Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ (Fort Worth)

FORT WORTH: Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ
301 Stockyards Blvd.

Fort Worth, TX 76106

Open Sun-Thur 11-8:30, F-Sat 11-9:30

The newest palace of BBQ has opened in Fort Worth right next to Billy Bob's. This location is both cavernous and squeaky clean. Like the other two Cooper's locations, ordering here is done at the pit at the entry. This is really just a showy warming pit, but the real work is done out back in the (oddly uncelebrated) fire pits where mesquite wood is burned down to coals for high heat cooking. Low and slow is not the Cooper's way. These meats are cooked with direct heat from coals rather than smoked with indirect heat and wood smoke. You'll notice the lack of smokiness in the flavor, but this is what Cooper's fan have come to expect. They've also come to expect some expensive meat covered in salt and pepper.

I ordered a sampler of brisket, pork ribs, a beef rib and a "Big Chop". After all, Cooper's calls themselves the "Home of the Big Chop". As your meat is cut you have the option to have it dipped in a thin vinegar sauce, or to leave it naked. I dipped the chop and pork ribs, but left the brisket and beef rib untouched. It didn't matter much after the kid weighing my meat wrapped it all together in a single piece of butcher paper thus spreading the sauce all around.

If you're new here, you may be stunned once you reach the register. I purposely ordered more than I could eat, but it was $34 for my spread, which included a pleasant and eggy potato salad. The chop is precut, so you don't have much choice in the size you get. Mine was 1.3 pounds and cost over $15. That's a steep price if you want just a taste of their signature cut. The profits are also aided by the self servingly generous portions cut by the guys in the pit. I whittled down the amount of brisket I was offered to a paltry .44 pounds, which was approximately 1/3 of what the guy first offered to cut.

When I finally got a serving of the free beans, I found a spot at the long picnic tables. I think they could play arena football in this joint if they cleared out the tables, but if you can find one close to the end, you can stare at the huge flat screens. I happily started with the big chop (pictured above with a hot sauce bottle for scale). It was tender, moist and perfectly seasoned. Compared to their usual lathering of salt and pepper, they showed some restraint on this cut, and it benefited greatly. It was nearly a perfect piece of pork, but it could have use more smoke.

The beef rib was a mediocre piece of undercooked beef with far too much unrendered fat in the meat. Fat was a theme when it came to brisket. The untrimmed slices were nearly half fat (3oz. of the 7oz. of meat I was charged for) which is forgivable unless you're paying by the pound. The flavor was decent throughout, and the intramuscular fat was well rendered, but bites with the crust were overwhelmed by salt and pepper.

Pork ribs were better with a lighter touch to the seasoning, and a well formed crust. The smoke was more evident in this cut than any other, and the overall flavor was great. While I understand that this type of cooking provides less smoke flavor, I didn't miss it any less, especially since it was compensated for by generally overseasoning the meat. If you're looking for a sure thing on your visit, stick with the potato salad and a big chop, as long as you've got someone to split it with.

Rating ***

Cooper's Old Time Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon


Blue Moon said...

I have been eagerly anticipating Cooper's opening in Fort Worth for more than a year, and I got to go there yesterday. I have to agree with your assessment. Brisket was very moist, but there was quite a bit of fat - I got a half pound and there was probably 3 oz. of unrendered fat from the point section. The ribs were very, very good -- but three pork ribs cost $10 which is both a good thing (very meaty) and a bad thing (I can buy a whole slab and smoke them myself for $10). If you are on a budget, you definitely need to be careful here. Back in my Austin days I would routinely drop $25 @ Cooper's Llano. Yesterday was "only" $18.

I absolutely love your site -- check it every day. Keep up the good work.

PatronSaint said...

Disappointing that someone would have the gall to call themselves Coopers and make mediocre barbecue. They must have attended the George Lucas School of Sequels.

bourgon said...

Went this past week, and got sticker shock - everybody who went wound up at $20+. I thought they did a great job with the fat, but the fact is that you're paying a LOT for their brisket - it's one thing to charge with the fat cap off, but they're charging the same prices as everyone else, but with the fat cap on. I definitely agree about boosting profits, doubly so the way they cut the meat. Seems almost engineered to fleece the tourists.

That being said, the brisket and pork ribs were great, though I really miss the smoke in the flavor.

I think I'll try the special next Monday, and that may be it for a while.

Anonymous said...

Went last Friday. Thoughts:

Every piece of meat needed more time on the spit. The chop wasn't fully done and had little to no taste.

The brisket was an abomination for me. Fatty, greasy and tough. Probably some of the worst brisket I've endured in quite some time.

The Pork ribs were mediocre at best and the sausage was a joke.
And I agree with the Snob, absolutely devoid of smoke on all meats.

I have been to the original Coopers many, many times over the past 20 years and folks, this one is a sad facsimile of the original.

Like the rest of you, I was absolutely horrified by the cost of the meat.

Sorry, 3 stars is a bit kind.

den m said...

I have mixed reviews...

I loaded up on take out and immediately jumped in when I got home. Spent a little over $100, because they gave me bigger portions than I had requested. Prices per lb seemed competitive, though.

Pork ribs were not tender, definitely need more time. It took a lot of effort to get the meat off the bone.

Fatty brisket was nicely done. Fat was rendered, good flavor, just a little saltier than I like, and I love salt.

Lean Brisket was tough, couldn't cut it with a fork.

Pork Chop was alright. Can't hold a lick to a Kreuz/Smitty chop.

Jalapeno sausage was very good. Nice snap to the casing, and coarse texture.

Mr. L said...

Gave it a second try because I really wanted to like it. Was worse than the first visit. Brisket was bland, I ordered lean. The large pork rib they gave me was from the end and most of it was too tough to eat. Sausage was tough and chewy. Beef rib was fatty and unappetizing. A customer near me said it might get better with time, as the pits aged, but I'm skeptical. Combined with the lack of smoke, it's just not worth the money. Don't go in expecting great things.

Anonymous said...

not going to be making a trip to Cooper's but face it...the location is guaranteed to keep them in business at least two years...and guess the prices are high because there is probably a kick-back to Billy Bob's for bringing them in...

Doug Zedler said...

Went to Cooper's for lunch today with a friend. I ordered the $7.99 pork ribs special and added "a couple slices" of brisket. He dipped the generously estimated portion of brisket in sauce without my permission before I could stop him, but since the sauce was so thin, it didn't cling to the meat too much. Strangely enough, he asked my friend if he wanted his half chicken dipped. A server farther down the line cut the brisket into 4-5 slices. She wasn't too good with the electric knife. The brisket ended up weighing in at 0.44 lbs. - oddly the exact weight of yours, Snob, and much more than "a couple of slices". Portions of the brisket were kind of tough and other portions were kind of mushy. It was seasoned well, in my opinion, and it didn't have as much fat on it as others have reported. No smokering, no smoke flavor. Absolutely no smoke.

Ribs were seasoned nicely, too, but unsurprisingly there was no smoke flavor on them either. You could have cooked ribs like this on low heat on a propane grill. The special included two full spare ribs with each rib split approximately between its St. Louis end and its rib tip for a total of four pieces. The St. Louis ends were cooked fine, but the rib tips were grossly undercooked resulting in copious amounts of unrendered fat that my teeth had trouble avoiding. The unrendered fat also made the rib tips very tough.

The daily special comes with a side (I chose slaw) and a drink. Beans, bread, pickles, jalapenos, and onions are free. My special plus the added brisket came to $14.36.

My friend was much more satisfied with his order than I was. He said the chicken was good albeit devoid of smoke. He made a meal out of the half chicken and the free stuff (water, beans, bread, pickles, etc.). His total was $5.41 - a damn good lunch deal.

This joint reminded me of Hard 8 in Stephenville. The pits (at least the warming pits - didn't see the real pits), the ordering process, the items on the menu, the texture and flavor of the meat, etc. But I'd have to say Hard 8 is a little better.

If I return, I won't be ordering the typical brisket and ribs - they're just not worth it here. If I'm feeling cheap, I'll go with my friend's idea of solely ordering the half chicken. Otherwise, I'll go for a little of something more exotic like the prime rib or cabrito.

Mr. L said...

Just went back for another try some 9 months later, didn't see any improvement. Wonderful building/location/staff, terribly disappointing food. And this is the opinion of someone who really wants to like it.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly the worst Barbecue ever. No smoke and no sause. The brisket was more like roast beef without gravy. I will never go back. I give them 1/2 star for location.

Anonymous said...

The worst BBQ I have ever eaten. Purchased two pounds of brisket and over half of it was fat. The chicken was bloody and raw at the bone. Spoke to General Manager and he could have cared less that I was not happy. AVOID THIS ESTABLISHMENT.

kYle said...

I just do not see the attraction of this place. I do not agree with their pit procedure. I tried to order 4 slices of brisket but was told they only sell by the pound or 1/2 pound. Consequently, I was issued a hunk of brisket but I did not know what the slices looked like until I went inside the dining area. About those slices. No smoke ring or flavor. Tenderness and moisture was so-so. Pork ribs were dry and not very meaty. The pepper heavy rub did little to boost the flavor profile. The highlight of my meal were the free beans and cold beer.


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.