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BRYAN: Fargo's Pit BBQ
1220 N Texas Ave Ste A
Bryan, TX 77803
979-778-3662
Open Tues-Sat 11-7

Update: 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.

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