The BBQ (and other food adventures) Evangelist. A humble list by Ikiru.
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EDIT: After talking with some BGG Con attendees, I have decided to expand this list to other non-BBQ restaurants around the BGG Con area. Every year, people from out of town ask what is good to eat near BGG Con and I find myself making the same recommendations. So, in order to be a helpful reference for future BGG Con attendees, I present to you: The BBQ Evangelist. A humble list by Ikiru. Now with more even food awesome...from BBQ to Tofu and all stops in between!

This list was created as a guide for the visitor to BGG.CON who is looking for great BBQ while in the DFW Area.

I have lived in Texas for most of my life, but I hadn't gotten into BBQ until 2005. Since then, I had stuffed my face with all kinds of good and bad BBQ and have even participated in a couple local tournaments. The highlight of my BBQ Comp experiences was a 6th place call in brisket (over 50 other teams involved in that tourney).

My BBQ journey started pretty much like everyone else I know, at a local Spring Creek/Dickeys/Sonny Bryants. I knew that BBQ was supposed to be amazing, but none of those places really did it for me, so the search began. Like a good engineer, I thought the answer could be had by smoking my own...how hard could it be? My first smoker was a design inspired by Alton Brown...a cardboard moving box, a portable electric burner, and a cast iron skillet. I had no idea what I was doing and the result showed it. Thanks to all my friends that were so supportive of me on that effort. I know that you thought I wasn't looking when you spit it out ! Now I smoke on a patio size custom stick burner (3/8" steel construction), but I am in the process of getting enough motivation to build my own gravity feed competition style smoker...I first have to learn how to weld.

As much as I love smoking my own meats, I still love to eat BBQ out. However, with the price of BBQ these days, nothing irks me more than bad BBQ. Good news is, there is nothing better than great BBQ and it is out there!

I am excited for the DFW Area. In the past couple years, there has been a large influx of quality BBQ places. Traditionally, Central Texas has owned the crown for the standard of good BBQ in Texas. However, the gap is closing as some of those Central Texas staples start to migrate into the DFW area. In addition, we have seen a crop of what I call the "New Pitmasters". In Central Texas, the great places have strong BBQ history. The pitmaster learned from his dad, who learned from his dad, who learned from his dad...for generations. Families would split and directly compete with each other, spawning new branches of the Texas BBQ Tree. The "New Pitmasters" are first generation guys that gave up their normal careers and pursued BBQ...pitmasters like Chad Decker of Hard8 and Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge. Its a good time to eat BBQ in DFW.

Anyway, out of love here are my thoughts on the BBQ places I have been to. I had never thought about creating a geeklist, but
Chad Roberts
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Murfressboro
Tennessee
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suggested it and I thought it was a great idea! Ill start with the review that started it all, MeatUAnywhere. Well see where it goes from here! Thanks for taking the time to read! I hope it leads you to your own personal BBQ Shangri La!

If you want me to check a place out, please let me know!
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1. Board Game: BBQ: Look at my awesome life [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Meat U Anywhere
919 W Northwest Hwy,
Grapevine, TX 76051

12 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Recommended. If you want good BBQ and can do without the Hard8 atmosphere, you will find happiness here. Best to go during off hours as parking and seating are very limited.





MeatUAnywhere is a newcomer to the North Texas BBQ scene. Located just off one of Grapevine, TX's busiest roads, MeatUAnywhere has quickly become a favorite stop of many searching for BBQ Shangra La. Does it stack up to the other top spots in the DFW Area? Here are my thoughts.

I had my usual "BBQ Test Plate". 2 slices of brisket and sausage. Just enough to get an idea of the quality without regretting spending the money if it turns out to be bad BBQ.

First observation is that this place just doesn't have enough parking! I had to park a couple blocks away at the local park...which ended up being ok because the weather was nice. Hiking even a couple blocks in the Texas Summer could be a deal breaker alone.

Second observation was the smoke smell. Over the years I have become in-tune with the characteristics of smoking wood (I do BBQ competitions now and then so its easy to develop a palate without having to spend the time cooking another brisket...just ask the guy in the trailer/tent next to you!). Anyway, Oak is the wood of choice at Meat U Anywhere (more on that later).

Third observation was that the briskets were wrapped in butcher paper. This seems to be the latest trend in BBQ. Foil has given way to butcher paper. I think the texture is better when BBQ is finished in butcher paper than in foil.

Fourth observation was there wasn't enough seating! I ended up sharing a large table with totall strangers (to be honest, I kind of liked it).

OK...The brisket was sliced from the flat (the lean side) as requested. The guy behind the cutting board was very competent (no cutting with the grain shenanigans like I occasionally get from Hard 8). In fact, I think he gave me the perfect cut...slightly larger than a pencil thickness. Some people tend to hide the fact that they can't cook a brisket by slicing it thicker or thinner depending on if they over or under cooked it. This was my first positive sign. The meat had a good look to it. An under cooked brisket will have a tight and lighter look to it. An over cooked brisket will be loose, grey, and dry look to it. The brisket before me was as close to perfect as you can get...slight resistance when pulling...tender bite...juicy/fatty feel in the mouth.


Notice the juice soaking the butcher paper!

The rub was a simple rub. Probably just salt, and pepper (maybe some onion, garlic). I had a little tingle after my meal on my lips, but that could have just been the pepper. Good looking bark too (I don't comment on smoke rings any more after learning how to fake one in competitions). Overall, the bark complemented the meat without getting in the way. Salty, peppery, and just a little chew.

With a bite of brisket in mouth, I like to close my lips, open my jaws, and slowly exhale through my nose to get a bit of the smoke profile. Definitely Oak. Oak is the least smoky of the big 3 woods (oak, hickory, mesquite). The benefits of Oak is that it burns the longest and the most consistent. Unfortunately Oak has a faint bitter flavor and slightly reminds me of the lumber section of Home Depot (saw dusty is probably the best I can explain). Not my favorite of the big 3 (Ill put my thoughts of wood at the end so those that don't care wont have to suffer).

Brisket overall, pretty good! 4/5 stars if you are sensitive to ratings.

The star of the show, for me was the German sausage. I was hoping that when MeatUAnywhere claimed central Texas style sausage that it meant that it was the coarse grind, loosely packed style found in places like Kreuz Market or Pecan Lodge. Lots of places around here get their sausage from Rudolph's. Its ok and seems to be standard fare, but nothing to write home about. MeatUAnywhere's sausage was definitely of the Kreuz, loose packed variety...tender, juicy, flavorful sausage with a snappy bite from the casing. Although not as peppery and flavorful as Pecan Lodge, it is still a fine product.


Notice the texture. This is how sausage should be!

Sausage overall, pretty good! 4.5/5 stars if you are sensitive to ratings.


Overall:
Now, the question is...is it better than Hard 8? Yes. I would say much better IF it wasn't for the fact they use Oak (Hard 8 uses Mesquite). Because of this, MeatUAnywhere is moderately better than Hard 8. However, I would go to MeatUAnywhere for the German Sausage alone.

I can easily recommend this place. Thanks again for pointing it out!

For those who are curious, is it better than Pecan Lodge? No. While MeatUAnywhere's product is good, Pecan Lodge still reigns supreme for me. Their seasoning is unmatched and goes perfectly with the deep aroma of mesquite. Pecan Lodge's sausage is still one of the best BBQ things I have ever put into my mouth.

About woods...Like I mentioned earlier, the big 3 woods are Oak, Mesquite, and Hickory. Oak is the least smoky, but has a faint bitter flavor and reminds me of the lumber section of Home Depot. Mesquite burns really hot (fitting for a tree known as the Devil with Roots) and puts out a funky smell...I think of it as dirty socks. However, like a fine cheese, that smell actually ends up imparting a deep, complex flavor. Plus, burning mesquite helps rid Texas of an advancing blight of water hungry trees. Hickory is my favorite. I think the taste is slightly sweet and aggressive. Its the kind that gets into your fingers and penetrates your clothes for hours. They say Pecan is a mild Hickory.

From what I understand:

BBQ Restaurant - Wood
MeatUAnywhere - Oak
CousinsBBQ - Hickory
Hard8 - Mesquite
Pecan Lodge - Mesquite
Rudy's - Oak
Hutchins - Oak (I think the owner says they use pecan too, but I didn't detect it)

Interesting fact about MeatUAnywhere that I picked up from my stranger tablemates. Apparently the owner of MeatUAnywhere, Andy I think, used to be partners with the guy who brought Rudy's to North Texas. Rumor is that they had a split and Andy ended up opening up a BBQ catering service, MeatUAnywhere. The Grapevine location is his first stand alone store under the same name. This explains some of the style similarities between MeatUAnywhere and Rudy's. In fact, my first bite of brisket had me thinking "This is a (much) better version of Rudy's".

Anyway, sorry for the long post. BBQ is one of those things Im passionate about.

Im sure that MeatUAnywhere will have a place in our food rotation during BGG Con. If you find me, ask. There might be a chance we will be going and might have room in the car!
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2. Board Game: Fours [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
jeff morales
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Hard 8 BBQ
688 Freeport Parkway, Coppell, TX 75019

6 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Recommended. A well known addage amongst chefs is "You first eat with your eyes." At Hard 8 BBQ, nothing is more true. Where most BBQ restaurants that allow you to eat BBQ, you will get few people disagreeing that Hard 8 allows you to "experience" BBQ.

The New Pitmasters: Hard 8 is part of a growing number of first generation BBQ restaurants that have exploded on to the Texas BBQ landscape in recent years...Hard 8, Pecan Lodge, Franklins... These new kids on the block have quickly established their own identity and brand and are sharing the top spots amongst critics as the best BBQ in Texas.

The Hard 8 Experience: Driving up to Hard 8, you know immediately that this is no ordinary BBQ establishment. From the parking lot, you see plumes of smoke delicately arise from the pits from the other side of stacks of cut mesquite wood. As you exit your car, you are immediately surrounded by the sweet aroma of slowly cooked meats.



Upon entering the ordering area, you are first drawn to the impressive battery of smokers slowly cooking the day's BBQ, but that moment is short lived when your eyes meet "the spread." Before you is a large smoker stacked with meat nirvana. Briskets, hams, chickens, sausage, ribs... Its at this point that some are tempted to gouge their eyes out because there could never be anything more beautiful...ok Im just joking about that last part...a little.



Here is where you will learn that your eyes are definitely bigger than your stomach!

ok, I cant resist...



The ordering process is simple. Just tell the guy with the knife what you want and how much. A couple slices of this, a few that, half a lb of such and such... The man will pile them up on a butcher paper lined tray and send it off to the next station to be weighed. Here you will pick up your tray with a sticky label, denoting what degree of glutton you are...er how much the cashier will charge.



After you pick up your tray, you head inside to pick up bread, condiments, sides, and dessert. Finally at the end, you will come to a register, pick up a drink cup, pay your bill and then off to the seating area. On your way to the seating area, you will find the obligatory soda and tea dispensers. Here is where you will awkwardly balance your tray while you fill your drink. Just when you think you are ready to sit down, you first must negotiate...

The Bean Pot: Ah yes, the bean pot.



Its beans, jalapenos, onions, leftover BBQ bits, and bacon stewing together to form the ultimate BBQ side. Did I mention its free? I used to bolster my leftovers with a couple scoops from the bean pot for next day's lunch (styrofoam containers are lying out for those who want to take home leftovers).

Ok, now you are ready to find a seat. Hard 8 seating is mostly communal. Large tables are lined on each side with permanent stools. I must say that they aren't the most comfortable, but you came here for the food, if you want to rest, go to a mattress store.



If its nice outside, they have a screened patio (with heaters and big screen TVs!)



The Food: Ok, I admit, I spent a lot of time describing the experience of Hard 8. I can't overstate how in your face the Texas BBQ experience is here...from the food to the taxidermy, to the communal seating, paying homage to Texan's love for big food, hunting, and family (I haven't looked, but Im sure there is a bible verse printed somewhere).

Sausage. Hard 8s sausage is of the Rudolph's tradition and comes in regular and spicy. The casing is snappy and the filling is tight. The taste is smoky, salty, and moderately juicy. I consider this the standard offering for most of the good BBQ places around here, but pales in comparison to the snappy skinned, loose packed, peppery sausage found in places like Meat U Anywhere, Pecan Lodge, and Lockhart BBQ.

Brisket. Hard 8s brisket is simply spiced and cooked cowboy style. Cowboy style starts with cooking down mesquite wood to coals in a huge furnace. The coals are then transferred to the smokers and the briskets are cooked over direct heat for a short time and then wrapped in foil where it will sit at a lower temp for several hours until it is ready to be served. If done right, the result is a very tender and beefy flavored brisket that seems to just melt in your mouth. If done wrong, the brisket will be dry and mealy (sometimes tough). The mesquite coals lend a complex smoky flavor profile. One drawback of cooking this way is that the bark (the dark outside of the brisket) never gets a chance to fully develop and become crispy, remaing fatty. Hard 8 will scrape off this fatty crust (to the chagrin of those who believe that fat is where the flavor is), so you don't have to pay for it.

In the beginning of Hard 8's existence, the quality was all over the board, but over time, they have really perfected their craft and their product is consistently on the good side. In fact, before Pecan Lodge came around, I had eaten the best brisket and the worst brisket at Hard 8. While not the best brisket in town, its a solid choice.

Ham and Turkey: Ham and Turkey? At a Texas BBQ joint? Why waste the bits. I know, I know, Texas BBQ is all about the brisket, ribs, and Sausage, but if it weren't for a long stretch of out of town visitors all wanting to eat BBQ (I love BBQ, but no matter what it is, I have trouble eating the same thing over and over), I would have never even thought to try the smoked ham and turkey. Im glad I did. The ham and turkey are pretty good here and from time to time will find their way on to my tray.

Other things to try: One thing thats unique to Hard 8 is what they call brush poppers. They are simply chicken or shrimp wrapped in a mild jalapeno, wrapped in bacon, and grilled till crispy. They are a good change and I recommend you try them at least once.



Funny story...one day, I was in line ordering a little of this and a little of that. The guy was getting me a couple of poppers and one fell into the vat of butter (Im guessing its there for the corn on the cob). He shook his head and started to reach for another one. Seeing an opportunity here, I quickly asked the guy if I could have the one that fell into the vat. With a half cracked smile, the guy fished out the popper and from that day on, I realized why God put the vat of butter there. So, every once and a while, Ill get the guy to dunk some meat in the vat. I am starting to think that Im not the only guy that does that as they don't even think twice now.

The steak kebabs are also very good and if I want a lighter meal, Ill just order a kebab.

Speaking of steak...

Ribeye Steak: In Texas, its unusual that one would order a steak at a BBQ joint. For some strange reason, the steak world and the BBQ world have existed in separate bubbles, but at Hard 8, they offer mesquite grilled ribeyes topped with a compound butter.



I have no problems saying that this is the best steak I have ever had. Perfectly seasoned, smoky, salty, peppery, beefy...a hint of garlic and seared over mesquite coals where the fat gets nice and crispy. The compound butter brings it all together by providing not only herbs to the table, but leaves a full, juicy mouth feel as the steak goes down. My mouth is watering just describing it. The steak is pricy, but well worth it. I highly recommend it.

Overall:
If you are in town for Boardgamegeek Con, you really owe yourself a trip to Hard 8. Ever since the con moved to the Irving/DFW Airport area, Hard 8 has been a tradition...a rite of passage. There is little that gamers can agree on that is worth leaving the hotel for, but most gamers make Hard 8 the exception, for good reason. The atmosphere is top notch and the food is wonderful. As always, if you find me, ask. There might be a chance we will be going and might have room in the car!

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3. Board Game: Call This A Ruddy Picnic? [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked] [Average Rating:7.00 Unranked]
jeff morales
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Rudy's Country Store and BBQ
520 I-35 Frontage Rd
Denton, TX 76205

28 miles from BGG.CON

This review is about the single greatest thing to eat for breakfast...anywhere/ever. I present to you the Rudy's Breakfast Burrito! Smoked brisket, sausage, scrambled egg, wrapped in a soft flour tortilla. Soft, smoky, salty, with bits of snap and pepper...I like to call it breakfast awesome! Its better currency in my circles than cigs at a prison.



There are a few of BGG Con peeps that roll through Denton on their way to DFW. If you are one of those elect that happen to roll through during breakfast hours, do yourself a favor and stop.
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4. Board Game: Glenn Baker's Rock Academy [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
jeff morales
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Bakers Ribs and Original Fried Pie Shop
1720 TX-26, Grapevine, TX 76051
6 miles from BGG.CON.




Its a funny thing in Texas that BBQ means beef, whereas in other parts of the US, BBQ means pork. Growing up in Texas, I have just come to accept the Texas vision of BBQ. So when I come across a place that has a pig as their logo, I usually write it off as 'foreign BBQ.'

Another funny thing about the south is the fried pie. Like many other cultures, the fried pie was the ultimate sack lunch. Typically fried in the morning and eaten for lunch by field workers. If you were to drive from Oklahoma to Texas, you would probably pass more than a handful of signs advertising the Original Fried Pie Shop. Ive never stopped at one of those places, but they have always been on the back of my mind.

Today for lunch, I passed a BBQ place (one of them 'foreign BBQ' places...they have a pig logo), but what got my attention was that they sold Original Fried Pies. I decided, what the heck! Im kinda looking for something to satisfy my sweet tooth (and I worked out today.... )

Bakers is definitely a BBQ place from the decor to the smells.
Taking a slow walk to the ordering counter, I took note of the country knick knacks that line the walls and took in the familiar smoke that permeates the air (the good kind...the kind that means animals are being slow cooked to perfection). Having a quick look at the menu, I registered that this place is primarily a 2/3/4 meat combo kind of place, although they do sell meats by the pound. Offerings were typical BBQ fare and country sides, but I was here for the pies. To the right of the order counter were a selection of pies. Fruit pies (blackberry, cherry, apple...) and Cream Pies (chocolate, custard, coconut...). I asked the lady behind the counter what their most popular pie was and she directed me to the cherry. Good enough. It was at this point that I noticed on the menu BBQ pies! They had 2 varieties, Pulled Pork and Brisket. Ive seen meat pies before, but never BBQ, so I had to try one...brisket of course.

I was told that, unlike their sweet pies, the meat pies are fried to order. So I put my order in and about 10-15 minutes later, my order came out hot and ready.

I don't quite know what I was expecting, perhaps my cow/pig bias lowered the bar for me. I was thinking that inside the pie would be a shredded beef swimming in sauce, or worse something else, like beans may be in there as well. To my surprise, the filling was minimal...honest to goodness chopped brisket and a slight bit of sweet/smoky sauce.



Cutting the pie open, I was immediately greeted by an intense smoky aroma. If I had to guess, hickory. Biting in, the brisket was super smoky and slightly sweet. This played off the light and flaky pie crust. I let the bite linger a bit...smoky, fatty, crispy, soft...quite a revelation! Even though the pie was deep fried, it wasn't very greasy. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised and Im sure to make Bakers Meat Pies a thing in my regular lunch rotation.


See the flaky layers!

Despite the pig logo, I have come find out that Bakers is definitely Texan...I think local to the Dallas area. Looking at the Original Fried Pie website, http://www.originalfriedpie.com/, I see that the Brisket and Pulled Pork pies are unique to the Bakers/Original Fried Pie partnership. For me, its a marriage made in heaven. I was drawn in by the pies, but now I have to go back and try their BBQ.

Ill be sure to report when I do!
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5. Board Game: Eat Me If You Can! [Average Rating:6.13 Overall Rank:4494]
jeff morales
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EatZi's Market and Bakery
1200 W State Hwy 114
Grapevine, TX 76051
Phone number (817) 527-4007
http://eatzis.com/about-us/menus/

7 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Who says fresh food can't be quick? Ok, probably no one, but for those who want a quick bite, but don't want to settle for one of DFWs many fast food joints, EatZi's is just what the heart doctor ordered!



So, although you can eat at EatZi's (they do have a small indoor/outdoor seating area) I would definitely classify EatZi's as a to-go kinda place. Perfect for those who want to take a break to grab food and then take it back with them. For those who managed to procure a fridge, stocking it with EatZi's is not a bad way to go.

EatZi's describes itself as a European-style eatery. Having never been to Europe, I can't say how true this is, however, if I were to envision a market in Europe, it could look like this. Walking in, you notice to the right the sound of Illy espresso steaming. To the left, the sound of the cashiers. All around, in boxes and on shelves, are all manner of wine bottles (Europeans are big on wine...so Ive heard). However, in front of you, dominating the stage is the prepared meals counter. Taking a tour around this part of the store, you go from fried chicken, to tacos, to caprese, to salmon, and slow roasted beef. You never know what is going to be served on that day, but it all looks amazing.

Around the edges are little nooks carved out for different other prepacked foods...dessert, sushi, beer (I know beer isn't food...or is it?), fresh baked breads (yakitate!), and a very popular chef prepared salad bar. The salads here are top notch. Basically, you tell the chef what you want in it and they put it all together, toss it, and package it to go for you! Super fresh!

Next to the salad area is a sandwich stand where you can go crazy crafting your perfect sandwich. How about a Cajun chicken with pepper Jack sandwich topped with Ancho Chili Mayo, lettuce tomatoes and sprouts on Bonebread Striatta? This is definitely not your average subway sandwich...

Lastly, on the other side of the store is a grill (I actually think its called The Grill). Here is where you can order hot meals like Rotisserie Chicken, hot soup, and an assortment of sides (the mac n cheese is delightful).



EatZi's can be on the expensive side for 'fast food', but the quality and variety is well worth it and provides a welcome alternative to the sea of fast food joints that dominate the area. Considering you are probably going to pay about the same price for the cash and carry option, it is well worth it to stock up for the week and store them in your fridge for when you get time to break for food!

EatZi's is just south of the Grapevine Town Center (the Target shopping center) and can be accessed via the food shuttle.
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6. Board Game: The Halls of Montezuma [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:4668]
jeff morales
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Hall's Grocery
4200 Glade Rd
Colleyville, TX 76034

7 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Beer snobs...you can relax! A couple BGG Cons ago, a certain BGG user had contacted me inquiring about places to eat and places to buy beer for his friends. I quickly found out that these guys were no mere beer drinkers, they were beer fanatics! So finding a place where they can geek out on beer was the challenge and I believe I nailed it by presenting...Hall's Grocery!

Hall's Grocery is attached to an unassuming Valero gas station on the corner of Glade Rd and William D Tate (SH121) rd. It looks like a large barn. You could literally pass this place by hundreds of times without ever suspecting that this is one of the finest beer/liquor store in the area. Walking inside, you are greeted with literally wall to wall alcohol! Hanging from the wood truss ceiling is all kinds of taxidermy, old brewery signs, and ancient farm equipment...but who cares? The place is literally wall to wall alcohol! I have no idea that there could be this many kinds of beer, but if Aldie was into beer as much as he was into board games, this would be his library.





Seriously though, if you cant find something to drink here, you must not be into alcohol.

Oh, and they do sell German style BBQ as well!



Its almost like a one stop shop for a proper BGG.Con attendee...right?

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7. Board Game: Zeppelin [Average Rating:5.40 Overall Rank:13417]
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Bread Zeppelin
Multiple Locations
http://breadzeppelinsalads.com/locations-2/
Both the Las Colinas and the Southlake locations are
9 miles from BGG.CON.

This is a review of the Southlake Location (located in the same parking lot with McAllisters Deli and Kincaids Burgers

260 N KIMBALL AVE
SOUTHLAKE, TX 76092
(817) 251-1856

Summary: Recommended, but a bit pricey for a sandwich. A slight twist on the sandwich theme. Whereas traditional salad/sandwich places are content to serve salads in a bowl and deli meats between slices of bread, Bread Zeppelin prefers to rip the insides of a freshly baked crusty bread from its warm cocoon of goodness and proceed to stuff the salad right back in! Yes, you heard me right! They stuff a salad inside a sandwich!!! My childhood memories of pretending to be a 165 foot hungry, nuclear radiated lizard can now be realized as I snatch this Bread Zepplin from the skies and tear into it with much anger and hissing!!! Oh and the townsfolk will live today because this Zeppelin is healthy and delicious! They do make just salads too, but thats just plain boring (in comparison).



Bread Zepplin is set up 'Subway Style' where you are presented with a fine selection of salad ingredients to choose from. Behind the counter are several choices of greens (spinach, kale, iceberg, field...etc...).



After your selected ingredients are piled into a metal bowl, your bread is pushed through a conveyor belt like oven where it gets all warm and toasty. Meanwhile, your ingredients are dumped out on a cutting station and chopped with a Mezzaluna.



The ingredients go back into the metal bowl and you are then presented with a rather large selection of dressings. They literally start squirting dressing into your bowl until you tell them to stop. A little salt and pepper finishes off the mix.

Here is where the fun begins! They then take your bread out of the conveyor oven, chop off its head...er...end and rip the insides out...um... hollow it out to make room for the chopped/seasoned salad. They wrap it up in sandwich paper and you are off to the cashier!

Sounds complicated? They do have several 'suggestions' for those who AP (you know who you are!!!). I ended up selecting the Metropolitan Cobb (greens, bacon, egg, avocado, chicken...pretty much everything that goes into a cobb salad), tossed it lightly in their Cobb Dressing, and asked for a couple shakes of salt and pepper.



Delicious! This is seriously the best sandwich I have had in a while...come to think of it, I suppose its the best cobb salad I have had in a while as well! The bread is so crispy and chewy. The ingredients are fresh and tasty! My lunch buddies and I were amazed that no one had thought of this before.

My only quibble with the place is that it is on the expensive side. Its basically $10 for a sandwich and fountain drinks are another couple bucks.

So yeah, if you are looking to take a break from games to grab a good sandwich, you can't go wrong with Bread Zepplin. Making Godzilla sounds as you crunch into the sandwich is optional (but oh so satisfying).

Other pics of the Southlake location:



 
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8. Board Game: Tommy Guns Blazing [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
jeff morales
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Tommy Tamale
1689 W Northwest Hwy,
Grapevine, TX 76051

5 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Solid Tamales, great selection, super friendly staff.



Tommy Tamale is another example of a restaurant that honors the southern tradition of part restaurant, part store. Stores with gift shops if you will. Other prime examples of this are RudysBBQ, Kinkaids (although they don't really sell groceries anymore...they still tip their hat to their roots), and Cracker Barrel. The shop within Tommy Tamale is mostly salsas, peanut butter brittle, and other southern related pantry gifts. They do have samples and I was pleasantly surprised with their habenero peanut brittle. Not too spicy, but enough to keep you coming back for more.



But as much as I love history (and peanut brittle), that is not why you should go visit Tommy Tamale. Its the Tamales...no spoiler here! This place does the standard pork/chicken/beef tamales, but they also do jalapeno, habenero, veggie/cheese, and dessert tamales. On my last trip, I did chicken, hatch chile chicken, beef, and pork (pro tip, the Thursday daily special is 99¢ tamales).



I thought the tamales were a bit on the small size (at least compared to how I make them), but they were definitely full of flavor. The masa was perfectly seasoned (good amount of salt/garlic/seasoning mix, good mouth feel, and no hint of bitterness) and had the just right, not too hard texture. Extra bonus points for coming out of the corn shell without disintegrating.

We also ordered a basket of chips and regular salsa. Also very good!

On my way out, I decided to snag an order of steak quesadillas. I didn't get a chance to snap a photo of it, but it was amazing! Steak was tender and it came fully loaded with gooey cheese and veggies.

One last thing is that I picked up an order of dessert tamales. Yes, dessert tamales! Pumpkin and apple pie. Wow! Ive never thought about a dessert tamale, so I had to try. Verdict is that I will have to grab a dozen or more for my next potluck (or for myself to sneak into my room and do unspeakable things with...hey, dont judge!). Of the two, pumpkin was my favorite. Imagine a very good pumpkin pie wrapped in masa and steamed in a corn husk. Here's a napkin Pavlov.

I can see the savy gamer grabbing a couple dozen of these pre-con and making good use of the hotel microwaves between marathon sessions of gaming to fight off hunger without having to get away. For those who don't have a car, its worth an uber (or pestering a local) to get out there and stock up for the con!


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9. Board Game: Freak Show Shuffle [Average Rating:5.77 Unranked]
jeff morales
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Frezko Taco Shop
3105 E Southlake Blvd
Southlake, TX 760921

5 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Meh. It pains me to have to write a bad review, especially since this place is so highly rated on Yelp...but here it is. Frezko Taco Shop is basically a 'better Chipotle'. Based on how much you love Chipotle, this could be a good thing. For me, I would rather spend my taco money elsewhere.

Frezko Taco Shop is a small taco joint located about 5 miles away from DFW airport in the town of Southlake. They serve 'street style' tacos and borrow the easy menu style from Chipotle.



An order of tacos will set you back $9. Yeah, that is what I thought (if you were thinking thats expensive for tacos). In Frezko's defense, an order is 4 tacos and they throw in bean soup (which I heard costs $4 if ordered individually).

You can opt for splitting the 4 tacos into 2 flavors. On this trip, I got my taco standby's...beef barbacoa and carnitas on corn tortillas. I believe that if you cant get those right, then its time to move on.

What is barbacoa? Well, if you are a Chipotle fan, then its simply slow cooked and seasoned shredded beef (beef shoulder or brisket). But if you are a purist like me, barbacoa is the meat scraped from the cheek bones of the cow's head. The meat is slow cooked and comes out very tender and a bit greasy (the rendered fat IS the flavor). The corn tortilla in a proper barbacoa taco soaks up the grease and helps meld the other flavors in the taco (typically cilantro and onion). What you end up with is a slightly chewy, slightly crispy grilled corn tortilla wrapped around greasy tender slow cooked beef intermixed with fragrant cilantro and onions. Top with home made salsa and you have the perfect comfort food that drips down your chin and seeps between your fingers...but I digress...you aren't getting that here.

What about carnitas? Carnitas are slow simmered pork shoulder (I love it when it has a slight citrus presence) and then pan fried. The result is a tender pork shoulder with bits of crispy ends. Wrap it in a corn tortilla and top it with cilantro and onions. Perhaps if your lucky, the taco place you are at has a good green tomatillo salsa to finish it off. Again, this was not what I got at Frezko Taco Shop.

Oh, and one other ominous sign is the lack of horchata. Horchata is a rice 'milk' drink seasoned with sugar and cinnamon. To me, Horchata is the perfect drink to go with tacos (some places also serve a hibiscus drink as well...also missing from Frezko Taco Shop).

Anyway, here is my plate. 2 barbacoa (on right)...2 carnitas (on left). Topped with cilantro and onion. Side of beans.



So, my disappointment was not that the food tasted bad, my expectations were just in the wrong place. If you expect to get tacos like Chipotle, then you will be ecstatic with the product Frezko Taco Shop puts out. If you are looking for a hole in the wall taco place that serves authentic street tacos (at street taco prices), then Frezko is probably not for you.

One note, my lack of enthusiasm was taken a bit personally by my co-workers. They swear by this place and my disappointment will not deter them from going (they go at least once a week).

Finally, some of you may be wondering what kind of taco place I recommend. At this point, I don't have one near the convention...but, if you find yourself on the west side of town, Jalapenos in Keller is very good (a staple of mine whenever I worked over that way).

https://www.yelp.com/biz/jalapenos-taqueria-keller

Also, Im not sure if the place still exists, but there is a salvadorian taco place called Tacusa that has fantastic food.

https://www.yelp.com/biz/tacusa-fort-worth
 
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10. Board Game: Zeus on the Loose [Average Rating:5.99 Overall Rank:4310]
jeff morales
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Andalous
6450 N MacArthur Blvd, Irving, TX 75039
8 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Recommended. Fresh, healthy Mediterranean style cuisine served cafeteria style. No nonsense pita freshly cooked onsite.



One of the regrets I have about not working in the Las Colinas area is not having access to Andalous (I suppose this is a truism in general about Irving/Las Colinas due it its rich diversity in cuisine). Andalous is a cefeteria style Mediterranean restaurant. You come in, pick up a tray and utensils and belly up to the cafeteria line telling the servers what you want. Basically, you get 2 pita breads (awesome btw), 2 sides, and a meat. Sides range from hummus to salads to baked veggies. Meats include lamb shank, curry chicken, fish, shawarma (beef and chicken). You can order more sides or meats for extra.

Veggie Sides:



Different flavors of hummus:


Some of the meats


On my trip, I ordered hummus (pro tip: you can ask to get 2 smaller portions of different flavors and it counts as 1 veggie), egyptian okra (tiny okra in a tomato based sauce with other veggies), and lamb shank.



The lamb shank was sooooo tender and I have yet to find anything that comes close to their egyptian okra. So good! I found myself just devouring everything on the plate and using the pita to sop up the soupy remains. I left absolutely stuffed!

Here is a shot of the amazing pita bread



My buddy ordered some shaved meat (basically Gyro meat...I think the term was Schawarma). The pickle is a nice authentic touch.



Andalous is one of my all time favorite Mediterranean places. Everything is so fresh and tasty and I am still dreaming about the freshly cooked pita. The food is for the most part already prepped so that you could make a quick meal of it and get back to gaming. I would imagine this place would be good for vegetarians as there seems to be good variety of foods that are veggie friendly.

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11. Board Game: Iqbal Farooq's Kebab-matador [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Kebabs To Go
10025 N MacArthur Blvd
Irving, TX 75063

10 miles from BGG.CON.

Sorry, pictures coming soon. I just wanted to get the text out before BGG.Con. Here is the yelp page for pics while you wait:
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kebabs-to-go-irving-3

- yelp

Summary: A must do! Amazing Kebabs even more amazing-er eggplant served up in a small shop attached to a 7-11 gas station.

Let me tell you a story about one hot Texas summer day. I was working in the Irving/Las Colinas area. I had been reading some amazing reviews of this obscure kebab place in Las Colinas that I had to check out. It so happens that this particular kebab place had AC issues that day and they had their front door opened to get some ventilation. Smoke was bellowing out the front door and as I approached, the aroma of grilled meats and middle eastern spices hit me like a brick wall! Picture the smell you sense whenever someone in your neighborhood is grilling steaks and amp it up to 11. If the world smelled like that, there would be no crime. I imagine that Heaven probably smells like that...mmm...um...anyway.

Kebabs to Go, like its name suggests, is a Kebab (think marinated cubed meat on a metal skewer and grilled) served in a small shop attached to a 7-11 gas station. There is one inside table and a small handful of outdoor seats. Get it? Kebabs with no place to sit...Kebabs to Go!

On the menu is your choice of Kebab. They sell beef, chicken, lamb (my favorite), tofu, paneer (cheese), and some ground beef mixture called Kobida. They also sell Gyro (the spongy lamb/beef mixture you get at malls...but much better). You choose whether it will come as a plate (with 2 sides) or as a wrap (stuffed with veggies). Drinks are sold by the bottle from the cooler (although I find it a better value to drop in to 7-11 and buy a Big Gulp while the Kebab cooks).

I have tried the lamb, chicken (curry spiced), Kobida, paneer, tofu, and gyro. All are amazing, but my favorite is the lamb, followed closely by the paneer.

Along with the kebabs, they sell hummus (super garliky), dolma, and dessert (since I am usually stuffed after the Kebab, I cant comment on the desserts).

Now, lets talk about sides. The 'greek style' salad (field greens, feta cheese, pitted greek olives, olive oil, dried spices) is pretty good and the potatoes are ok, but what gets me going back is the eggplant. "Eggplant?" You ask. Yeah, I know! Eggplant! I have never had eggplant like this before. Its tender and caramelized (almost sweet). Spiced perfectly...a bit on the greasy side, but if you look at my other reviews, that is quite ok by me! Sometimes I would just forego the salad and ask for a double order of the eggplant.

If everything wasn't over the top already, they top it off with a trio of seasonings. A white yogurt looking sauce, a green (slightly spicy...maybe cilatro) sauce, and a red powder mix of spices (one of which I am convinced is illegal). All together the combination is like nothing you have ever had before and out of this world good.

Pro tip: Order your Kebab plate/wrap before you head out from the convention. Simply call up, tell them what you want, and they will have it wrapped and waiting for you when you arrive. Do this even if you plan on eating outside on their patio (which is awesome on a nice day)!

 
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12. Board Game: Salt [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
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Salt-Lick BBQ Coming to Grapevine in 2018! Oh yeah!

http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/Popular-Salt-Lick-BBQ-Comin...

...and I think that a review should go here as soon as they open!

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13. Board Game: Ab die Post! [Average Rating:5.30 Overall Rank:14067]
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Post Oak Smokehouse
411 E Royal Ln
Irving, TX 7503

11 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Good effort bringing central Texas style BBQ to DFW, but despite some strong showing in the home made sausage department, this BBQ joint still needs a bit of time in the smoker.



Situated on the corner of a new strip center located across the street from the Las Colinas movie studios is Post Oak Smokehouse. Having moved in just 11 months ago, Post Oak Smokehouse is another example of how many new BBQ places have popped up lately. Many moons ago, if you wanted BBQ, your choices were pretty limited to places that were established and icons for years (which is not necessarily a bad thing). These days, BBQ joints seem to be popping up everywhere. Texas BBQ seems to have entered into a renaissance of sorts.

For me, Post Oak Smokehouse popped up as a highly Yelp rated joint in the area that I have never heard of...so...investigation must ensue! And it did!

First impressions: Walking in, you definitely get a whiff of smoke. The motif is dark stained floors, natural wood, black ceiling, and red tabletops. Along the walls are random 'Texas-country-store' kinda decorations. Along the left wall, is a mural featuring the Magnolia Petrol red flying horse logo (Local Dallas Icon https://thedallaswhisperer.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/the-red-......I guess it was acquired by Mobile at some point...either way, shout out for the local guys).
The place had about a dozen or so tables of varying sizes. A couple big screens hung on the walls.

Similar to other BBQ joints, you walk up to the counter, tell the man with the big knife what you want (price on the menu is per 1/2lb) and move to your right to help yourself to sides.

Menu


Sides


More Sides


Finally at the end you pick up your meats and pay. Directly behind you you can pick up some BBQ Sauce, pickled goodies, utensils, napkins, and drinks from the soda fountain.



The BBQ sauce was thick slightly sweet slightly vinegar...not bad. I prefer it over Hard 8, but I rarely use BBQ sauce...

On this visit, I ordered the BBQ Trinity (Sliced Brisket, Sausage, Ribs). They say you eat with your eyes first, so here is what it looked like. Ill let you make some conclusions for yourself.



So, based off the image above... bark looks good but lack of a 'smoke' ring suggests to me that the seasoning did not have a lot of time to penetrate the meat (or there wasn't a lot of salt in the rub) or the meat was wrapped before a good ring developed. Looking at other pics on Yelp, my brisket is very typical of this restaurant.

As far as taste, very smoky meat (this is good). Tasting the brisket confirms my suspicion that oak wood was indeed used (oak has a more subtle flavor similar to sawdust...thats not a shade, just how I describe oak flavor compared to other popular smoking woods). One thing I did note is that the smoke flavor was better than other places that use oak (rudy's, heim, meat you anywhere). Thinking about this, I am starting to wonder if they are using an electric smoker to cook their food. Could explain the lack of color and the cleanliness of the smoke...but I digress...The brisket was a little on the bland side (again confirming that the brisket was under seasoned or did not get a chance to sit seasoned before cooking). A little BBQ sauce went a long way, but I prefer to eat brisket without sauce.
Ribs were ok. Wasn't amazing, but better than the Brisket. They were cooked well, but again, a little under seasoned.
Sausage was a different story all together! While the other two parts of the BBQ trinity were underwhelming, the sausage was phenomenal! Im a big fan of the course grain loosely packed sausage. Until now, I considered Meat You Anywhere and Pecan Lodge the winners in this category...but have a look at this!



Yes, thats right...CHUNKS of pork! Amazing! Good flavor too! Not as peppery as MYA or PL, but still very flavorful! Definitely what I will get next time Im around (I also need to try their burnt ends).

Sides were all forgettable, but I did like the marinated cucumbers. One note for those that it matters, I believe that they cook their mac n cheese with bacon (if not actually bits, then at least the grease...but then again, they could have just cooked it in the smoker...either way, be wary if you are vegetarian).

Overall:
I think this place is still going through its growing pains in regards to seasoning their meat. Ill give them a pass for now and come back in a couple months (they have been open less than a year). Their sausage is amazing, so I will definitely get that next time.

If you are looking for an alternative for some BBQ next time you are in town for BGG Con, you could do worse than Post Oak Smokehouse.







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14. Board Game: The Cattlemen [Average Rating:3.86 Overall Rank:14755]
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Cattleack Barbeque
13628 Gamma Rd
Dallas, TX 75244
http://www.cattleackbbq.com

18 miles from BGG.CON.

Summary: Recommended. Hidden Gem (although thanks to Texas Monthly, not so much these days). Holy Cattle! How can this place have existed for so long without it crossing my radar? Only open 2 days a week. Get there now! Get there early!



Tucked away in an unassuming part of town surrounded by mattress stores and strip center warehouse office buildings is Cattleack Barbeque. Unless you are in the know, you could have passed the street hundreds of times and not known a BBQ restaurant was there. Even if you did happen to spot it, why would you even go in? You are obviously in that part of town to score a deal on furniture or get a car seat reupholstered. But man! For those who do know, treasure awaits!

Cattleack is only open on Thursday and Friday (I think first Saturday of the month too). They open at 10:30am and unless you get there 30 mins before the doors open (sometimes they open early), you are going to wait in line. We aren't talking Franklin BBQ line, but by 10:30, the line is out the door and into the parking lot. Fortunately, the line moves with some pace and you'll be eating soon enough. We arrived at 10:15am on Friday and we were done eating by 11:20am. Certainly a lot better than Hard 8 on a Friday night!



The Order (our table shared a bit of everything):
lean brisket (from the flat/thin end)
moist brisket (from the point/big end)
mild sausage
spicy Texan sausage
hatch chile & cheese sausage
pork rib
beef rib
mac n cheese
burnt end bbq baked beans



How its it?
The TL;DR version: Pretty darned good, pork ribs are life changing, everything is a bit spicy, atmosphere is great, and you don't leave smelling like the bottom of a mesquite pit.

When I evaluate a BBQ joint, I usually order 1/4lb brisket, 1/4 sausage (as whole as possible..not cut up), and a rib. This time was no different, but I had the extra advantage of buddies that were willing to share. Right off the bat, I noticed that everyone was enjoying their meals. "Man, you gotta try this" was the order of the day as everyone was happy to share what they got. This is a great sign. No one ever shares food they hate. I started with the brisket. The bark was well developed...dark, sweet, salty, and peppery. There was also a hint of heat as well (something that is kind of a theme at Cattleack).

The lean brisket was a bit dry...as if it had not had a chance to fully rest before cutting (I like to rest my briskets for several hours), but the flavor was good. The fat end of brisket is a bit more forgiving and in this case turned out great. If you like fatty brisket, this won't disappoint.

Cattleack was serving up 3 kinds of sausage this day. We tried them all. The mild sausage was very meaty. The casing had a very satisfying snap when I bit into it and the filling was a medium grind. Kinda salty. Id say it was pretty good. Not as amazing as Pecan Lodge or Meat U Anywhere, but I wouldn't turn it down in favor of other places. The chile n cheese sausage was interesting. Im not a cheese in my sausage kinda guy, but I think Cattleack does it better than others. The Spicy Texan was, well, spicy! If you like spicy, then give it a shot. I dont prefer spicy.



The beef rib. Beef ribs are kind of like that food challenge you saw on TV one day and you just have to try it because it looked so amazing on TV...but when you actually get around to eating it you aren't so sure why you had to eat it (but you will order it again...just because). Don't get me wrong, Cattleack's beef rib is amazingly tender and tasty...but its seriously the size of your head and at around $20/lb, one of these bad boys can easily cost you $40+! However, you will be the hero of the restaurant lugging that thing around on your tray and Chinese tourists will no doubt claw their way forward to snap a selfie with you. The rib was crispy on the outside and super tender on the inside. Very flavorful (again sweet/salty/spicy), but fatty. I can only do a couple bites and it becomes too much for me. If you do order one, share with the table.





Ok, so you saw in the TL;DR version of this report that the pork ribs were life changing. Well, they are. I have never had a better rib and the whole table was silent when we took bites into our ribs. So tender, but not fatty. Perfectly cooked...The meat pulled away easily from the bone without it falling off. It was rubbed down with their sweet/salty/spicy rub and then mopped with bbq sauce (sauce baked in, not dripping...perfect). I will go back next time and order my bodyweight in pork ribs (im not a small dude). Im salivating just thinking of my experience. If you go, order the pork ribs. Best rib I have ever had.

Sides. Not a sides person, but the 2 items we ordered were good. The burnt ends baked beans were sweet, spicy, and super smoky! You don't need much, so order a round for the table to share. The Mac n Cheese was also very good. Shell pasta, real cheese, chiles. I would order it again.

Atmosphere. Cattleack is very Texan. Lots of kitchy Texan stuff all over, longhorn cattle head shaped signs, Lone Star beer fluorescents, wood, brick, and hard troweled concrete floor. The tables are large picnic benches with a big roll of paper towels sitting next to a bottle of BBQ sauce. Good thing is that you dont smell like a sweaty mesquite fire after you are done. Pro tip, the table at the back, near the bathrooms are right in line with the AC. It can get cold back there. Bus your own tray after you eat.




Conclusion. I can see why Texas Monthly has Cattleack so highly rated. Its good solid BBQ from top to bottom and the ribs are simply amazing. If I were to compare to other places in DFW, I'd say that Cattleack is right up there with the best and worth a trip on Thursday or Friday of the Con. Get there early!


"My line is still longer"
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