Saturday, March 24, 2012
COPPELL: Hard Eight BBQ
688 Freeport Pkwy
Coppell, TX 75019
Open M-Thur 10:30-9, F-Sat 10:30-10, Sun 10:30-6
Update: Seeing the huge burner door open to reveal glowing coals of mesquite wood was an impressive sight while waiting in line. I was there at the right time to see a pitman shoveling coals into one of the cooking pits. The next stop was the 'menu' pit.
With all of your options out in the open, it's hard to be selective. The guy working the pit suggested some of the chicken poppers and with the shrimp poppers right there, I had to add them. Again on this visit they were reluctant to provide their recommendation for which of the smoked meats to order. Any good pitmaster knows that a couple of the cuts are turning out better than the others on a given day, so it makes me uneasy if they can't at least guide me a bit.
I got some fatty and lean brisket, pork ribs, and a couple of those poppers. Beans are free in a communal pot, but the cornbread salad I had to pay for. While I enjoy the spicy beans, the 'salad' of stale bread and a few chopped peppers and onions loosely piled together had me scratching my head about what some prep cook must have forgotten to add that morning.
Both options for brisket were plenty moist, but were a bit over tender and falling apart. A nice crust and smokering had formed on the meat and each sliced had picked up some great flavor from the mesquite coals. The spare ribs were a bit thin, so the heavy rub overwhelmed a bit, but salt lovers would enjoy them for sure. The meat came easily from the bone which isn't usually the case for this direct-heat style. The poppers were an utter disappointment. The bacon surrounding the dried out meat was undercooked and chewy.
A saving grace to finish the meal was the homemade banana pudding. A whipped creamy pudding sat atop a layer of both bananas and nilla wafers. Atop it was a fine layer of either more crushed wafers or graham crackers. It was an excellent pudding and a reminder of how well they can do they here when they really try. If this Hard 8 could just get the same consistency with the items that come off the pit, they'd really have something special at this location.
2009: I've been hearing from some folks that this location of Hard Eight had improved, so I went back to give it another shot. I arrived at 2:30 on a Sunday, and unfortunately, once the lunch rush is over, the quality seems to suffer at this joint. I ordered three meats; sausage, brisket and a spare rib. The orphaned spare rib had been separated from it companions for quite a while before it ended up on my plate, and it was dry and less than hot. The brisket was decent, but all of the flavor came from the salt and pepper rub, so any bites without that rub were nearly flavorless. The dry sausage had been sitting in the warming pan for so long that one side of each slice had been nearly petrified. Not even the sauce could save it. On top of all that, even the exposed side of my slice of bread was well on its way to stale. Maybe the food's perfect when turnover is high, but customers need to expect a high quality product no matter what time of day, especially at these prices.
2008: This place is an outpost of the original in Stephenville, and is done in the the same style . Meat is ordered straight from the pits before you enter the building, but at this location, the pit "masters" are clueless. I asked if he had a favorite, and he gave the generic and lethargic "It's all good" reply. No help. I ordered brisket and ribs. The ribs were meaty and tender with well rendered fat and a nice crust flavor. The smoke flavor was missing from the center. The brisket was not as good. The crust was evident, but it was not smoky. The tenderness was fine, but it was a little dry. A very average brisket. This joint has a ways to go before it challenges the original.
Posted by BBQ Snob at 3:05 PM
Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT