Taste Test: Brisket

The litmus test for good barbecue, tender, no-nonsense beef brisket represents low, slow food at its best.

Any way you slice it (and garnish it with sauce, if you please), smoked beef brisket is as delicious to eat as it is challenging to prepare correctly. We went back for seconds at some of our favorite spots that get it just right.
Big Hoffa’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que
800 E. Main St., Westfield, 317-867-0077, bighoffas.com
A fully loaded meat smoker greets diners before they step in the door of this pirate-themed (a nod to barbecue’s roots in the Caribbean islands) eatery, where hunks of brisket cook for at least 30 hours. Then, it’s sliced and sold by the pound, layered inside sandwich buns, and played up in some pretty over-the-top, Guy Fieri–style creations.
Perfect with: Potato salad that delivers an unexpected cayenne afterburn.
Johnson’s BBQ Shack
82 S. Baldwin St., Bargersville, 317-458-4660, johnsonsbbqshack.com
A barbecue food truck found its brick-and-mortar home in this spiffed-up shack next to the Southern Indiana Railway in Bargersville, where brisket is dry-rubbed and hickory-smoked in a custom barbecue pit. The juicy meat, hacked into chunks, blends the lean bits with the fatty bits and the barky bits so that every bite melts in the mouth.
Perfect with: Sweet-corn casserole as thick as Thanksgiving stuffing.

Johnson’s BBQ Shack

Hank’s Smoked Briskets
3736 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St., 317-925-1689, hankssmokedbriskets.com
Native Texan Hank Fields smokes his brisket for up to 12 hours over mesquite wood hauled in from his home state. The result: a deliciously simple, nicely marbled beef bomb, served sliced or “sloppy” (chopped and coated with tingly sweet sauce). Get it to go at this carryout counter that’s small enough for Fields to hold court as he greets first-time customers with sample slices.
Perfect with: Home-style peach cobbler.
Hank’s Smoked Brisket

Fat Dan’s Deli
410 E. Michigan St., 317-600-3008; 5410 N. College Ave., 317-600-3333; fatdansdeli.com
Streaked with exquisite pockets of fat as thick as the meat itself, Fat Dan’s silky, succulent brisket has so much flavor that it needs no sauce, even though you get your pick of a sweet or hot accompaniment. The bun can barely contain its filling, which explains why stage one of eating a Fat Dan’s brisket sandwich requires a fork.
Perfect with: An entire tray of skins-on fries.
Fat Dan’s Deli

630 Virginia Ave., 317-672-7514, repealrestaurant.com
Finding a respectable menu of meats cooked low and slow (for 12 hours) over sweet Northwest alder is a nice surprise at a 1930s-themed cocktail bar with an in-house spirits supply (12.05 Distillery). The beef is sliced thin and plated rather elegantly, without a drop of barbecue sauce.
Perfect with: A sample flight of house spirits, of course.

Patrick’s Smokehouse Kitchen
12702 Meeting House Rd., Carmel, 317-564-0622, patrickskitchen.com
Beef brisket is smoked over oak
and hickory at this barbecue post inside Danny Boy Beer Works. Each savory slice that comes out of Patrick’s kitchen wears the brisket badge of honor: an ever-so-slight pink smoke ring just inside the
charred outer edges.
Perfect with: A side of pit beans loaded full of even more meat.
Patrick’s Smokehouse Kitchen