In case you haven’t been following our meaty safari, we are looking for the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ. Not just the best barbecue, but the quintessential ’cue experience. In my view, that means great slow-smoked meat served in an old, run-down shack by people who don’t care if you buy it or not.
Many of these places have kind of a Western theme, so when I saw that a new ’cue dispensary had opened on the west side I drove out there expecting to find a converted Dairy Queen with a few wagon wheels stuck to the walls. What I got was something else entirely.
First, this place is back in the woods. You go down country roads with actual hills and trees, then you turn into an actual ranch. This land has been in pit master Mike Fisher’s family for generations. There were five acres of what looked like a really nice park, with horseshoe pits and trees and kids running around playing.
I pulled in and found a place to park near the actual pit. It’s in its own building — a concrete and steel monstrosity that Fisher built. Big steel doors cover the racks of bovine and porcine goodness. Propane burners in the base stabilize the heat, while an external firebox is fed from stacks of hickory and pecan (Fisher alternates between the two according to his own formula). All of this looked promising, so I went next door to the where they were slicing up the end result.
You sit down at one of the many picnic tables on a huge covered patio and they take your order. Meat here is sold by the pound, so I ordered half a pound of ribs, half a pound of brisket and, for dessert, half a pound of what those Easterners call barbecue — pulled pork. (Of course, we all know that true barbecue has to moo.) I was feeling multicultural.
The brisket came in nice, thick slabs of well-marbled meat, probably off of the point or the thick end of the brisket. It held together well, but was perfectly moist and tender. The brisket had a nice bark, and they use their own proprietary rub. The result was as good as you are going get anywhere.
The ribs were next — pork spare ribs with a sweet sticky glaze to them. Initially, I was disappointed; the ribs I got were kind of dry and chewy. However Fisher not only mans the pit – he walks among the mortals making sure everyone is happy. He promptly brought me replacements. The second set were some of the better pigsicles I’ve had in a long time. Tender, but not overdone to the point of falling off the bone. There was a nice flavor balance between the sweet glaze and the smoked pig.
The pulled pork in a cup, with a good shot of their slightly sweet sauce, made for a nice dessert. Tender, plenty of smoke flavor; if you have friends from the East, they should feel at home with this one.
My side of potato salad was home-made (as is everything here) and it’s was a first-rate traditional version.
I was truly stuffed at this point, but Fisher came to my table and insisted that since this was my first visit I had to try one of their stuffed jalapeños. In the ’cue community, we call these things ABTs. (I won’t gross you out by explaining the acronym, but if you want to know, just plug ABT jalapeno into a Google search.) The jalapeño is stuffed with cream cheese and ’cue, wrapped in bacon and smoked. Dear God, this was good; better than my own version.
Then Fisher insisted I try one of his brisket tacos. Tradition is already out the window, so why not. We’re talking a buttered, grilled tortilla with brisket, grilled onions, peppers, and avocado. If you are going to make the drive out to the BBQ Ranch, you have to try one of these.
Is this the holy grail of ’cue joints? The quintessential Texas barbecue experience? Maybe it’s the quintessential barbecue ranch — it really has its own category. Around the edges of the property there are pavilions that can be reserved for groups (and they will bring the food out there for you). This is something truly unique. A warning, though: BBQ Ranch is only open on the weekends.
I sat at my picnic table, listened to the live music, and enjoyed the cool breeze and the whole back-to-nature vibe for probably an hour after I finished. It was like that end-of-the-summer vacation trip that you don’t want to end.
The Fisher family has been doing this for years for friends and family, and only recently (in August) opened it up to the general public. Mike Fisher’s father, Tom, developed the recipes back in the 1940s, and back in the day, owned King of the Pit BBQ in Burleson. They may lose authenticity points for lacking a surly staff and run-down building, but for a weekend barbecue vacation, this is the place to go.
We’re still looking for the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ joints. Have one you think we should check out? Tell us on DFW.com.