Smokey Mae’s Pit BBQ, 8120 Rendon Bloodworth Rd, Mansfield. 817-592-0202. 10:30am-9pm Sun-Thu, 10:30am-10pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Walking into Smokey Mae’s Pit BBQ was like time travelling and landing in an episode of Hee Haw. There’s a lot of country cliché in the restaurant’s origin story (detailed on the website) and in the décor. But the food was anything but kitschy.
In the style of Hard Eight BBQ and other fine purveyors of ’cue, Smoky Mae’s wood-burning pits are stationed outside of the building – apparently, when the place first opened, heavy wood smoke wafted everywhere due in part to a ventilation problem. Fortunately, that issue was fixed by the time my dining companion and I visited.
Unless you order a sandwich, all of the meat is served by the pound on paper-lined trays. If you don’t do a little math before you hit the line, the choices may overwhelm you, and your eyes will definitely become bigger than your stomach.
The brisket was well marbled, and every piece was lusciously moist. The meat was only slightly smoky, and it was so tasty that we didn’t need sauce. Because the fat was evenly distributed throughout the cut, there weren’t a lot of chunks of fat to carve away from the delicious, spicy, charred crust with its perfect cherry-red smoke ring.
Smoked turkey was the menu’s leaner option. Of all the meats, the bird contained the smokiest flavor. The fairly intense smoky essence of the juicy white meat was mitigated a little with the addition of the mustard-heavy sauce called the Yellow Rose, hailing from North Carolina.
Beef ribs are a bit of a luxury. Many ’cue places just serve pork, perhaps because it takes a ridiculously long cook time over low heat to loosen the fairly tough connective tissue so that the beef rib meat slides off the bone. A half-pound made for about three servings. The guy at the grill barely touched the bone with his tongs, and the meat slipped away like a slinky nightgown. The dark crust was a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. The cut was scandalously rich and, like the brisket, really didn’t need a sauce.
A half-pound of pork ribs turned out to be three rib pieces. The guy manning the pit added some end bits of the pork ribs to our half-pound order, because, as he put it, “They’re not perfect so we can’t sell ’em.” Like the beef ribs, the meat was fork tender and slid off the bones. The pig actually benefitted from a dose of the restaurant’s traditional tangy-peppery barbecue sauce, which added a little extra kick.
Smokey Mae’s sauce/condiment bar had some unusual options, including the kraut sauce, with a garlicky, vinegary kick that cut the richness of the beef perfectly.
Neither the coleslaw nor the potato salad was stellar. The slaw’s heavy dose of celery seed swamped the chopped cabbage. The potato salad was nicely chunky with a heavy mustard base, but an overabundance of dill inundated the side dish. The armadillo eggs (two bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with a sliver of brisket and cheese) were a fiery, pleasant treat. The peppers were grilled until the bacon was crisp and the jalapeño skins charred.
If you need to add a carb (besides the standard white bread and ranch-style beans that come gratis), save room for the blackberry cobbler: A top-notch buttery pastry crust covered a delightfully tart blackberry center. A single-sized container of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream came with the dessert, and between the cold ice cream, sweet dough, and whole berry filling, we rolled out of there happier than a bird with a French fry. If you’d rather drink your dessert, there are a dozen or more moonshine cocktail options.
Armadillo eggs $2.95
Brisket, turkey, or pork ribs $14.50/pound
Beef ribs $19.50/pound
Potato salad or coleslaw $2.95 each
Blackberry cobbler $3.95
Moonshine on the rocks $5