Sunday, October 24, 2010

Smokey's BBQ

5300 E. Lancaster
Ft. Worth, TX 76112
Open M-Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-11, Sun 11-4

Update: Brent Deen has moved on to another location in the Deen family located in Kaufman, Texas. Not to worry, the deft pitmaster Paul Calhoun is still reigning over things in the kitchen and has been given the new management post. My last visit here was yesterday during a BBQ tour that I led through Fort Worth. Paul was there to explain his smoking procedures and what makes these ribs and brisket so special. I knew they were tour worthy after several trips which all featured stellar 'cue, including one last month where I laughed in the face of common practice and placed my order 3 minutes before closing time. This review is based on that visit.

There were a few folks left in the dining room, and I assured the cashier that I would eat fast. After the first bite of brisket, I was chomping down the rest of it with gluttonous abandon. The meat was perfectly smoky, moist and lined with silky fat. The meat could have been a bit more tender, but this is great brisket. Ribs are just as good. The sweet and spicy rub creates a nice caramelization. This does keep a nice smoky bark from forming, but the flavor is distinct and addictive. The meat comes cleanly from the bone of these spare ribs, but there's nothing falling onto the plate.

Normally sides aren't a big item in my ordering, but cole slaw, potato salad and beans are available for self-service on a buffet table along with standard BBQ condiments. All of these items are made in house, and the creamy coleslaw still had a nice crunch, and the beans were robust, smoky, and full of sausage chunks. A semi-mashed version of potato salad is also worth the stomach space. After I was done stuffing myself, I couldn't help but grab a slice of that buttermilk pie. Also made in house, this rich pie is the perfect balance for all that savory meat. As I made my way out the door, I noticed that others still lingered. I felt good knowing I'd kept my promise of a fast meal, and that Smokey's kept up their end of the bargain with great food all around, even right at closing time.

Rating ****

2009: Smokey's might be some of the best BBQ in the area. I arrived just three weeks after Brent and Eddie Deen reopened this former Fort Worth institution. Brent was running the place when I stopped in on a Saturday at opening time. I ordered up a "Cool Hand Luke" which includes sliced brisket, ribs, hot links and two sides. The plate that arrived was picture perfect.

Ribs had a salt and pepper rub and a sweet glaze. Smokiness permeated the moist combination of rendered fat and meat which required a slight tug from the teeth to separate it from the bone. These were excellent ribs. The brisket was nearly as good with a deep smokeline just below the flecks of black pepper clinging to the black crust. The texture of the meat was exemplary. The slices were both firm and tender, but had not reached the point of falling apart or being mushy. The beef had a robust flavor, but could have been just a tad smokier. Hot links from Costco had jalapeno flecks dotting the beefy links. They were sliced lengthwise allowing the eater to enjoy the snappy casing surrounding the juicy meat. Sides were adequate if not memorable.

After enjoying my meal, I sat and talked with pit master Brent Deen. Their first Sunday they had just two customers. Since the meat is smoked ahead of time it must be consumed by the end of the day, so Brent held an employee rib eating contest to build morale and get rid of some extra inventory. I inquired about smoking methods, and he informed me that the brisket is smoked over hickory in an Oyler pit while ribs and sausage are also smoked over hickory, but in a Southern Pride smoker. He insists that he uses copious amounts of wood in the gas fired Southern Pride, and the results seem to support that. I don't care what brand of smoker he's using as long as the meats come out this good every time.

Smokey's BBQ on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Sorry man, got to disagree with your review here. Here's how I saw it:

Brisket: Zero smoke ring, fatty and could have used several more hours.
Ribs: Mediocre, nothing memorable.
Sausage: No snap, no smoke flavor. Had the most potential.

Not worthy of 4 stars. 2 Tops.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure the first guy that commented ate at the right Smokey’s, or maybe he ate there before Eddie Deen took it over. This place has the best chopped beef sandwiches I have ever eaten. The buns are very unique and add a taste that will have you craving another as soon as you are hungry again. It’s not just the BBQ, the buttermilk pies are great!!! And no other place that I know of makes them.

Anonymous said...

Judging a bbq joint on chopped beef sandwiches is like judging a steak house on their sirloin. I might give Smokey's three stars, and I went well after Eddie Deen took over. Visited twice, brisket was very well done and the ribs were good, very nicely seasoned. 2nd visit, brisket was dry, no smoke and the ribs were not as flavorful as first visit... maybe an off day. I will give them a thumbs up on their bread and sides - awesome potato salad, but I don't eat bbq for sides.

--den m

Anonymous said...

Tried Smokey's for the first time today, and my "Eli" plate of ribs and brisket was definitely way above average. Normally wouldn't eat that much in one sitting but I couldn't put it down. Nice smoke all around, no dryness. I'll be back for sure. Menu behind the counter says "potatoe salad." I pointed it out and asked if Dan Quayle was a customer, but no one knew who he was until I explained it. -mrl

Lolly said...

I ate at Smokey's last night after reading the review inthe Star-Telegram. As a foodie who has eaten all over country, I have to say that Smokey's was a huge hit for me. I had a hard time eating because I kept stopping to talk about how GREAT it was. I would have to rate it up there with Salt Lick BBQ. I thought they were the best ribs I have had in many many years. The potato salad was delicious and the buns, all I can say is "oh my gosh". Wish it was in a better location, but I thought it was FANTASTIC!!!

Unknown said...

Where do I begin?...Well when we first walked in, an old man with a young soul greeted us with some awesome banjo tunes. It was lunchtime on a Sunday and we hadn't forgotten our appetites. Inside Smokey's, the appearance is unassuming at best, but the warm reception and eagerness to serve was over the top and much appreciated (by a couple of californians that drove 30 miles from our hotel at FCGBBQ's recommendation.) Enough about all that. Let's talk taste. I got the sampler of all four meats, But the portions were as big as the pig was tender, so I couldn't polish off the pollo. When Owner/Operator/Most Interesting Man Alive, Eddie Deen stopped over at our table and asked how everything was, I told him "I wish I was a bigger man."
The sauce is a medium thickness, not much more than a napé consistency with a great vinegary-sweet finish. In a word, "Delectable."
The brisket had a perfect hickory-smokiness. The ribs were a religious experience. I cried a little. Sweet tea flowed freely between bites and just writing about it makes me need another toothpick. This meal was from start-to-finish the best food experience of my 24 years on this planet. I could go on and on but let's just say, Don't F%&*ING miss this place. SERIOUSLY.GREAT.BBQ

Doug Zedler said...

Smokey's must be having some real trouble with consistency. I'm hearing descriptions that are pretty conflicting, and I'll add another story of disappointment. I bought an extended family's portion (literally, $110 worth) of food at Smokey's on Feb. 2. Brisket had a little bit of smoke, no seasoning, no crust, and was very dry and, in some cases, hard (excepting the slices from the fatty side when it comes to dryness and hardness). Ribs were better, but still not much smoke. Sausage was very good - I'll have to pick me up some at Costco. Interestingly, the only thing that really soaked up the smoke was the chicken breast, which was very good. It was kind of all for naught, though as I am most interested in brisket. Daniel, I encourage you to hit this joint again to see if you have a different experience than your first. Incidentally, the only reason I went to Smokey's was because I couldn't get anyone on the horn at Off The Bone. I've been wanting to try OTB ever since you praised it so highly on this blog.

BBQ Snob said...

Doug - I'm sorry about your experience. While I've only written one review, I've made four trips to Smokey's, all on a Saturday, and they have been great every time. I agree about the chicken, as it was great on the last trip. I'll make another run out there soon, and post the recap.

Anonymous said...

I too, must proclaim my overall disappointment with Smokey's. While the service was quick, efficient, and very cordial, I really didn't find many of the meats to be very memorable. The sausage was good, I liked the little flecks of jalapeno running throughout the link, but I think it could of used more time in the smoker. However, the brisket was a HUGE letdown. Colorless, with no bark, and barely any visible smoke ring, the texture was mealy and sort of mushed in my mouth. Again, absolutely no smoke flavor. The highlight would have to be the ribs. They had a nice flavor, with a pleasant, toothsome quality that gave me something to gnaw on. Sauce was good, but again, I think one can find better out there. I really think that my overall disappointment stems from the fact that it finished so high on your D magazine list, and was only 2 miles from my house. I think that if it wasn't so built up so highly (number 4?), that I might not have been so let down.

Anonymous said...

Went by Smokeys this week. Great experience, the brisket was tender and not over smoked, the ribs where tender and seasoned amazingly, chicken was juicy and flavor was great, and the sausage had just the correct amount of kick. I can see why it was voted number one by the Fort Worth Weekly and why I keep hearing its named mention. Try the Buttermilk pie and the Home made bread. Not a week old Miss Bairds Bun. I am a fan

Doug Zedler said...

I suppose I'll have to give it another try. Maybe on a Saturday this time. I want to like this place as I used to live just a few blocks from it two or three owners ago.

Anonymous said...

You know what,
I had some friends come in from out of town, and we went on a "grub crawl" of local BBQ (Here, Off the Bone, Longoria's, and Up In Smoke) in a day. I had been initially disappointed by the overall quality of smoked meats, but I have since gone 2 more times, and have been pleasantly surprised to change my tune. The ribs are outstanding, with some chew on them, and a nice peppery bark. Good sauce, good sausage, and we agreed, it was the strongest stop of the day. I strongly suggest to anyone disappointed to give them another try, I'm glad I did.

Anonymous said...

I've gone recently (within the last 60 days). It was terrible. Brisket was fatty, overdone and flavorless. The ribs were somehow worse. I can't think of anything I liked about it.

BBQ Snob said...

Hey "JR", why do you go into "Anonymous" mode only when bashing a joint?

Doug Zedler said...

So, I gave Smokey's another chance for lunch yesterday. It was MUCH better than it was on my first visit. I got the brisket and ribs Eli plate. There still wasn't a whole lot of smoke in the meat, but both brisket and ribs were cooked just right. Brisket could have used some more seasoning, but ribs were seasoned just right. I thought their cole slaw and beans were good, too. A lady working there (I remember her from my first visit) brought around some complimentary pie for us to enjoy. It was a good experience. I'll go back. But I still have not found any truly great barbecue in a DFW restaurant. I like smoke. I want the smoke in the meat to hit me in the nose; I don't want to go searching for it with long whiffs of the meat or during extended mastication. Incidentally, while I was there, I saw the Fort Worth city manager walk in to eat with somebody.

Rib Bone said...

I've now eaten here 5-6 times over the last six months. I only have ribs and have no comment about their other meats. For quite awhile I thought them to be tied with Off the Bone for quality, with OtB having the best baby back's and Smokey's having the best spareribs. I've now discovered Smokey's to be very slightly inconsistent, ranging from "merely" excellent to superb, whereas OtB stays at the superb level. Don't take me wrong, however: On its very worst day Smokey's is so much better than your average rib joint that there's almost no comparison.


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.