If you have a relative who lives below the Mason-Dixon Line, at some point, they’ve probably preached the gospel of “good barbecue” at you. Down south, it’s, unquestionably, serious business and less a way to kill a lazy Sunday evening than an art form. While the letters “B” “B” and “Q” have, traditionally, been frowned upon by foodies, much in the same way they sneer at fast food and chain restaurants, chefs around the country are tossing out their saute pans for grills and rib racks.
Barbecue is just the latest culinary fad to run rampant across America. Whether you’re reading these words in Los Angeles, Chicago or another US metropolis, there’s probably a cafe within a ten-minute cab ride that serves real-deal, melt-in-your-mouth BBQ. Manhattanites turn out in droves for pulled-pork sandwiches and chicken wings at area hotspots like Blue Smoke and Fette Sau; each eager to out authenticate one another while charging prices that would make the average NASCAR afficianodo spew Coors Light all over their Wranglers.
Meanwhile, a few thousand miles and a few dozen degrees fahrenheit removed from New York City, establishments like Fort Worth’s Woodshed Smokehouse are breaking new ground in the grilling arts while not charging a fortune for their eats. Chef Tim Love opened this Temple o’ BBQ last February and he calls his dreamchild a “homage to all things grilled, roasted and slow-cooked.” It’s been drawing crowds like flies to a rib roast ever since.
The atmosphere here is a mish-mash of “shotgun shack” and “bistro,” overall a modernized but sincere tip of the hat to Fourth of July BYOBs and long-gone Texas honky-tonks. Picnic tables and wood smokers can be found forming an “aw shucks, what the hell?” alliance with stainless-steel fixtures and the sort of sleek decor typically reserved for sky bars.
Like the Smokehouse’s unpretentious but contemporary mis en scène, Love’s menu is a mix of old and new. Using time-tested techniques and ambitious innovation, the chef’s crew dishes up fare like a “16-hour Smoked Beef Shin,” a hearty combination of fresh ricotta, chilies, and smoked oil served with borracho beans and roasted beet salad alongside a, well, big ol’ slab of mouth-watering, slow-cooked beef.
Other entrees include open-fire paella, clams, mussels and chicken dishes. For more adventurous patrons, there’s always the Smokehouse’s rabbit and rattlesnake sausage. Each item on the menu is cooked over an appropriate type of wood, as well. The Smokehouse uses six varieties including cherry and mesquite to give each selection just the right smoky flavor. While serving as a showcase for the region’s best wines, the restaurant also offers twenty-five craft beers on tap.
Love’s approach is forward-focused in other areas as well. Despite the restaurant’s three smokers, two rotisseries and two wood grills, the chef strives to keep his operation as green as possible. Cups and utensils are made from biodegradable materials and there’s nary a glass bottle to be found on the property, given its close proximity to the Trinity River. We should also mention the Smokehouse’s live musical performances every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, adding another kick of Texas charm to its rootin’, tootin’ sophistory.
The Woodshed Smokehouse
3201 Riverfront Dr., Fort Worth, TX 76107