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DALLAS: Off The Bone Barbeque
1734 South Lamar Street
Dallas, Texas 75215
Open Tues-W 11-6, Thur 11-9, F-Sat 11-2am

Update: I've been critical of this joint in the past, mainly because they didn't adhere to my idea of great barbecue. You won't find butcher paper at Off the Bone and you'll certainly find sauce on everything, and plenty of it. Then again, this is really the norm in Dallas, so why not go judge it on its own merits? After two years, I wanted to give it a return visit (especially after this) and I'm glad I did.

A comobo plate of chopped beef and ribs is the option I chose for a recent lunch. I've lamented in the past that they won't offer a sliced brisket, and the menu on this day was no different. I would soon learn that sliced brisket had just been added as an option, but more on that later. Ribs here are more tender than most, but not mushy. The bones will always be clean when you're finished eating. Like every other meat, they come covered in the house made vinegar heavy tomato based sauce. A bit of sweetness helps to tame the acidity, and this really is a good sauce. It goes just as well with the pile of chopped beef that has a great smokiness due to all the charred bits that are added in. Smokier than the ribs, and I was wishing I could try this stuff sliced.

That's when I was ambushed. Owner Dwight Harvey and his son Steve approached my seat at the bar. "How'd you like your lunch Mr. Vaughn?" I'd been spotted, and it quickly went through my head that my previous reviews of this joint had not been kind. Not to worry as these two could smother you in hospitality, and they had a genuine interest in my thoughts. Quickly reflecting on the meal, it was a good one. Pleasing sides of beans and potato salad are made in house, the meat was well smoked and the sauce they insist on covering everything in was very good. I liked the meal, and I would happily return. That's when I learned an even better reason to return. They had just started offering sliced brisket.

After the meal I got a tour of the small operation. An all pecan-fired J&R Little Red Smokehouse sits in the small kitchen where we dodged prep cooks chopping potatoes for tomorrow's salad. Mr. Harvey could not have been a better host.

Just after the holidays I finally had a free lunch hour to go back for some of that sliced beef. A 1/2 pound snack was quickly consumed by a friend and I, and it was good. Very good. It's on the high end of what you can get anywhere in Dallas. It thankfully came with sauce on the side, and the black crust beckoned. The meat was perfectly tender with a great smoky flavor. A thin line of delectable fat had been left on to render, and it coupled with the crusty end piece made for a intense bite of brisket. Why they haven't been serving this stuff all along is a mystery, but it will be my go-to order on any return visits.

Rating ***

October 2009: You may have read the Dallas Observer's "Best of Dallas" edition which named Off the Bone Barbeque as the top BBQ joint in Big D. I've been less than impressed on a few visits in the past, but I headed to check things out after the story broke. I thought maybe they'd started serving actual sliced brisket, or maybe their meats now had some smokiness. Ordering up a combo plate of ribs and brisket (only chopped is available), I found neither fault had been remedied on this latest trip.

Their liberal use of sauce in the past clued me in that they're probably getting most of their flavor from it. It's a salty and smoky concoction that works well with the meat, but the meat's usually swimming in a lake of the sauce. I ordered the meats with sauce on the side to get at the essence of the protein. The use of some added moisture was evident on the first bite of the chopped beef. The mixture of meat to fat and crust was good, but this is a hard dish to screw up. Ribs were disappointing. The meat fell from the bone, evidence of overcooking. With the amount of time these had to spend over heat, I'd expect them to be as smokey as and ash tray, but even bites of just the outer crust yielded none of the pecan smoke flavor whatsoever. If these babies are smoked then they must be wrapped tight the entire time. Even my smoke averse wife couldn't detect any.

Sides were good with a blue cheese flecked cole slaw that tasted fresh and homemade. Chunks of brisket were in the smoky sweet baked beans adding some good texture and flavor. As I've said before, this is definitely a spot for good tasting food, it's just not great BBQ.

May 2009: Yesterday's Dallas Morning News Guide included a new review of this joint. With the high rating it received, I decided to give it another shot. The menu has not changed, with the only meats offered being ribs, sausage and chopped brisket. Sliced brisket is only offered if you have an event catered by the company. Chopped beef is presauced, and stored in warming bins to be served. I opted instead to try the ribs and sausage which arrived sauced.

It seems the proprietors here choose to rely on the flavor of their sauce rather than the flavor of smoke. In fact, a smoker wasn't anywhere to be found. The rib meat was tender, truly falling off the bone as if baked into submission. The flavor was decent, but overly salty from the to generous helping of sauce heaped on top. The sausage was better than average, with a medium grind a good snap to the casing. The flavor of the meat was hard to distinguish behind all of that sauce, but it was pretty good stuff. What really shines here are the well prepared sides. The potato salad was rich with mustard and egg, and the sweet baked beans were flecked with pork and onions. I wish they'd just offer a choice of sauce so I wouldn't have to wonder about what they're trying to hide below the copious amounts of it.

2008: This place is hard to categorize. I hesitate even reviewing it because it falls outside of what this website considers to be true Barbeque. The brisket only comes chopped, the ribs are parboiled, and everything comes sauced. All that being said, the food is good. The ribs have great flavor and are truly fall-off-the-bone tender, while the brisket is smoky with a nice crust. The owner said they don't serve sliced brisket because it would just fall apart, so I'm guessing it might be steamed as well as smoked. All that being said, I can't justify giving it an official rating on this site.
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