Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Barbecue report: Tollie’s Barbecue in Arlington
Good ribs but the brisket's dry.
ARLINGTON It was Sunday morning, and I was planning to meet Bud Kennedy at Tollie's BBQ 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 p.m. 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 p.m. 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 have to give them another shot before I tell y'all to make a special trip to middle of nowhere southwest Arlington.
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