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Not everything was a hit at Goldee’s, but most was, especially the brisket. PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

By now you’ve heard that owner-operators (and Arlington natives) Jalen Heard, Nupohn Inthanousay, Lane Milne, Dylan Taylor, and Johnny White opened Goldee’s Bar-B-Q just south of the landfill near Kennedale. Just about a year old, the restaurant managed to captivate the ’cue connoisseurs at Texas Monthly. Goldee’s has a Fort Worth address, but it’s in that odd part of the Fort that’s closer to Kennedale and Rendon. Pass the landfill and keep on going –– you’ll see a generic sign, but you’ll know the place by the crowds.

I was surprised that our various food critics haven’t managed to review the brisket yet, but even before the accolades, the restaurant was open only three days a week. I am a little more local to the ’cue east of I-35, and apparently my editor thinks I have the patience of Job. Thus, I found myself in what turned into a two-hour wait on a lovely Saturday morning last month. The good news is that the owners are now adept at estimating what they’ll need for a Saturday crowd. Right at the 11 a.m. opening, one of the gents came out, walked the line, did a little mental math, and addressed those of us toward the end: Most of the menu would likely be available, he said.

Good thing the lines around the block will be there to tell you you’ve arrived.
PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

People in this line are serious about their ’cue. The people at the front of the line had been waiting three to four hours to be first. People brought board games, card tables, camping chairs, and coolers to help pass the time. It turns out that the coolers weren’t strictly necessary. While the guys at Goldee’s won’t sell you a beer, there’s an extra-large Boy Scout Jamboree-sized cooler filled with cans o’Lite and another cooler with water. It’s your reward for waiting in line.

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Another reward: About an hour into my wait, one of the employees brought around samples. The burnt end I wolfed down was still warm and a little fatty, and it seemed to be the perfect pick-me-up to encourage those less steadfast to keep waiting. By the time I got to the restaurant’s door, the line behind me stretched another hour or so, and everything save the beef ribs was still available. Beef ribs are a novelty anyway, and you’re mostly paying for the brontosaurus-sized bones. Besides, those weren’t what I came for.

The guys in front of me had consumed more than their share of the free Miller Lite, and I’m pretty sure the alcohol consumption was responsible for their hesitation at the cash register (come on, dudes, you were staring at the menu for at least 20 minutes) and in the heavily laden trays of food they struggled to carry into the dining room. But who was I to judge? I left with brisket, pork ribs, turkey, a sausage link, a chopped brisket sandwich for my sister who can’t eat barbecue any other way, and sides: grits, beans, bread, and coleslaw. Everything was sliced, dished, and wrapped before my eyes –– the sandwich was literally made with two giant fistfuls of chopped meat, slapped on a bun and doused with the thin, red, house-made sauce.

When I finally unpacked the bounty for my ravenous family at home, we weren’t disappointed. The brisket slices included both the marbled point and the leaner flat, separated by a lacy web of connecting fat. The rub was the perfect salty-peppery blend, and whether you like the unctuous mouthfeel of the point or the leaner brisket, the taste and texture were definitely worthy of Best Of contention, Plus, the cherry red smoke ring was on point. We also got a few of the slightly crunchy, gorgeously smoky burnt ends thrown in. I learned later in an email conversation with the owners that this was perhaps just lucky. Apparently, the ends usually go for samples, unless there happens to be a handful within reach on the block as you order. I’d recommend asking for them.

Man-hands of meat coming your way.
PHOTO BY LAURIE JAMES

The rest of the proteins were not as stellar. We did enjoy the slightly spicy sausage link, but the grease factor was high, and only someone with a gallbladder of steel could eat a whole link. We paired it with some cheap yellow mustard for a little balance. The turkey was unfortunately rubbery and tasted massively of smoke. The pork ribs did not slide off the bone. This was explained in the collective’s post-meal email thusly: “When the meat slides off the bone, the meat grain is overcooked and drier. It also loses some of its pork flavor when it’s overcooked.” Fair enough, but the pork ribs were chewy, difficult to eat, and did not, as the guys wrote, “come off the bone cleanly.”

The sandwich (literally, two man-handfuls of meat squished on a burger bun) was delicious. The thin barbecue sauce tasted slightly fruity (when I asked, the reply was it was probably the apple cider vinegar) but also a little mustard-y and fairly spicy. The sauce was prominent in the chopped sandwich, and although the sweet-sour combo was tasty, none of the meat save the abysmal turkey really needed much of it.

The coleslaw packed a little kale, which was interesting, and the bite of red onion, but the dressing had so much black pepper as to be inedible. The beans were fine (there was a little meat debris in the traditional ranch-style pot), and the cheesy grits were absolutely rave-worthy. These were the best cheese grits this side of Jon Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine. And the bread wasn’t Mrs. Baird’s: The slightly sweet, airy, thick slices were indeed house-made. Double down on the grits, skip the coleslaw, and grab an extra loaf for your sides.

The last time I waited in line for two hours for barbecue was during the Obama administration. At that point, that particular ’cue-stop-in-a-trailer was all the rage, but I wasn’t that smitten. Incidentally, said family-owned place moved out of its trailer into a couple of locations in Tarrant County. Barbecue is mostly about preference, and there’s no accounting for tastebuds. I would put the brisket at Goldee’s up against any other restaurant outside the 817, and the cheesy grits were exceptional. Do these two items make the restaurant worthy of the Texas Monthly No. 1 claim? Hard to say. Do the owners care much about that or any of this? Probably not.

 

Goldee’s Bar-B-Q
Brisket $15/pound
Pork ribs $24/pound
Smoked Turkey $20/pound
House sausage link $5 each
Chopped brisket sandwich $8
Cheesy grits $12/quart
Pinto beans or coleslaw $8/pint

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