Sliced beef sandwich $3.10
Through good times and bad, Bailey’s Bar-B-Q has remained a beacon of beef for 74 years.
By PETER GORMAN
826 Taylor St, FW. 817-335-7469. Mon-Thu 10:30am-5:30pm, Fri 10:30am-4pm. Closed Sat-Sun. No credit cards accepted.
It’s not every day that a fancy-schmancy “food critic” like me deigns to pit his palate against a lowly sandwich shop, much less one that carries fewer than a dozen items. Then again, not every sandwich shop has been open since 1931 ... in the same location ... owned by the same family ... and with a menu that’s nearly identical to the original ... from 74 years ago.
Since Bailey’s Bar-B-Q first opened, downtown Fort Worth has undergone a lot of changes. For one thing, there is a downtown Fort Worth. For another, barbecue is still in style. You can bet that the guys who built the Masonic Temple on Henderson and the Texas and Pacific Railway Terminal on Throckmorton, both in the same year of Bailey’s grand opening, visited the tiny, homey joint on Taylor Street once or twice — or two dozen times.
Though I wasn’t around when John T. Bailey served his first customer, I’d bet that the quality of food hasn’t changed much — what else explains the restaurant’s longevity? You just gotta wonder: Where do all these people sit? Bailey’s is a single, small room. In the rear is the counter, where three cooks conjure sandwiches in record time. Several tiny two-tops line the walls. In the center is a large table loaded with pickles, onions, and extra barbecue sauce.
The menu is basic — turkey, ham, sausage, and baloney. Everything comes either chopped or sliced and served on either wheat or white rolls. Unless you request otherwise, every delicacy arrives slathered in Bailey’s handmade barbecue sauce, a glaze that’s rich and sugary with a tangy bite. Of the five sandwiches sampled during a couple of recent visits, no offering was less than noteworthy. Two actually proved exceptional.
The sliced beef was some of the tenderest I’ve tasted in this town. Though trimmed of flavorful fat (darn!), the meat was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth. Equally delicious was the chopped beef. The heaping, moist serving was nicely complemented — and not overpowered — by a drenching of the sauce. The baloney — probably close to a single, half-pound slab — had a commendable home-cooked flavor.
Two of the sandwiches were average. The over-stuffed sausage was no better or worse than what’s available at some of Cowtown’s better barbecue establishments, and the turkey, despite its smoky succulence, came in pieces that were a little too thick to handle gracefully.
In addition to the meats, all of the sides are slow-cooked in the back of the store. The beans, made from the dried pinto variety and seasoned with a touch of cardamom, are a pleasant campfire-dry rather than typical store-bought sweet. The potato salad was excellent — chopped al dente potatoes, with just a bit of pickle relish and a good dose of mayonnaise and mustard. The only side that didn’t work was the cole slaw. It was crisp, with a touch of carrot and red cabbage, but wholly flavorless.
Other succesful barbecue joints in town have expanded with their success, but not Bailey’s. Apparently, the formula that worked during the Depression Era is still working. Why change?
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