I've been hearing about this place called The Smoke Pit on Belknap, and I so a few Saturdays ago, I decided to head down there to see if their barbecue lived up to the hype. It looks like a cool place, but apparently on Saturdays the kitchen closes at 5 p.m. Devastated and starving, I ventured further on Belknap to see what I could find. It didn't take long to spot the parking lot full of cars and motorcycles, and the vintage barbecue sign at Sammie's, one of Funkytown's oldest barbecue establishments. Who could resist a car show and barbecue?
Sammie's has been smoking up Fort Worth since 1946, in the same barn-shaped building for the last 25 years or so. You walk past rusting farm implements into an entranceway where you choose the door on the right to go into the bar, or the door on the left for barbecue. Inside, there's a large, dimly lit dining room with plywood walls, more farm implements (We spotted a saddle affixed to the ceiling) and lots of neon signage. A glass wall separates the bar and the eatery. Gotta say, I love the decor.
I had mixed feelings about what happened next. At a real barbecue joint, you should have to get your own food. Here, they have waitresses -- but you still have to pay for your food through a weird window, so that kinda takes the curse off of it. They get bonus points for advertisements on the menu, and for having a "Don't Feed the Alligators" sign on the porch that overlooks a creek. The wait staff lacked the authentic surliness I expect (You really feel at home in this place), but there were enough loud, tipsy patrons to keep it from feeling like a Disney attraction. If you're looking for quiet reflection, go find a sushi stand.
I ordered the three-meat combo for $14.20, with potato salad and onion rings for sides. The potato salad and the onion rings were homemade, and the rings were of the superior battered variety -- awesome. For my meats I got brisket, ribs and sausage.
The barbecue sauce (served on the side) is a different critter entirely than what I'm used to. It's a water-thin, vinegar-based sauce that serves more to lubricate and moisturize than overpower with flavor. I liked it (I'm not a fan of heavy sauce), but it is a bit of a jolt if you aren't expecting it.
The sausage was nothing to write home about. It seemed to be a generic grocery-store sausage link, and I wasn't impressed. Normally, I would cover it up with sauce, but the house sauce didn't really play well with sausage.
The ribs were very short but fairly meaty and smoked to perfection. These are "dry" ribs (un-sauced), at times maybe just a bit hammy, but overall well-executed.
The brisket had a decent smoke ring and was maybe a touch dry until you dipped it in the sauce. It was obvious that these two components were designed to work together, and they do so very well. The sauce enhanced the brisket without overpowering it -- great flavor and texture.
For dessert, I couldn't decide, so I ordered two -- a cup each of apple cobbler and banana pudding. They brought me a bowl of each and only charged me $1.50, the cup price. I somehow managed to finish it all. Both were homemade, and both excellent. I went home, sat down in my recliner and slipped into a coma.
Sammie's is a very old-school barbecue joint, and they haven't changed the way they do things since the '40s. This is good solid 'cue, and although it doesn't quite attain the status of the holy grail of barbecue, places like this are as much about history and the people in them.
As always, please feel free to comment on our website if you have a favorite barbecue joint that you think is the holy grail of Texas barbecue.