Many barbecue purists like their 'cue the old-fashioned way -- sliced brisket and ribs and sausage served on a plastic tray or butcher paper; any deviation from this routine is likely to cause a certain amount of trepidation.
For these 'cue connoisseurs, Mojo's Smokehouse in Burleson wouldn't cause hesitation as much as it would a full-on freakout. How dare a barbecue restaurant not serve sliced brisket! How can it reduce it to a topping on nachos? And there are one, two, three ... six sauces? This is not, they may say, a barbecue restaurant.
It's not a traditional one like Lockhart's, Angelo's or Uncle Willie's, that's for sure. Open since January, Mojo's Smokehouse fuses barbecue and Tex-Mex. There is no sliced brisket or ribs or sausage.
Instead, your meat choices are chopped brisket, chicken, pulled pork or steak. You then choose how you want it -- in a taco, bowl, burrito or nachos. Finally, you choose your toppings, such as guacamole, pico de gallo and house-made salsas. You order at the counter, then move through a line, like Chipotle and other fast-casual restaurants; the entire state of Texas probably just shivered.
On paper, this certainly seems like a novelty, but Mojo's is worth seeking out. Everything here is done the hard way, and it shows in the quality of the food.
Mojo's is run by cousins Terry and Barry Hodges. Barry also runs the Stone Soup deli down the street with his mother, while Terry has been a mainstay on the barbecue competition circuit for several years.
Using the custom smoker that the building's former occupant, Bodacious Barbecue, left behind, the Hodges smoke their brisket over mesquite for up to 20 hours. It's then chopped and mixed with a house-made ancho chile sauce. Pork shoulder is smoked, too, then shredded and mixed with a house-made Dr Pepper barbecue sauce.
On our first visit, we tried the tacos ($7.38), served three per order. We were shocked to see the flour tortillas were made to order. Balls of dough were flattened on a dough press, then finished off on a flat-top griddle, all while you watched. They were excellent, with a firm texture and light, airy flavor.
Wanting to taste the meat on its own, we had the extras put on the side. The tender brisket had a wonderfully smoky taste and a subtle splash of heat that took a few seconds to kick in. Quite a few pieces wore jackets of black crust, giving them a nice peppery crunch. A little bit of fat added to the flavor. Pulled pork was silk-tender and had a good, slightly sweeter flavor.
Of the half-dozen house-made sauces, we tried -- and loved -- the chipotle ranch sauce, made with red peppers that the Hodges smoke for 17 hours. "Ranchacado" sauce, a creamy ranch sauce made with avocados, was good, too, but worked better with the pork.
On another visit, we shared the colossal steak nachos ($7.69). A mountainous portion of crisp, house-made corn tortilla chips, sprinkled with paprika, came piled with guacamole, pico de gallo, queso, firm pinto beans and diced tomatoes.
The grilled meat -- tender but retaining some muscle -- was cut into small, bite-size portions, and was nicely kissed with a touch of lime. Guacamole was house-made, too, dotted with tiny chunks of avocado.
On top came an excellent mild red salsa, made with cilantro, garlic and fire-roasted tomatoes and jalapeños. Fire-roasting veggies -- few restaurants around here do that just for salsa.
Mojo's doesn't look like much; it's a small place, with about a dozen cafe tables. But this little restaurant is doing interesting things that skew tradition so well, a barbecue purist might even approve. This one sure did.