Keller seems determined to make a barbecue joint stick on its restaurant-lined Main Street — besides Spring Creek Barbeque, that is.
Two ’cue joints have opened at a primo spot on Main Street in Old Town Keller, and both have fallen: first Up in Smoke Barbecue, then Feedstore BBQ, an offshoot of the still-open original in Southlake.
Now comes Roscoe’s Smokehouse, another spinoff of a long-running ’cue spot, this one in Burleson. While the original Roscoe’s has an open and airy feel, the Keller location is divided in two: spacious bar on one side, cozy, family-friendly dining room on the other.
The menu consists of essentials such as brisket and ribs, along with tacos, a handful of salads and a burger. Meats are prepared in Southern Pride smokers, to varying degrees of success, and served on sandwiches, plates, or as taco fillings.
An inexpensive way to try the four main meats is the Moo-Oink-En sampler ($15), which comes with sliced brisket, pork ribs, sausage and chicken, plus a choice of two sides and a slice of buttered toast.
My sampler yielded hit-and-miss results. Pork spare ribs were of stout proportions, thick with fall-of-the-bone-tender meat. But they’d been overcooked: The meat was so tender that it was mushy, and it lacked a discernible flavor. No richness or sweetness or peppery bite; all I could taste was smoke.
Chicken breast, sliced into a half-dozen medallions, also tasted mainly of one flavor: salt.
Brisket came evenly divided between fatty and lean, all thrown into a huge pile. Must have been a good half-pound of brisket on my tray — a generous portion for a sampler. Yet it shared the same fate as the ribs, lacking both body and flavor, crumbling to the touch and tasting of something far less complex than barbecue, like pot roast. I knew then why I didn’t see a smoke ring, the calling card of a well-cooked brisket.
Even the fatty and crusty portions, typically where you find the most flavor, were unusually one-dimensional.
Best of the meats was the sausage, not housemade but still very good, with a pepper and garlic flavor that was pleasingly mild. It was a tad dry, having lost some of its juiciness when it was sliced into bite-size portions.
Both sides were excellent. Skin-on, chunky potato salad had a terrific dill flavor and smoked corn benefited from a nice surprise hidden among its kernels: pico de gallo.
While the barbecue was touch and go, the cheeseburger and fries were top-notch, among the best I’ve had in a while. Sandwiched between a pair of sturdy buttered and toasted white buns, the burger’s half-pound Angus patty went through a lengthy cooking process: smoked first, then charbroiled, then glazed with a stunner of a spicy/sweet barbecue sauce.
The result was a combination of flavors — smoky, rich, a bit of sweetness — that I wish would have been present in the ’cue.
Accompanying fries were stellar, expertly cut in the perfect middle ground between thick and thin.
For dessert, the restaurant offers housemade cobbler, in rotating flavors, and banana pudding, studded with crisp vanilla wafers.
Casual barbecue fans in Keller — families looking for a night out, couples, teenagers — will find much to like here, like those terrific fries doused in bacon and cheese ($8). Barbecue aficionados should give the place time to get better. But burger-lovers, that’s another story.