Friday, October 24, 2014

Big House Bar BQ - Kingsville

Big House Bar BQ is a spin off of Big House Burgers, a successful pair of burger joints in Kingsville and Alice.  The BBQ Joint has been open for five years and it is apparent that the owners know a little something about succeeding in the competitive world of entrepreneurship.

Big House is a full service, sit-down restaurant.  Our waiter brought us menus and despite the variety of selections, I was convinced to try the BBQ to see if it deserved top billing at this joint.  The barbecue menu was very simple, offering multi-meat plates with choices of brisket, pork ribs, sausage and sliced pork.  Chicken, beef ribs and smoked fajitas were also available as their own plates.  There was no option to order by the pound and I opted for a plate of brisket, pork ribs and sausage.

The waiter returned almost instantly with my order of three meats and thankfully kept the sauce appropriately isolated in its own dish.

A trio of meats from Big House Bar BQ

The rib stood out on the place, so chose to begin my meal there.  This was a straightforward and simple rib, unsauced and lightly seasoned with salt.  There was not much of a crust and the simplicity revealed the bite of mesquite flavor.  The meat was a bit dry but the flavor was good enough.

The crust of the brisket was well formed and even a bit crispy.  The rub revealed itself to be heavy on the salt.  This thick cut of beef was dry, making it a chore to chew through.  There was a sliver of well rendered fat that carried a channel of flavor through the meat.  Otherwise the meat was dry and tasteless.

The sausage was very poorly done.  The skin was tough to bite through and separated from the chewy meat.  This meat needed more time but still would have been a very average peppery link.


The sides Big House offered came with unlimited refills.  However, none that I sampled were worth a second helping.  My sides were standard pinto beans along with sweet corn.  I learned that the potato salad was the popular side but I did not try it.

The sauce was a bit thicker and thankfully strayed from the normal BBQ Sauce recipe.  It was tasty tomato based sauce with hints of onion and other seasonings.  With a few more ingredients, this could have been confused with a bisque.

Though it is not the norm in most barbecue joints, the full service was appreciated.  The wait staff were amazingly attentive and very prompt.

Big House Bar BQ in Kingsville


The mesquite smoked barbecue at Big House could not hit the mark for me.  The pork ribs were clearly the high point while the other meats I tried were below average.  In some barbecue joints, having too much on the menu can spread the operation too thin.  The variety of the menu at Big House, however, seems to be working in its favor.  I do not think, even in South Texas, the ‘cue offered here would consistently draw patrons without the steaks and other offerings.  This is not a bad restaurant, it is just not particularly good barbecue.

Address: 109 S Hwy 77 Bypass Kingsville, TX
Phone: 361-592-0333
Hours: Sunday: 11AM - 9PM; Monday - Saturday: 11AM - 10PM

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Smoke - Dallas

Smoke has been on my radar for quite a while but this is not the kind of place that you can just tuck into a BBQ Adventure.  The class and spectacle of Smoke begs you to make a night of it.  I finally had a night available to dedicate to visiting Smoke.

Smoke has a great menu that features what I would call “New Texas” cuisine.  It is a meat heavy menu that takes traditional Texas flavors and offers a twist.  Several items were intriguing but we were here for the barbecue. 


We made our selections of the smoked sausage, the coffee cured beef brisket and the BBQ pork spare ribs.

Smoked Sausage appetizer from Smoke - Dallas

The house-made sausage came out as an appetizer.  The presentation was top notch as each of the four slices were marked with small flags noting the type of animal they came from: pig, lamb, cow, rabbit.  The pork was the winner of the plate.  This Andouille sausage had a slight bite to it.  The lamb was good as well and featured light mint notes.  The beef sausage was a little too heavy on the fennel for my liking, giving it a heavy licorice flavor.  The rabbit was expectedly dry and rather un-notable.

Sliced Brisket sits on a pile of Chopped Brisket at Smoke Dallas

The main course of coffee cured brisket came out in two forms.  Two slices of brisket were draped over a helping of chopped beef.  The slices of beef carried a sliver of delicious well rendered fat.  The meat itself was rather dry and surprisingly did not carry much smoke.  The coffee also did not influence the flavor as the crust did not carry any sort of coffee notes.  The chopped brisket was also dry but it was infused with more smoke than the slices carried.  Honestly, other than the presentation, there was little separating this brisket from run-of-the-mill places around the state.
The pork ribs at Smoke - Dallas

The spare ribs carried a glaze over a loose rub.  There was not really any crust on these ribs and the glaze and seasonings mixed for a displeasing grainy texture.  The glaze offered a slight sweetness that was distracted by the other seasonings.  They were trying to do too much with this rib.  The meat was firm and required quite a bit of pull to free the meat from the bone.  Though the rib did carry a bit of smoke, this was not a very enjoyable rib.


The meats were served with a selection of four house sauces.  I sampled the Carolina influenced sauces of mustard/horseradish and spicy vinegar.  I did not have the necessary pulled pork to give them a fair shake, but found them rather un-notable.  The sauce described as the “Texas Sauce” had a slight spice but was pretty bland.  The other sauce, a tomato based concoction, may have been the best one but they all seemed pretty dull.

Our entrees came with some mac & cheese and potato salad along with garnishment of pickled green beans and bread & butter pickles.  The sides were welcomed and tasted fine.  Other sides of interest on the menu included crispy German potatoes and hominy casserole.

While the BBQ was a miss, there is still a menu of other intriguing dishes such as the cabrito & masa, chicken tamales and the bricked Cornish hen.  Other barbecue dishes included pulled whole hog, a smoked pork chop and “The Big Rib,” a beef rib adorned with chimichurri.  The best sounding menu of all may be the brunch menu that features a heavy amount of smoked meats.

The drinks are another focus at Smoke.  Some cocktails included house-infusions of cedar wood tequila and maple wood whiskey.
SMOKE spelled out prominently outside Smoke Dallas

Smoke is located next to the Belmont Hotel and $5 valet parking is the only option I found that did not require a degree of hassle.  The atmosphere inside is upscale, but not pretentiously so.  It’s a hip place with plenty of tables scattered around the central bar.  Service is friendly and attentive.


After fabulous experiences at places like Lambert’s and Woodshed Smokehouse, I was very disappointed with Smoke.  The menu itself is terrific, but the execution was far from it.  Despite the prominent “SMOKE” signage outside the building, the smoke on the dishes inside the building was an afterthought.  The sausage sampling plate was the highpoint on this visit and the average brisket beat out the pork ribs.  The presentation was fancy, but this was very average barbecue at a premium price.  The promising brunch menu and a set of enjoyable companions is probably the only thing that would draw me back into Smoke.

Address: 901 Fort Worth Ave, Dallas, TX 75208
Phone: 214-393-4141
Hours: Sunday - Thursday: 8AM - 10PM; Friday - Saturday: 8AM - 11PM

*All Grades Are Based Solely on the Quality of Texas BBQ Offered at the Joint. We Aren't Looking for Burgers or Catfish!

My Grading Scale:

A = This is some of the finest BBQ you'll find anywhere. It is worth a roadtrip in itself along with any required wait.
B = This is very good BBQ, even if it is over an hour away, consider making the drive.
C = This is just average BBQ but it's worth a stop in a pinch.
D = This is a poor example of Texas BBQ. Even if it's the only place around, skip it. Apologize to any non-Texans that have eaten here.
F = This is not only a bad Texas BBQ, it is probably not suitable for human consumption.

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