Texas Slim’s BBQ, 2903 W Berry St, FW. 817-926-7814. 12pm-4pm Sun, 11am-8pm Tue-Sat.
They may be less common every year, but there are still places around that look and feel as if they’ve been with us forever.
The Aardvark, located across West Berry Street from TCU, can certainly seem frozen in time, having taken over the bar and concert space from The Hop — another Fort Worth legend — in 1995. For decades, the college dive shared a wall with Salty Dog Tattoo Shop. Now the tattoo shop is gone, and the wall has come tumbling down. The Aardvark, which has been playing around with barbecue for the past few years, has expanded into the vacancy with a semi-separate restaurant space. Under the moniker Texas Slim’s, The Aardvark aims to serve classic Texas ’cue with a gourmand’s twist.
There is historical precedent for the music venue serving real food. The Hop slung decent fried bar fare (if memory serves). Slim’s isn’t competing with old-timers’ dusty memories so much as it is with the phalanx of Dallas-style fast-casual joints up the road at University Park Village. Against such charmless company, the little place can certainly compete, and the small scale of the operation seems to correlate with an exceptional level of quality.
You won’t for one second forget that you’re eating in a bar. With the Texas sunlight drifting to the back of the narrow space, decorated with flyers from decades of shows, the smoke from the kitchen mingling with the scent of plywood and whiskey sours, it feels like you’re visiting a piece of Fort Worth that was around before you got here and will be around after you’re gone.
My guest and I recently snuck over for a weekday lunch and found the place all but deserted. A low-key rollout is an unusual play these days, but there is some wisdom in letting a kitchen work out the kinks in its own time. When the word gets out, Texas Slim’s will likely be popular with the campus crowd (owner Danny Weaver could consider offering meal plans to students). For now it still feels like a bit of a secret. Our server even seemed a bit surprised to see us.
The small menu features standard Texas brisket, sliced or chopped, as well as pulled pork, sausage, and chicken. The smoked meats are paired with standard delivery devices for the most part — buns, baked potatoes, salads — though Slim’s also offers barbecue “burritos,” perfect for the Horned Frog on the move.
I tried a sliced brisket sandwich that was as pure a statement about smoked meat as I could have hoped for, with a campfire twang that was unmistakably Texan. The meat didn’t need more than a few drops of the house barbecue sauce, good as it was, and a few sliced pickles to make it right.
The menu gets a little fancy with the daily lunch specials. The signature Earth Pig sandwich — a burger topped with brisket — is the most pedestrian of a rotation that includes smoked ribeye, ribs, and, on Sundays, the enigmatic “brunch.” We’d visited on a Thursday, and that meant we got two thick-cut smoked pork chops, so juicy and tender that even more seasoned critics than I would resort to clichés.
Where Texas Slim’s really shines is in the kitchen’s thoughtful and creative sides that give these classic Texas dishes a little glitz. Wasabi mashed potatoes crowned with portabella mushroom gravy were top-notch. Oven-roasted vegetables included crispy Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli, and strips of sweet red peppers and were good as anything over on Magnolia Avenue. Even the standards, fried okra and potato salad, were tasty enough to make a tempting meal on their own.
Fort Worth keeps changing, but along Berry Street at least, some things are changing for the better.
Texas Slim’s BBQ
Smoked pork chop (Thursday lunch special) $13.25
Sliced brisket sandwich $9.50