Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fargo’s Pit BBQ – Bryan

This review was for Fargo's original location. As of August 2017, they have moved to a bigger location down Texas Avenue. It's more comfortable - and now you can get your own sweet tea refills!

Bryan, Texas is not known as a traditional barbecue destination, but it may be on its way with the recent opening of Kreuz in Bryan and lesser-known spots like Blue Moon and Toodie’s within a short drive.  It was Fargo’s Pit BBQ, however, that originally put Bryan on the map for barbecue seekers.

Fargo’s Pit BBQ has been serving Bryan/College Station since 2000, when it was a small cash-only operation without a dining room.  In the early years, their accolades came from posts on local forums such as TexAgs, which were printed and proudly displayed on the wall near the cash register.  In 2010, respected (but small-time) barbecue blogger Daniel Vaughn “discovered” Fargo’s and later gave them a rare six-star review on his old “Full Custom Gospel BBQ” blog.  Just a few years later, Fargo’s was named one of the “Top 50 BBQ Joints in the World” by Texas Monthly and new barbecue editor, Daniel Vaughn.

Even before the Top 50 nod, Fargo’s accolades grew as more notable articles replaced forum posts on their wall of praise.  Shortly before Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list was released, Fargo’s found it necessary to move into a larger building, one that had an in-house dining room.  As one of the most famous joints in the region, lines still form at opening time for Fargo’s. 

THE MEATS

The meats at Fargo’s are consistent and I know exactly what to expect with each order.  On my most recent visit, I ordered ribs, brisket and chicken.  And since it was Saturday, I ordered a quart of the popular Rib Tips (available Tuesday & Saturday).  The sausage is the other item that finds its way to my tray from time to time.

Fargo's brisket, ribs, chicken and rib tips.

Whenever I introduce someone to Fargo’s, they are typically quick to take my opinion that the pork ribs are some of the best in the entire state.  These picturesque and meaty spare ribs once again hit their own lofty mark.  Gorgeous deep hues of crust sit atop the pink layer of well-smoked meat.  The seasoning on the ribs is simple and the salt and pepper play well with the generous amount of smoke bestowed upon the meat.  The meat is juicy and the fat is perfectly rendered.  The ribs hold the perfect texture you look for in a rib, holding together just firmly enough for each juicy taste to leave a bite shape in the meat.

Fargo’s plated cuts from the flat and the fatty point separately for me.  Both cuts display the dark well-established crust and the thick slices that I have come to expect from Fargo’s.  The lean cuts approach the same smoke content that I found on the ribs and suggest the slightest seasoning of salt and pepper.  Each slice has a thin layer of well-rendered fat that barely hangs on with its buttery texture.  The meat itself is a little dry and the thick slices are more firm than you’d like.  On the other hand, the moist cuts of brisket are overly-soft with well-rendered fat throughout each bite.  Some slices proved hard to eat as the delicate meat fell to pieces at the touch of my fingers.

I do not always order chicken on my barbecue stops, but Fargo’s gives enough reason to make an exception for their bird.  Biting through the crisp skin yields a smoky and satisfying taste of meat.  It’s well seasoned and well smoked though it was not perfectly moist.  Still, this chicken is smokier and tastier than most.

The rib tips are wildly popular with the locals.  Anyone that has been to Fargo’s knows that Tuesdays and Saturdays are rib tip days.  The rib tips come smothered in sauce within a pint sized container.  These rib tips are just little smoke bombs.  A slight spice comes from the thick sauce, but smoke prevails as the flavor pours from the meat.  The tips have a bit of chew to them, but a little effort delivers plenty of satisfaction.  The rib tips are a nice change of pace so I will typically order a quart as a “side” for the table.  What better side is there than a tub of meat?

Fargo’s sausage is a peppery link that I’ve always found well prepared with evident smoke.  It comes pre-sliced and is a good but rather standard sausage.

The sausage at Fargo's Pit BBQ

THE REST

I’m a fan of Fargo’s sauce despite the fact that it’s mostly unnecessary for their well smoked products.  It’s a thick Aggie-maroon sauce that thrills the locals.  It features just a slight sweetness and a slight bite of cayenne heat.  Earlier this year, the sauce was featured as one of HEB’s selections in their “Go Local” Texas Barbecue sauce campaign.

I will admit that despite my many visits to Fargo’s, I cannot remember ordering a side (unless you count the aforementioned Rib Tips).  I know that they do offer the standard options of baked beans and potato salad.  Do what you will with that information.  I just can’t seem to get beyond the meat here.  Lemonade and sweet tea are the drink specials and both are sweetened with a heavy hand.

Fargo’s new location carried over the old, distinct blue colored facade.  Despite having in-house dining, you will still see a lot of business of the “To Go” variety.  The new venue is not very large and is quick to fill up during busy periods.  Another welcome upgrade to Fargo’s is the recent addition of a Square reader allowing this former cash-only business to accept credit cards.

Service at Fargo’s is always friendly, but generally hectic.  It may be a little overwhelming for a first time visitor during a lunch rush.  Several employees behind the glass display case at the front of the restaurant simultaneously take orders from the parade of patrons.  You are given a number, you pay, and then you wait until your number is called to retrieve your order.  The system is actually a lot more efficient than it seems as meats come out pretty quickly.

Alan Caldwell serves as pitmaster for Fargo’s and has become one of the heavyweights in the field.  Still, during each visit I typically see Caldwell engaged in all capacities of the business: taking orders, cleaning tables, and chatting with customers.  It’s impressive to see the dedication he has to making a good product and ensuring the customers are taken care of.

THE VERDICT

Fargo’s is the barbecue jewel of the Brazos Valley and now, deservingly, they are known throughout the State for their meats.  The pork ribs are not only the best meat at Fargo’s, it could be argued they’re also the best ribs in the state.  The brisket has minor issues, but along with the sausage and chicken, helps round out a staunch barbecue ensemble.  And as for side-orders, you can’t do much better than a cup of smoky rib tips.



Address: 1701 Texas Avenue, Bryan, TX 77802
Phone: 979-778-3662
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 11AM – 7PM
(Rib Tips on Tuesday & Saturday)

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Slow Bone - Dallas

The Slow Bone is located in the Dallas “Design District” along the Trinity River.  This neighborhood has evolved into a destination for both art and food.  It is a unique area in the city and provides a nice setting for The Slow Bone, which itself is an interesting restaurant.

The Slow Bone may look like a standard Texas barbecue joint, but it aspires to be more than just a spot to get some good brisket.  The Slow Bone offers a sort of culture in addition to their meats.  There is an influence of southern flavor to their menu and an air of comfort and hospitality to the restaurant.  It’s the kind of place that makes you feel good when you are there.  Even if (when) you overeat.

The Slow Bone typically draws a lunch crowd with lines out the door.  The lines do not move as quickly as I’d like, but unfortunately, the meat does.  Pork Ribs and Smoked Cilantro Sausage were already off the board during this 1:00PM weekday visit.  It was the second time I’d chanced a slightly late lunch here and missed the ribs.  I ordered moist brisket, sausage and smoked chicken along with sides of greens and mac & cheese.  The selections were assembled and served on a nostalgic cafeteria tray.

THE MEATS

Items are served on an old school cafeteria tray at The Slow Bone

My brisket was a beautiful piece of meat.  A dazzling crust band outlined the fatty slices.  The meat had a great texture.  It was firm in hand but pulled apart easily and was downright buttery against my teeth.  The ample fat was perfectly rendered throughout. The flavor was heavily influenced by the hickory used in the smoker. It had a light seasoning that allowed the smoke to shine.

There were a few choices for sausage but my selection was labelled the “Old Time Sausage”.  This selection was a dense pork/beef mix with quite a bit of heat.  It was a very respectable link with a pleasing snap and flavor.  The aforementioned Cilantro Sausage and a Jalapeno Bratwurst are the other typical link options.

The chicken at Slow Bone is worth an order.  It’s an herby chicken breast supplemented with some decent smoke.  The meat concealed beneath the delightfully golden skin is plenty juicy.  This bird didn’t steal the show from the brisket but it’s a darn good option.

THE REST

Unlike a lot of barbecue joints, the sides at The Slow Bone are going to make you step back and take notice.  The Slow Bone offers a considerable selection of sides to round out your meal.  A majority of the sides aren’t your typical options either.  Uncommon items like “Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower Gratin” and “Tomato Cucumber Salad” join spiced up favorites like “Horseradish Cream Potato Salad” and “Oora’s Jalapeno Mac & Cheese” on the menu.

My selections did not disappoint.  The Mac & Cheese diverged from my expectations with several subtle flavors working together.  It was a creamy dish featuring just a hint of jalapeno along with onion and a base of what I thought to be Cream of Mushroom soup.  It was different but altogether delicious.  The greens were more straightforward but just as tasty.  They were lightly seasoned, perfectly prepared and were an excellent accompaniment for my meats.

Your bread choice is an option of cornbread or hush puppies.  And though it’s an odd companion to barbecue, I never turn down a square of cornbread.  This cornbread was just fine and was crowned with a honey glaze.

The serving trays feature a round compartment specifically for the BBQ sauce.  This warm sauce was another interesting entry on my tray.  It was a very thin vinegar-based sauce but there was a surprising and subtle sweetness that was almost fruity.  Honestly, the sauce was unnecessary, but I appreciated the uncommon flavor.

The Slow Bone has a sauce and condiment bar featuring homemade semi-sweet soda pickles, a housemade Sriracha “Cock Sauce” and a thin vinegar-based mustard sauce called “Uncle Ross Soss.”

The Slow Bone is an unmistakable orange building that mirrors the color of the Uncle Ross Soss.  The dining area is a small but open area.  There are a number of four top tables arranged on the red, white and blue tile in addition to a few booths.  You will also find a few retro-style high top bar tables in the front of the restaurant. Without exception, the staff here is unwaveringly friendly.  They will engage you in line and follow up with you in the dining room.  They make certain you enjoy your visit.

THE VERDICT

You would have to be very picky to find something you don’t like about The Slow Bone.  The brisket is one of the best in the Metroplex and it has a great supporting cast in the chicken and sausage, not to mention the delectable sides.  There are still a few items I need to sample and I have plenty of reason to return soon.

It's rare that I write so much about something other than the meat, but it is these details that really complete the Slow Bone experience.  The Slow Bone delivers the extras that takes it beyond traditional barbecue.  This is Texas Comfort Food.



Address: 2234 Irving Blvd, Dallas, TX 75207
Phone: 214-377-7727
Hours: Everyday: 11AM - 3PM



*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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