You arrive in a strange city – and you are hungry. How do you find a great place to eat? Frommers? Fodor? Insight? My problem with guides is simple – they are by default dated. The reviewer went there – liked it – left, reviewed it, than a year – or more – later, it got published.
Zaggat, Yelp and Urbanspoon – which are on-line restaurant review sites are much better – but somehow – I always forget to check before I leave – and then arrive without internet access.
My go-to solution – ask a local. And my 2 favorite places to find those locals are either at gas stations (hey – gas station attendant have to eat too), or at the car rental counter. Actually – I prefer to ask the guy giving me the car. More often than not – I get good advice. And this time – the advice was amazing.
We’d just arrived in Dallas, TX – and it was lunch time. BBQ sprang to mind. Our question was – best BBQ that is not a chain. We’d rented thru Enterprise (Hi back at you guys) and the efficient Enterprise agent thought for a second – then asked if we wanted fancy. When the answer was no – we just wanted awesome BBQ – he said – Hard 8. He even ‘text’d’ the address to my husband’s cell phone. Now that’s service.
We followed the GPS to what must easily be the best BBQ I’ve ever enjoyed. We knew we were in the right place when we saw that the line stretched out the door!
Hard 8 is in a huge building – about 40% of which is devoted to the BBQ pits, and the smokers. You stand in line until you get your turn in front of the open-pit and are faced with a simply mouth-watering display of BBQ offerings. Signs everywhere warn against ordering too much – but the free taste of bacon wrapped BBQ chicken with a jalapeno Pepper put us in the mood for food.
Everything is cut and sliced to order – so you want Brisket? The pit boss will gesture at the brisket – and chop until you stay stop. Ribs? How many do you think you can eat. The only things not sold by the pound beside the roasted and steamed whole corn on the cab – were the BBQ chicken (1/2 or whole) and the pork chop. Both looked completely yummy – but I wanted ribs.
Of the 3 of us – my grand-daughter took the prize for restraint, just ordering some slices of home spiced and home smoked Kielbasa. I got ribs, my husband got carried away and ordered a bit of almost everything, from brisket to a sirloin kebab. They weighed our choices – then pointed us into the restaurant itself to get drinks, dessert, and add-on’s like mac and cheese or sweet corn with jalapeno’s.
From there – it’s on into the dining room. Well – dining room is a bit generous. More of a cross between a bar and a barn – with a huge heated ‘patio’. Tables are ‘the share with your neighbor’ variety – and on each section are rolls and rolls of paper towels – which speak to the messy nature of eating proper Texas BBQ.
There’s a boiling pot of ‘all you can eat’ beans, more BBQ sauce in case you feel the need – and stacks and stacks of to-go boxes. Yup – we probably aren’t the first – or last – that order too much!
I totally adored my ribs – and ate 2 of them – plus all my grand-daughters Kielbasa. She ate the rest of my ribs – and then gobbled up her share of the brisket that my husband got.The Mac and Cheese wasn’t great – but what were we thinking to even order it. I can’t say I liked the Kebab at all – but again – what were we thinking to order it in the first place.
The creamed sweet corn with Jalapeno was not particularly spicy – but it was sweet. Not nearly at the same – you MUST eat this – level as the ribs, bacon wrapped chicken or the Brisket, but very interesting.
How good was the ‘Hard 8’ – well – my husband is planning on going back today. Yes – that good.
So – if you find yourself in Dallas – and craving a no frills BBQ pit dinner – Hard 8 has definitely got you covered.