Cafe Reviewed: Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Red’s Pit Bar-be-que\r\nPork ribs $9.95\r\nSliced beef plate $8.25\r\nCombo plate $9.95\r\nFried turkey $4.00
Pulling Around the Bend

Near-downtown Red’s is making its case for best ’Q in FW.


Red’s Pit Bar-be-que

702 N Henderson, FW. 817-336-5957. Mon-Tue 10:30am-3 pm, Wed-Fri 10:30am-9pm, Sat 11:30am-9pm. MC, V.

Just as iced tea is the national beverage of Texas, burning meat in a smoker is the Lone Star State’s national pastime. Envious Yankees speak admiringly of “real Texas barbecue” — as well they should, for even the mighty Philly cheese steak can’t compare with a good sliced beef sandwich when it comes to heartiness and flavor.

Other locales may lay claim to the barbecue crown: North Carolina with its pulled pork, Kansas City with its burnt ends, Memphis with its cole slaw-topped barbecue sandwiches (which sounded like an unholy marriage of foods the first time I heard about it but proved to be better than OK). But the near-mystical connection between Texans and ’cue is strong; there’s no way you can overestimate the importance of the smoker as cultural icon. I say this as one who’s worked in a totally jive Swiss-owned “barbecue” restaurant in Aspen, Colorado, where the food was pre-cooked in an oven and finished in front of the sheep (patrons) — many of them, incredibly, from Texas — on a broiler out front.

Fort Worth has its barbecue institutions — Angelo’s, the Railhead, Riscky’s — but they aren’t the only options in town. Far from it, in fact. One worthy contender is recently opened Red’s Pit Bar-be-que, located on North Henderson, just north of White Settlement Road, right next to the Mexican Inn and two doors up from the “I-just-got-out-of-jail” hotel. Far from the stereotypical Texas ’cue emporium, which resembles a feedlot with big picnic tables, Red’s has the appearance of a funky beer joint that just happens to have a smoker in back.

And what a smoker it is. Unlike the meats in a lot of joints, which rely heavily on added infusions of barbecue sauce to add taste as well as moisture, those at Red’s — beef, ham, turkey, chicken, and sausage — are all robust enough to stand on their own without being slathered in sauce. This being Cowtown, beef brisket is conspicuous on Red’s menu, as it is at any local ’cue establishment worthy of its hickory chips, and we consider it the litmus test of barbecue quality in the same way enchiladas are for Mexican food. The sliced brisket and sausage my guest and I tried at Red’s both had an aromatic, peppery tang that was complemented (but not overwhelmed) by Red’s sauce, which had a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity.

Since my guest and I were both halfheartedly trying to reduce our carbohydrate consumption (as Atkins-ism seeps into the wider culture), we passed on the fresh-cut fries (sigh) and opted instead for the beans and slaw. While the beans were full-bodied and tasty, the creamy cole slaw was a little on the bland side — perhaps only in comparison with the accompanying meats.

A novel item on Red’s menu is an appetizer of fried turkey, which initially conjured up epicurean images of Cajun fried turkeys we’d experienced during a sojourn in Louisiana. The reality was somewhat less exalted — humble rectangles of turkey, spiced, deep-fried, and served with yellow mustard for dipping. But the taste was smoky, spicy, and satisfying — a hardcore carnivore’s suitable sub for the obligatory chips ’n’ salsa one finds in Tex-Mex places — and was even better when washed back with a cold beer. (The iced tea at Red’s must be fine, too, judging by my guest, who consumed nearly a gallon of it.)

By far the finest offering was Red’s pork ribs, served up either by the pound or in a basket with two sides. Succulent, tender, and moist, the meat was literally falling off the bone — it did everything but chew itself for you. A portion we carried out and brought back to the Weekly office was consumed in the blink of an eye. For out-of-southwest BBQ lovers, pulled pork sandwiches are also available on the lunch menu.

Service at Red’s was efficient and friendly. Prices are reasonable, with lunch specials that are competitive with the fast-food franchises. As a way of avoiding the phenomenon Chow, Baby experienced on a recent visit, when the restaurant was sold out of three of its five meats, it might be a good idea to phone in your order in advance. There’s even a fax option (817-336-5958) for downtown office workers courageous enough to risk adorning their business casuals with red badges of barbecue sauce.

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