When you’re a barbecue freak like me, there are only so many times you can drive past a barbecue joint with a big fiberglass cow out front and not stop in. And since I’m on a quest to find the holy grail of Texas barbecue joints, it’s actually part of the job description. So I found myself at Tommy’s BBQ in Irving.
Let’s start with curb appeal. This is a freestanding building, but depending on where you’re looking, the place says BBQ, Barbeque and Bar-B-Cue. As Joe Bob Briggs once said: “That’s the sign of a man who can’t make up his mind what he’s selling.”
But there were authentic touches, like a pile of real firewood up against the outside wall of the brick pit. And there was the cow — a full-size fiberglass cow with a painting of other cows on the side of it.
She was chained to a pole to keep her from running off.
Inside, there’s a built-in wood-fired pit, a proper serving line with a hand-painted menu board and buffet-style serve-yourself sides. The man with the big knives cuts the meat you order, you get your food and find your spot. The place is wonderfully cluttered with random junk attached to the walls. So, for authentic atmosphere, we’re talking an 8 out of 10.
But this is about the food, so let’s get to it.
For sides, I got the potato salad and fried okra. Pretty standard fare – not bad, but nothing to brag about.
Tommy’s serves beef and pork ribs, so I passed on my usual brisket, ribs and sausage, and got brisket, ribs and ribs — bovine and porcine.
Although Texas barbecue is traditionally beef, pork ribs have invaded Texas like kudzu, and you rarely see beef ribs on the menu. While that’s a shame, there is a lot more bone and a lot less meat per rib, and it always seems like you need a bigger plate. These cowsicles were tasty and tender, but there was a lot of white, un-rendered fat that was a bit unappetizing. Not a big deal to trim it off, but still.
The pigsicles were the real winner. Nice smoke ring (a pink layer near the surface of the meat that shows it’s spent time in the smoker), and their texture and seasoning were quite nice. I’d eat these any day.
On the plate, the brisket looked amazing. Nice smoke ring, good color and it wasn’t falling apart in strands like a pot roast. But it was tough and chewy, every slice. Brisket is a cheap cut of meat, and it has to be smoked low and slow, at about 225 degrees, for 12 hours or more. Usually, when it’s this tough it’s because it was cooked at a higher temperature over a shorter period of time. That’s a pity, because it looked so promising.
The sauce was a homemade concoction that had a bit of heat to it, but not enough sweet to balance it out. It wound up just tasting, well, odd.
So Tommy’s isn’t the Holy Grail of BBQ, but it’s a good place to get ribs, especially the pork ribs, and a great place to stop in for lunch. Our quest for the Holy Grail of Texas BBQ carries on. If you think you know where it is, tell us on DFW.com.