This week I begin my search for the holy grail of Metroplex BBQ. Only carpetbaggers and copy editors spell the word out: It's BBQ, not "Bar-BQ" and not "barbecue." We're looking for the perfect BBQ joint, with the perfect smoked critter and the perfect atmosphere.
As a reference, we're gonna start this thing out with my go-to smokehouse, for those times that my smoker is indisposed (like that time I melted the vinyl siding off the front of the house -- thank god for understanding landlords).
I'm talking about Roscoe's Smokehouse in Burleson.
The first time I hit Roscoe's, it was on a Wednesday, they piled so much BBQ on my plate I thought the bastards were trying to kill me with meat. But it turns out Wednesday is "All You Can Eat" day at Roscoe's (no, I'm not kidding -- it was like giving a junkie the keys to the pharmacy).
Roscoe's is a bit of enigma. It's in a brand-new building that looks like some sort of chain joint. The furniture is new, it's never burned down (it's not even smoke-stained inside) and the people behind the counter are oddly friendly. But even though that made me nervous at first, Roscoe's owners (Scott Noojin and Blair Pearce) and manager (Jeff Garner) all have pedigrees that go back to competition BBQ and the legendary North Main BBQ in Euless. And because the meat is the most important part of the BBQ equation, I can forgive the cleanliness and lack of surly staff.
Traditional Texas BBQ is made from cow, more specifically brisket, and on this front Roscoe's doesn't disappoint. They hit all the marks: The meat is tender and cooked long enough for the collagen to break down but not so long that it is stringy like an overcooked pot roast. It's a little leaner than I like, but the flavor is fantastic and the hickory smoke is evident but not overpowering. There was a visible smoke ring, a pinkish ring around the outer edge of the meat that comes from the reaction of nitrogen dioxide in the smoke to the water in the meat. These guys are doing it right, and their brisket is first-rate. Roscoe's serves its sauce warm in a squeeze bottle, and it has just the right kick, but I rarely needed sauce.
Almost all Texas BBQ joints now serve pork ribs instead of beef, and this is where Roscoe's really shines. They use only St. Louis-cut ribs (which means the gristly rib tips have been removed, leaving the best part of the pig). The astoundingly meaty ribs are smoked to perfection, mopped with sauce then tossed on the grill for the sauce to caramelize. Ribs should not be "fall off the bone tender" (that's pulled pork), they should be slightly firm, but not tough or chewy. Texture and flavorwise, these were perfect. The sauce added a little spice and sweetness.
Although it is not really BBQ at all, Roscoe's chicken breast is astounding.
If you're just looking for authentic atmosphere and history, maybe this isn't the place. This is a new-generation BBQ joint, state of the art and squeaky clean. But if you are looking for consistent, good BBQ, Roscoe's is hard to beat.