Barbecue is a “cuisine” that attracts a peculiarly conservative following. If an establishment chops rather than slices brisket, ‘Cue Heads are roll. The act of applying sauce on the meat rather than on the side is enough to cast the establishment out of consideration as a true Texas barbecue joint. This is a cuisine where preserving authenticity never means ossifying the status quo.
Enter Off The Bone Barbeque on Lamar just south of the Dallas Convention Center (no relation to the identically named establishment in Forest Hill, TX), which did both these things when it opened in 2009. That ruled them out of consideration for many serious “barbequefiles.” Maybe this reaction explains why they have mended their ways. Brisket can now be ordered sliced with sauce on the side. Not much else has changed. The brisket still goes into the pecan wood-fired smoker about 5pm and cooks until about 7am. The pork ribs are still baby back ribs (not the less expensive spare ribs). They cook for about five hours and are then wrapped in foil to cook for about one additional hour with a coating of sauce to resolve the flavors. The sausage is filled with beef and nothing else. The sides and the dessert are all made in house.
The brisket, pork and chicken can all be ordered as tacos, another no-no, but at least a southwestern variation on the barbeque genre.
The brisket we tasted had a pronounced smoke ring and a reasonable crust. Since this was a media tasting, I could not snag an end piece, unfortunately. The flesh was juicy and had true-to-type beef flavors. The smoked chicken was moist as well (an apparently difficult feat for a lot of establishments to pull off) and had a hint of the smoke. The sausage was finely ground, flavorful, and fairly salty.
The Southern Potato Salad, made by Rose, of the husband and wife ownership team of Dwight and Rose Harvey, was made from potatoes cooked in the smoker, then combined with mayonnaise and celery seeds (the latter really contributes variety to the flavor). It was a pleasant change after finding so many establishments treat the potato salad (which, after all, they all provide) as an afterthought.
I don’t ever eat coleslaw, which I consider to be bland ballast as a rule. However, Off The Bone makes a Summer Cool Cole Slaw that is positively addictive. They break all the rules by adding blue cheese and bacon. It contributes the flavor components that this old faithful so desperately needs. The Honey Spiced Baked Beans were pleasant as well. Likewise, the Tri-Colored Spiced Pasta.
The dessert to order is Rose’s Lemon Pound Cake. It is moist, crumbly and rich.
The recipes here come from Dwight and Rose’s own experience. Dwight checked out ribs around town before deciding to go with his family favorite. He thought Houston’s baby back ribs and Jasper’s rendition both strong examples. They test recipes on son Steven and daughter Juan, who both work in the tiny restaurant. Cousins and various other ‘populants’ of the family tree work in the kitchen. To be honest, I lost track of the exact relationships – but they’re close.
Now that they offer traditional sliced brisket, as well as their chopped variation, maybe the purists will give them a break? Judged on quality alone, this is a superior barbeque place. It serves a part of town (The Cedars) that is changing rapidly with apartments, condominiums and the new Omni Hotel next to the Convention Center. I hope it prospers.
This Thanksgiving they have smoked ham and smoked turkey for takeout orders. Call for details. 1734 S Lamar St