribs or sausage costs $7, or choose two for $9; Louisiana-style boudin sausage (when it’s available) costs $3 for a link and $2.50 for four meatballs.
For their Texas Tater ($7.50), the Jonses take a one-pound russet and pile it with smoked brisket, shredded cheddar and a swirl of sour cream. A Texan friend called it “the ultimate comfort food.”
It reminded this native Ohioan of a Wendy’s loaded baked potato, but twice the size and easily twice as good, especially drizzled with Double S’s tomato- and brown-sugar-sweet barbecue sauce.
Sides — “cowboy” pinto beans with sausage, mustard-yellow potato salad, fat and mild jalapeño peppers stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon — are each $1.50, and well worth it.
Best among the sides was a sweet-as-candy serving of Alsum’s “awesome” sweet corn ($1.50), from Randolph. (For future addicts: Alsum’s can be found frozen at the Sentry Metcalfe at Hilldale and the Dane County Farmers’ Market.)
Double S’s “steadily growing” customer base has already developed a jones for Maw Maw’s Buttermilk Pie (“they bang on the windows when we’re closed,” Sarah Jones said). Maw Maw was originally Shon’s mother, but now it’s Sarah, who is expecting her sixth grandchild soon.
Thick, buttery and rich as a dessert bar, buttermilk pie ($2.75/slice, $11.25 whole pie) brought back memories for the Texans in our group. (When I suggested topping it with dark chocolate or fresh berries, there was a collective gasp around the table. Coffee, and on rare occasions vanilla ice cream, are apparently the only acceptable pairings with buttermilk pie. Oops.)
Double S plans to keep its menu small, offering take-out meats by the pound and perfectly smoked chicken on Sundays ($8).
“We make absolutely everything from scratch,” Jones said. “It’s a lot of work. We would prefer to keep the menu small and do what we do well.”
Having been open since Memorial Day in Cambridge, the Joneses have made a few investigations into larger spaces. The pair would love to expand and do something with live music and a dance floor, but Sarah said that’s “probably a long time down the road.”
“We have a lot of friends in the music business. It would be a nice fit,” she said. “Madison desperately needs a honky-tonk.”