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Turkey tandoori, Texas brisket, lamb ribs, and beef kebab share space with fruit chaat and lentils with basmati rice. PHOTO BY CODY NEATHERY
Sabar BBQ, 194 Bryan Av, FW. 11am-close Sat.

 

Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. And that’s a little Zen gem from Zain Shafi, the pitmaster behind Sabar BBQ. Named after the Pakistani word for “patience,” the trailer in South Main Village might also be the region’s only spot for Pakistan-influenced Texas ’cue.

Shafi is an alumnus of Goldee’s BBQ, the famed Kennedale joint named the best in the state by Texas Monthly in 2021.

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For Shafi, barbecue is borderline nostalgic. Inspired by family cookouts when he was younger, he started out at Goldee’s in 2020 by bugging the owners to be able to help, but “it wasn’t very consistent.”

His family owned a retail furniture store that “had priority, so I’d go [to Goldee’s] for a week before skipping a couple of weeks. As I became more serious, I’d spend more time at Goldee’s. Then, in 2022, we sold the furniture business, and that’s when I really got into barbecue full-time at Goldee’s.”

The draw of cooking with live fire for the masses was Shafi’s turning point.

As is custom with Texas barbecue trucks and trailers, Sabar’s menu is announced on brown butcher paper taped next to the serving window, and this is where comparisons to traditional Texas barbecue end. Painted in a rich, seaworthy blue, the Sabar trailer pays homage to Pakistan’s truck art in which large commercial vehicles are often hand-painted with floral patterns that come to life with vibrant colors, making each truck unique.

Honoring Pakistani truck art, Sabar BBQ maintains tradition in more ways than just cooking.
PHOTO BY CODY NEATHERY

Like the truck art of Pakistan, Sabar’s menu is distinctly tethered to Zhafi’s culinary upbringing and personal flare. The menu overflows with Pakistani and other Asian-influenced flavors such as tandoori turkey and Sichuan lamb ribs, and homemade naan takes the place of white bread.

The flatbread doubled as a sponge for the excess grease and juice under the traditional, exceptionally smoked Central Texas-style brisket that was on par with Goldee’s version. The meat and/or meat with naan sang when dunked in raita, a traditional, yogurt-based Southwestern Asian condiment embracing flavors of coriander, cumin, mint, cayenne, and chaat masala, among other ingredients.

“I don’t think we [at Sabar] really ran into challenges with the flavors,” he said. “We use the same flavors that are in Pakistani barbecue to mesh with Texas barbecue if they make sense, and we didn’t want to just force an idea. Like, the sausage is our version of the traditional seekh kebab. In most parts of the world, sausages are used as a form of preservation and waste prevention, so why not do a kebab but in an all-beef sausage form.”

The lamb ribs were robust in flavor from the Sichuan influence of China rather than the traditional herb-heavy taste most associated with Southwest Asia. Shafi said Sabar’s ribs pay homage to the Muslims in Xian, who grill lamb over fire on skewers with pieces of fat in between the meat. Sabar’s versions — seasoned, then smoked before another dusting of seasoning for added depth — are rich, fatty, and tasty. A spicy, vinegar-based barbecue sauce complemented all the meats when used for light dipping, though the lamb ribs, kebab sausage, and brisket held their own.

Sides include fruit chaat, a spicy, seasoned salad; kachumber salad (cucumber, onion, tomato); and daal chawal (curry lentils and basmati rice). While they may seem eccentric, they will make you wonder where they’ve been your whole life when you combine them with the standout ’cue.

“We have Pakistanis coming to eat, and [they] compliment our dishes … and the same thing with Texans eating Pakistani food for the first time.”
PHOTO BY CODY NEATHERY
Sabar seems poised for Texas barbecue glory — almost literally. Shafi bought his pit from Dylan Taylor, a Goldee’s co-owner who built it around 2015 with John Lewis, former famous Texas pitmaster and now Charleston expat. The pit was the first offset smoker Shafi was able to cook on in 2019, so it was a fitting purchase. The Sabar trailer came from pitmaster Tom Micklethwait of Micklethwait Craft Meats in Austin via Lane Milne, another Goldee’s co-owner. With that amount of history behind Sabar BBQ, it’s clear that it’s set up for success.

“We have Pakistanis coming to eat,” Shafi said, “and [they] compliment our dishes while trying Texas barbecue for the first time and enjoying it. And the same thing with Texans eating Pakistani food for the first time and are mind-blown. We recently made a spicy cumin sausage that we have not made before, which was well-received. Plus, we don’t want to add items just to be different. I’d be doing a disservice to myself and customers. I just want to showcase being a Pakistani Texan and respect both cultures. It would be disrespectful if I didn’t try to offer the best of both worlds.”

Burnt ends are still a thing here. And these slap.
PHOTO BY CODY NEATHERY

 

Sabar BBQ
Three-meat plate $28

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