You'd have to be suffering from a serious case of nearsightedness to miss Red Barn Bar-B-Que, Steaks & Sports, the barely 4-week-old restaurant blaring out from a commercial strip in North Richland Hills.
Its towering yellow sign, wide stucco facade and front patio illuminated by the glow of flat-screens eliminates all confusion about the food and entertainment swagger of this newcomer.
With a full-service granite bar, live music every Friday and Saturday night, and a roster of smoky starters and wood-fired steaks, this Red Barn has been given a total Hollywood-worthy makeover from the original 8-year-old Colleyville location, which wears its "barn" tag proudly.
The new Red Barn comes in a much sleeker package: 34 flat-screen televisions, stained-concrete floors, deep red mahogany tables, with every booth lit by an English goat-wagon wheel updated to be a chandelier. Call it neo-Texan prairie.
But Red Barn's signature way with red meat and poultry remains the same: smoking it over pecan wood in the restaurant's Oyler smoker, which is lurking in back. During any single smoking session, Red Barn might prepare 2,000 pounds of brisket, 343 racks of ribs or 425 half-chickens. It uses the same cords of pecan wood to grill its steaks.
Among the usual suspects on the appetizer menu, three Red Barn starters stand out. The smoked queso ($5.99) is an ooey-gooey sauce foundation for our first encounter with Red Barn's trademark chopped brisket. Served in two attractive ramekins and surrounded by a cluster of crispy chips, the smoked queso's star is clearly its wood-smoked meat.
The beer-battered onion rings ($4.99) are greaselessly fried, and though they disappointingly don't come in larger ringlets, they still maintain that tricky ratio of breading to interior onion.
Meanwhile, the barn wedges ($5.99) are mini baked potatoes, with each steak fry a vessel for a slathering of melted cheddar, chive-flecked sour cream and bacon bits. They could've used more salt to goose the potatoes to full life.
If the two steaks we sampled -- the 12-ounce rib-eye, Silverado ($19.99), and the 10-ounce sirloin, Trailblazer ($16.99) -- with their charred exterior crust and darkly complex taste, reflect the entire six-steak collection, this Red Barn can rightfully brag about its grilled beef.
Each of the Black Angus-beef cuts arrives to the table on a cast-iron skillet straight out of a John Wayne Western, and delivers the desired contrast between the wine-dark crust and a progressively pinker interior. Both cuts ooze juiciness; the Silverado packs a slightly mellower taste than the lustily smoky, but equally tender, Trailblazer.
Those seeking an old standby from the original Red Barn, namely its three-meat smoked combo barbecue platter ($13.99), won't grouse over this version.
Each meat distinguishes itself: The sliced brisket is tender and boasts a reassuring red smoke ring. The pork ribs are full of fatty pleasures, though some bites are a tad dry. And the top taste prize goes to the unassuming sausage, little ellipses of juiciness that don't need a drop of the cayenne-spicy or ginger-molasses sweet barbecue sauce.
The kitchen doesn't mail in its sides -- from the toothsome, unexpectedly sweet broccoli slaw and firm okra, shining through its fried armor, to the creamy renderings of either potato or macaroni salad.
Still more of that unctuous creaminess is on display in Red Barn's banana pudding ($3.25), served playfully in a mini-Mason jar, and a peach cobbler ($3.25), whose rustic fruit slices, buttery crust and warm temperature are cooled by a dollop of Blue Bell ice cream.
Red Barn "part deux" performs the neat sleight of hand of preserving all the smoky goodness and friendly feel of the original while ramping up the menu and the overall dining-as-entertainment experience.