Memorable barbeque trip to Fort Worth, Texas

How long are you prepared to wait for your food? Me, not to long, maybe thirty minutes. But I am definitely not willing to stand in line for an hour or two. Especially in adverse weather conditions, like that time in Montreal we wanted to eat poutine at a popular place. The line seemed endless in the snow. We walked right past it and found a cosy little Breton restaurant down the street.

An idle Facebook conversation among friends about Goldee’s BBQ led to a different experience than I’m used to: waiting in line for almost two hours to get lunch. It went against the grain, I’m not going to lie, but it was also a chance to spend time with friends we hadn’t seen in a long time.

People already in line

I had no idea what this barbeque trip entailed. Messages flew back and forth about the preparations: camping chairs, a thermos with tea or coffee, pastries for the wait, and wine and beer for lunch, as the place is BYOB. This was getting serious. It wasn’t a question of waltzing in and ordering food.

In all honesty, I wasn’t looking forward to an early start on a Sunday morning. We left home at about 8:30 am, got some coffee and pastries at La Madeleine and set off. It was a longish drive to Kennedale, in the semi-rural outskirts of Fort Worth.

The parking lot was already heaving with pick-up trucks and a few city cars. The reason people get there so early is that Goldee’s opens at 11 am on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and closes when the meat runs out. It’s been touted as one of the top places for BBQ in Texas, so the lines lengthened as its popularity grew.

We joined our friends, set up the chairs, coffee and pastries and settled for a good chat. It was a bright winter’s morning. The sun was warm, but it felt chilly in the shade. The fresh country air whetted our appetite.

The parking lot

All around us, there were people from all walks of life. Young children played as the adults whiled away the time chatting and drinking the free beer on offer. I spotted a film crew filming next to the smokers first, and then interviewing some customers. The show’s presenter made a beeline for the guy behind us, a local pit master. While I enjoyed listening to the interview, I made sure to stay well away from the cameras.

Promptly at 11 am the doors opened, and lunch officially began. They let in one group at a time. To make the wait more pleasant, a young man gave out brisket samples. It was so tender and flavoursome; I couldn’t wait to eat more.

We ordered one of everything: beef rib, brisket, pork ribs, sausage and turkey, potato salad and coleslaw. The system works like this: you put in your order, one employee plunks the meats on a plastic tray with waxed paper on top, another serves the sides in plastic containers, they give you a little bag with plastic cutlery and pay at the till. Bottled water is free, but you pay for sodas. Service is good for what it is, and the whole operation runs smoothly.      

The film crew

We chose to eat inside, but there’s plenty of outdoor seating as well. The tray doubles as your plate. The hut-like place was rather basic but clean and it didn’t not smell of smoke. There was a pile of to-go boxes on a shelf in a corner above the trash bin and rolls of paper towels on every table.

Now, the star of the show: the food. The beef rib was excellent: smoky, fatty, crispy on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth in the inside. The brisket, one of Texas’ “national” dishes, was just as good. The pork ribs, however, needed a bit longer in the smoker, although the flavour was good. I’m not keen on turkey, so I won’t comment on it. I found the house-made black pepper and garlic sausage a bit grainy, but everybody else loved it.

As for the sides, the potato salad was the classic Texas BBQ style, which happens to be my favourite: finely chopped potato, red onion, pickles and hard-boiled egg mixed with mayo. I couldn’t eat the coleslaw, but I was told it’s very good. It’s vinegar- based, and ever since I had COVID, vinegar tastes awful to me.

A word to the wise: finish up your food. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, the meat doesn’t travel well. Our leftover brisket wasn’t as delicious as it was when fresh from the smoker.

I learned that, given the right conditions, I can wait a long time for my food. But I don’t think I’m willing the repeat the experience in case the next one goes wrong and mars the good memories.

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