BBQ on the Brazos, 3803 Southwest Blvd, FW. 817-386-2970. 11am-3pm Sun, 10am-4pm Tue-Sat. May close earlier if sold out. All major credit cards accepted.
BBQ on the Brazos is as authentically unpretentious as a barbecue joint can be. Let’s start with the cafeteria-style trays lined in brown paper, the humble canvas where your order is carefully written in legible Sharpie.
Then there is the interior soundtrack, a smile-inducing mix of animated chatter from very satisfied customers – ranging from toddlers and military personnel to those with much more salt than pepper in their hair – and the rat-a-tat-tat of knives mowing through meat. This amiable atmosphere is punctuated by the very pleasant Bonnie, who sweetly calls out customers’ names when their orders are ready, often times only minutes after placing it.
BBQ on the Brazos dates back to 2013, when it was based in Cresson. Only in its west Fort Worth location for around two months, the restaurant is co-owned by the husband-and-wife team of John and Kathryn Sanford with their son, John Sanford II, as pitmaster.
With a mantra of “simple is best,” the imported eatery traces the quality of its product to its using only prime-grade beef and cooking the meats low and slow (up to 14 hours for the brisket or pulled pork) over mild Texas oak, burning at a maximum of 245 degrees.
The credentials and kudos are literally plastered all over the expansive side-wall of the 4,100-square-foot space set in a stripmall next to the venerable Edelweiss German Restaurant. The awards include making Texas Monthly’s Top 50 barbecue places in Texas and being rated No. 1 in Fort Worth and No. 3 in North Texas.
In my carnivore’s tour, my first pit stop was smoked turkey. Its primary vehicle was a hulking baked potato, itself accompanied by all the customary trimmings of whipped butter, sour cream, and cheese shavings. The kitchen wasn’t stingy with the loaded potato’s generous allotment of turkey cubes, each one bearing the slightest hint of a house rub of paprika, garlic, brown sugar, and hickory smoke flavor.
Both varieties of beef sausage featured that desirably snappy outer casing. Of the two, the one with the welcome addition of thrumming jalapeño featured the more arresting taste.
I know it’s a well-worn descriptive but “fall off the bone” tender was completely synonymous with BBQ on the Brazos’ St. Louis-cut pork ribs. The bracelet of fat worn by the ribs glistened alluringly as it ushered in the smoke ring right underneath it. The ribs, redolent of their rub of brown sugar, paprika, hickory smoke flavor, and onion, were so perfectly cooked that even the underlying chassis of bone seemed to melt away, yielding nothing but a meaty bite.
The ultimate complement to the quality of the meat is that even though a brimming bottle of house-made sauce (a zesty concoction of ketchup and brown sugar with various herbs and spices) sat on the table, the meat easily stood on its own without the slightest need for any slathered condiment.
The brisket was transcendent. With an outer char the tint of espresso connected to the rest of the meat by a shimmering sinew of meltingly tender meat, it was as flawless a piece of slow-cooked beef as I’ve encountered anywhere in our local mecca of smoked meat.
Of my two traditional sides, the mac ’n’ cheese was a bit overly soupy thanks to an excessive ladling of the Velveeta-based sauce – though we heartily approve of the nostalgia-laden product. The baked beans, however, exceeded all expectations, as the savvy addition of brisket burnt ends elevated what is often a stepchild side dish into something stratospherically tasty – with its sweetness never drifting into cloying.
There was no better way to top off a classic barbecue meal than with silken banana pudding. It delivered all the attributes of the banana pudding of our collective youth: Mini-buoys of banana slices and Nilla wafers floated on a custardy wave. The sweetness did cry out for a bit of citrus to cut through, but that would be tampering with a dish meant to be an unapologetically sweet classic.
As if to underscore the no-nonsense, trend-resistant quality of BBQ on the Brazos, co-owner John has admitted that he doesn’t quite understand what the faddish label “craft barbecue” means.
“It’s just barbecue to me,” he said.
Clearly, that’s a philosophy designed to keep his ’cue simple and mighty good.
BBQ on the Brazos
Loaded baked potato $9.99
Brisket, ribs, and sausage w/two sides $22
Banana pudding $4.99