Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tollie's Barbecue

ARLINGTON: Tollie's Barbecue
6407 S Cooper St Ste 101

Arlington, TX 76001


Open M-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-7

Update: This joint is CLOSED.

2011: Much has changed at Tollie's since my previous visit. Servers now take your order at the tables, they're open at 11:00 everyday, and they offer ribs on their combo plates. What hasn't changed are the tasty sides and the mediocre quality of their BBQ.

The smokey sweet beans and house made potato chips got things off to a good start, but a few bites of the tough, dry brisket made me forget how good those chips were. While not as comically rubbery as my first visit, this beef was chewy with white flecks of poorly rendered fat. The dry rubbed 'Memphis' ribs were now available in addition to the glazed baby back 'Kansas City' ribs. I previously enjoyed the KC ribs, but these Memphis style ribs weren't as pleasing. They were thick with meat and well seasoned, but these bones needed more time on the smoker to tenderize and render out some of those thick lines of fat. I enjoyed the meat that I was able to peel away from the fat, but good ribs don't require so much work.

Rating **

2010: It was Sunday morning, and I was planning to meet Bud Kennedy to chew some fat, and eat some BBQ. Tollie's had just opened to some not-so-glowing reviews, and he suggested we meet at 1:00. I arrived a little early thinking I could peruse the menu and design our feast. Walking up to the door at 12:45, I yanked on the glass door, and it didn't budge. I later learned that Bud suggested that time because he knew they didn't open until 1:00 on Sunday. So I sat in my car watching car load after car load of families walk up, try the door, and leave for other options. They've since changed the opening hour to noon, so the Catholics will still have to grab a pre-lunch drink at Habanero's next door, but the Protestants will be right on time.

When they finally opened the doors we filed into line which forms right next to an opening in the wall that highlights a custom smoker. The menu is a confusing mish-mash of clever names with little to do with the item being served. Combo plates are mind-numbing. Instead of the simple action of choosing two meats, you must choose from their four set options. Brisket and ribs is your thing? Too bad. How about chicken and sausage? You'll have to pair that sausage with another poultry as turkey is the only combo choice. One item that did catch my eye was beef ribs as well as two kinds of pork ribs. Beef ribs weren't ready yet, so we ordered both kinds of pork ribs. One was a Memphis style dry rub baby-back, while the other was a glazed St. Louis rib called Kansas City style. When glazed St. Louis ribs showed up on both orders, we asked which was which, and the hapless help tried to convince us that one was dry rub until the owner came by to say that baby-backs weren't out of the smoker yet. Tollie, you've had all morning and then some to get those ribs done.

At least the ribs were good. They had great texture that required a little tug to get off the bone. The rub and glaze worked in harmony, and were not overpowering. They even had decent smoke and nicely rendered fat. Hopes were ascending, then taken down a notch by average sausage with ho-hum spices. Pulled pork kept things on an even keel with good flavor, but little smoke. It was best dipped in the sauce which was thankfully on the side.

Maybe the brisket could atone for the previous sins? Not a chance. I had to let out a chuckle as I attempted to pull a slice in half with my fingers. It wasn't budging. I needed more leverage, so with both hands on one end, and the other end in my clenched jaw, I finally released a bite's worth of meat that I could chew on for a while. Bud didn't even bother going that far. The sad part was that I could really taste the smoke and rub, but this would be the first time I've found a brisket that isn't just figuratively inedible.

If they can overcome their atrocious excuse for sliced brisket, their poorly trained staff, and their propensity for not having their whole menu ready at opening, then they might just be a decent option for 'cue, but I'll to give them another shot before I tell y'all to make a special trip to middle of nowhere southwest Arlington.

Tollie's Barbecue on Urbanspoon


José Ralat-Maldonado said...

Glad I'm not the only one who was disappointed with Tollie's. Just be careful. The owner will most likely post comments under poorly disguised screen names like he did on my review.

Anonymous said...

Habaneros is closed and Tollie's is still open. Went there last night, the chips are awsome, the beans extra meaty and the chopped beef was juicy, and delicious. perhaps you should try them again or if it's mediocre bbq you're after go to Rudy's off 120, maybe they'll be more to your liking. Oh wait you have to stand in line and carry your food to the table with a wax paper place mat. Tollie's is number one in our book.


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.