Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, July 18, 2002
Shady Oak Barbeque
Jalapeño poppers $3.95
Sliced beef platter $10.95 and $12.95
Pulled pork sandwich $6.95
Trash can combo $44.75
Rollin’ on the Creek

Shady Oak Barbeque offers a tranquil backdrop to some outrageously good food.


Shady Oak Barbeque

6364 Sandshell (I-35W at Western Center Blvd), FW. 817-306-7812. Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm. AE, D, MC, V.

Chris and Becky Carroll have spent 20 years building the successful Spring Creek Barbeque chain and strengthening Fort Worth’s longtime Mexican Inn franchise. In a moment of passion four years ago, the Arlington couple bought a historic barn in North Fort Worth, which had already been converted into a Fossil Creek visitors’ center. They turned the 1937-vintage stone structure into a restaurant.

The Carrolls didn’t want to tamper with the success of Spring Creek, but they did want to try another barbecue venue. The way business is booming, these two stand to be some of the few lucky restaurateurs able to turn a profit by competing against themselves.

Shady Oak Barbeque resembles Spring Creek a little, yet is different enough that even diehard fans of the original probably won’t mind the similarities. The first thing you notice about these new digs is the tranquility. This is a major coup considering Shady Oak sits in the congested restaurant row at I-35W and Western Center Boulevard. The secret is a creek that runs behind the restaurant. The Carrolls put the front door of the eatery on the back of the building, which forces patrons to take a stroll past the water to get inside.

Shady Oak is a full-service restaurant with a bar. One of the dining rooms carved out of the converted barn has a 12-foot fireplace (you don’t appreciate that information now, but just wait until January). A separate bar area and considerably louder dining room overlook a long porch, filled with inviting Adirondack chairs. Several folks had succumbed to the temptation and were loosening up their ties while enjoying a drink during an early-dinner visit a few weeks ago. As my guest and I sat in the bar area, watching the leaves rustle in the trees, it hit us that Shady Oak is about more than a good plate of barbecue.

Think of it as barbecue at the next level. A standard sliced-beef dinner had so much lean, fork-tender brisket that we asked for a doggy bag right off the bat. Ditto on the ham dinner. Shady Oak also offers pulled chicken and pulled pork sandwiches.

The potato salad scored extra points for tasting fresh, with crispy bites of onion and other vegetables sweetening the mix. The pinto beans are cooked with onion, pepper, and cilantro and topped with a bit of relish that makes the whole delectable reminiscent of pico de gallo.

But if you want a real treat, try an appetizer order of jalapeño poppers. These little bites of dynamite are stuffed with a mix of hickory-smoked chicken, cream cheese, roasted red bell pepper, and seeds-and-all chopped jalapeños, then battered and deep-fried. The peppers managed to hold on to their heat through the deep fryer. As you know, the hotter the better.

The jalapeño appetizers, like everything on the menu, are prepared in the restaurant. Even the salad dressings are made on site.

If you’re worried that a salad at a barbecue restaurant might be a little on the wimpy side, think again. We’re going back just to try the fiesta salad. That jalapeño ranch dressing is more than worth the trip.

And leave room for dessert. We tried the banana pudding, and it was apparent from the first bite that this pudding never sat powdered in a box. The light, frothy meringue-like concoction let the flavor of the bananas come through. It was a special treat.

Diners are slowly discovering the restaurant, which opened in April. The Carrolls have already picked out additional locations in Dallas and Denton, but are hitting a few roadblocks as they try to clone the absolute perfection they have at the North Fort Worth location. The biggest problem, according to Chris: “We can’t find another creek.”

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