Friday, January 27, 2012

Fargo's Pit BBQ

BRYAN: Fargo's Pit BBQ
1220 N Texas Ave Ste A

Bryan, TX 77803


Open Tues-Sat 11-7

Update: This location has CLOSED, and Fargo's has moved up the street to 720 N. Texas Ave.

2012: Most professional food critics will make at least three visits to a restaurant before completing a review or issuing a star rating. Given the miles that I travel (without a traveling budget) in search of smoked meats around Texas, I don't get this luxury. I routinely provide a rating based on a single visit, which can be a bit nerve racking knowing I may have gotten the best or worst version of what any can offer on the day and time that I visited. After a quick stop at Fargo's a couple of years back, I enjoyed some of the best brisket and ribs I've had anywhere. My euphoria came while driving down the road back to Dallas with the steering wheel in one hand and a rib in the other. On this return trip, I was nervous to try the meats in hopes that they would live up to the earlier rating. I needn't have worried a bit, for Fargo's is one of the finest smoked meat purveyors in the state.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Owner and pitmaster Alan Caldwell has secrets. Ask him to see the smoker(s)? Nope. What's in that rub? Not a chance. What wood are you using? Nada. What he lacks in a forthcoming attitude, he and his wife make up for in warmth and hospitality from the minute the screen door clanks closed behind you. My heart fluttered when I saw the meat display case. It sits on the counter, and is impossible to miss while standing in the small front room waiting to order. Beautiful black crusted briskets were piled atop one another, rust hued racks of spare ribs beckoned, links of brick red sausages and perfectly bronzed half chickens begged to be chopped and bagged. I had to have them all even though I rarely order chicken.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

Without a dining area, we opted for a picnic spread on the trunk of my car. Large spare ribs had the perfect balance of smoke and saltiness with a bit sweetness and black pepper that kept me coming back bite after bite. Each bite through the yielding crust and layers of nicely rendered fat came easily off the bone. Pork ribs of this size can have issues with consistent texture throughout since the tips can dry out easily. These ribs had a perfect level of moisture and tenderness from end to end. The texture of the chicken was also commendable. Neither chewy skin or dry meat afflicted this bird. The skin was crisp, salty and luscious. The meat beneath was smoky and ridiculously moist. This was a good bird.

Photo by Nicholas McWhirter

After a few bites of the snappy and peppery sausage link, I went right for the brisket, most of it cut from the lean end. Pencil thick slices were piled high in the styrofoam container resting on my car's trunk. The long slices broke in half under their own weight as they were lifted from the box. This can be a sign of dry brisket, but not in this case. Smoked just beyond tender, each slice had a thick line of rich velvety fat that was bursting with smoky flavor. A thick red smokering sat beneath a thick black crust which brought even more smokiness to the table. I had eaten several meals on this day already, but I simply could not keep my hands off the next slice of brisket. Near the bottom of the pile sat some fatty slices. I didn't think this experience could get any more satisfying until I sank my teeth into the buttery meat. An intense rush of flavors followed. This was barbecue nirvana unequaled by just about every place I've been to previously. There was an immediate revelation that my earlier visit was no fluke, and the validation of my previous review was delicious, but it was nothing compared to that brisket.

Rating ******

2010: While on the way out of Bryan after a good meal at Martin's Place, I spotted a small blue building with "BBQ" painted on the side. Hardly noticeable along the busy street, this small storefront bucks the black, yellow and red trend of most BBQ joint color palettes. Not expecting much I went inside to get my order to-go, quickly finding out that it's the only way to get your food here since there is no dining room. Meats are stored unwrapped in a warmer behind some smoked stained glass, and my hopes for good 'cue increased based on the fine meats on display. I ordered up some ribs and brisket, and the surly pitmaster served it up quickly.

It took only a few bites from all involved to realize we had found something special. The fat remaining on the slices was so well rendered that we witnessed the rare sugar cookie. The slices from the lean end were so perfectly moist with a thick black bark that held incredible flavor. The smokiness was intense in every mouthwatering bite. Surely the ribs could not be at that level. Wrong. The bark was well formed with a slight sweetness to it. The meat just needed a tug to release from the bone, and the texture and mouthfeel were excellent. I've rarely had such a perfect combination of seasoning and smokiness.

When I went back in to ask the proprietor a few questions, he was willing to answer few of them. He insisted that part of secret was the mixture of woods he smokes with, so he refused to divulge that fact. I was surprised since no other pitmaster seems to keep that information secret. For now I'll just have to guess that it's a mixture of mesquite and either pecan or post oak. Maybe I'll get it out of him on my next trip.

Fargo's Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Best BBQ in the BCS area. When I saw you were doing a review of BCS BBQ joints, I was hoping you'd find your way to Fargo's.

Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly agree with the review and the commenter above. Best BBQ in the BCS area, made even better with the addition of their spectacular, rich, smoky, spicy sauce (I think it contains meat drippings). They also have pretty good rib tips if you stop by on a Tuesday or Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Based on your previous 5 star rating I stopped at Fargo's recently on a drive to Austin from Florida. It was my first experience with real Texas BBQ and I was extremely impressed. While all the meat was top notch as you noted, I was equally impressed with the service. I bought a few pounds of meat and they loaded me up with a full loaf of bread and large containers of sauce, pickles, jalapenos and onions. Truly nice people and great Texas BBQ.

Anonymous said...

I never venture that far into north Bryan. This gives me a good reason. If you think it's better than Martin's, then it's worth the 20 minute trip from my house.

Thanks for stopping by and supporting our community. We need more gems like this.

David said...

That's some beautiful meat. I might have to come up with an excuse to go to Bryan...but then again, who needs an excuse to eat good BBQ?

Ray said...

Great report BBQ Snob. I live in San Antonio but I'm really tempted to drive 3 to 4 hrs to Bryan to try out this place. Three questions, the first of which is inevitable because of the 6 star rating.

1. Who's better: Fargo's Pit BBQ or Franklin BBQ?

2. Who does their sausage compare to? I'm trying to get an idea of what I should expect. Is it like the sausage you find at Smitty's or City Market in Luling, is it like the sausage at Gonzales Food Market, or is it something different? Just curious.

3. Why hasn't this place gotten the publicity of other newly discovered bbq joints, like Snow's, J Mueller, and Gatlin's?

BBQ Snob said...

Ray -
1. They're both great in their own way.
2. It's not a hot guts sausage type of place. The fat content is low, but it's still juicy. It's like a very good version of Smoky Denmark's with lots of black pepper.
3. All three you mentioned have some advantages that Fargo's does not. JMueller is in a large city and has a famous pitmaster. Its opening alone was news, so there's no way it wouldn't be "discovered". Snow's had all the publicity of Texas Monthly behind it when they named them tops in the state. Before then hardly anyone had heard of them. Gatlin's is serving great BBQ in a large city with few options for elite BBQ. It received great reviews by both of the major newspaper outlets within its first year of opening. Fargo's has no famous pitmaster (yet), has not been recognized by Texas Monthly (yet), and is not in a large with influential food critics. In fact, most of the Texas A&M grads that I've talked to about said they rarely go up to Bryan for anything because it's considered the rough part of town.

On the other hand it's not like I discovered the place. The local food sites, Urbanspoon and Yelp all have positive reviews from locals who discovered it long ago. I was just lucky enough to eat there a couple of times.

Blue Moon said...

The fact that I hate Fargo's sauce makes its meat all the more impressive... For me it epitomizes the Texas bbq ethos that sauce should not hide mediocre meat. Definitely in my top five along with Franklin's, Liking and Louis Mueller... And the proprietors are good folks.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Fargo's you do have wonderful BBQ. I live in Bryan and I've heard many people that live right in College Station say that Bryan is too far to drive. OMG you must make the less than 6 mile drive to Bryan to try out this place, it will be worth your time.

Anonymous said...

This is BBQ porn ...

Anonymous said...

I made the nearly three hour drive to Fargo's today because of blogs like this one. On my way up I called them about 8am to ask a few questions: Do you accept credit cards (no); should I expect a large crowd and line (yes-turns out there wasn't one); Is your menu diet friendly (wear elastic waistband). Alan and his wife are super friendly people and they welcome call ahead orders if you are traveling so you do not miss out.

The smokey offerings are second to none and I've tried all the ones you are thinking of right now, yes even that one. The only negative thing I have to say and it's not that big of a deal is I asked for the sauce on the side in a container. Well I got a container of it, and I got some slathered over the top of my meat too. Not to worry, their sauce is quite good and it wasn't that much.

I highly recommend everyone who loves good barbecue give them a try. In fact go on a Tuesday or Saturday so you can get a pint of their rib tips to munch on. These little morsels will leave you licking your fingers and the cup when they are all gone, they are THAT good.

Mike said...

Went out there this weekend, and this was fantastic BBQ. The ribs were great, I think they might be my favorite. The chicken was flavorful, a little dry, but very good anyways. Sausage was great, just as described. The brisket was very good, fat well rendered, good flavor.

The rib tips deserve their own paragraph. These were amazing. Smoky bits of meaty goodness. Just fantastic.

As for sides, baked beans were good, and the potato salad was above average. It's a creamy, but good flavor, little bit of boiled egg, some zing.

This place has earned their rating, I'd say. Even better, I walked in the door at 12:15 on a Saturday and only waited behind 1 person.

Anonymous said...

I'm sold - and fortunately I'm in Bryan/College Station once a month for a couple of days. I'll be at Fargo's the next time I'm in town.
Oh BTW driving from one end of CS to the opposite end of Bryan is about 10 mins - its not far people!

George said...

Very glad to see Bryan representing. There are too many Houston suburb fools in College Station who think Bryan is "rough." Evidently they've never actually been inside the loop in Houston.

On the other hand, maybe it's not so bad. I'd hate for Fargo's to turn into a Franklin's style rush for meat every morning.

Anonymous said...

they just moved into a building after 12 years on the grind. best luck to em!

Anonymous said...

Bring this to Fargo,ND

txc said...

Finally got to go to Fargos, which I've been wanting to go to ever since it was the 2nd ever place to be awarded 6 stars on this site. The ribs were totally delicious, and the sausage was definitely tasty. I ordered fatty brisket, and it was sadly, truly disappointing. The fat on the brisket was not rendered at all. There was hardly any bark, and it was quite simply, awful. I threw away a good bit of it. Hope it was just an off day.

Anonymous said...

We went to BCS just to try Fargo's. It wasn't crowded. The owners are very nice people. I got the sausage and it was excellent. My wife had turkey and loved it. But what got my wife hooked were the greens. She makes them using five type of greens. My wife swears next trip she's calling ahead for two quarts to bring home. Excellent place.


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.