Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Ellis County BBQ (Midlothian, TX)
My job forced me into an Ellis/Tarrant/Dallas tri-county drive today, and as a result I found myself in Midlothian around lunchtime. I had a little time to kill before my afternoon duties kicked in, so I decided pull over for a bit and try out Ellis County BBQ.
Although it's certainly not the norm for barbecue, Ellis County BBQ is set up as a table service restaurant. They had a nice big bar area (usually my location of choice whilst dining alone), but today I felt like grabbing an actual table. The dining room is decorated in a more upscale western motif, which was surprisingly swanky for a place like Midlothian.
I ordered up their Dennis Plate, which comes with three meats, two sides, and Texas toast. I usually try to avoid handheld barbecue when I'm wearing a suit, but I was feeling pretty cavalier today. After much deliberation, I settled on pork ribs, beef brisket, and sliced sausage with potato salad and macaroni and cheese on the side. I didn't know if Ellis County BBQ pre-sauced their meats or not, but since I couldn't see my plate being prepared, I made sure to ask for sauce on the side. After ordering I noticed a bottle of sauce on my table, so this was probably an unnecessary request, but you can't be too careful with these things.
As always, I started my meal by sampling the side dishes. The potato salad had a good crunch from the pickles and pimentos. The potatoes were slightly creamy, though chunkier than mashed potatoes. It had a nice natural flavor to it without being bland. The mac and cheese, however, was not quite so pleasant. What I received was basically plain elbow macaroni with a little cheese melted over the top. It was pretty skimpy on flavor, and tasted only slightly better than Easy Mac.
From the outset, the brisket looked a little dry and far too lean. It had a decent black crust on it, but no actual bark. I also didn't notice much of a smoke ring, and I certainly couldn't taste any smoke either. Actually, all I could taste was dry meat and salt. I added some of their house barbecue sauce out of pure necessity. The sweet vinegar sauce helped things, but not enough for me to continue eating it.
The pre-sliced sausage had no visible black pepper or other spices, which made it look suspiciously like Hormel or Eckrich. I hoped the taste would change my opinion, but no such luck. It tasted exactly like it looked: grocery store sausage. There definitely wasn't any smoke to it either. The casings did have a decent snap, but that's really the only positive thing I can say.
After my first two meat selections, I wasn't feeling very optimistic about the ribs. The big meaty spare ribs looked like they had a good crust, but were lacking much of a red smoky hue. I found some smoke in the crust, but it tasted more like artificial liquid smoke rather than the natural kind. This gave the ribs a really weird taste. The meat came cleanly off the bone one bite at a time, so at least the ribs were cooked properly (from a time standpoint only).
I took the remainder of my food in a to-go box just to be polite, but I had no intention of eating any more of it. Ellis County BBQ definitely has some work to do on their seasonings and their smoking process. Getting rid of the liquid smoke should certainly be step one, but I'd also suggest they steer clear of Kroger and find a new sausage supplier.
UPDATE (December 5, 2013): Once again, I found a restaurant owner posting comments to my blog post under the guise of an average customer. This time the comments came courtesy of Dennis DeWeerd, who is in fact the owner of Ellis County BBQ. Apparently Mr. DeWeerd was not aware that his name would show up next to the comments, which speaks to both his carelessness and his technological ignorance. In order to prevent his comments from being prematurely deleted, I have chosen to re-post them here. These comments are unabridged and unaltered:
"Where is your restaurant??? Ellis County Bbq has won numerous awards for their Bbq . We eat there 3-4 times a week the food is awesome. Anyone with a keyboard thinks they are a valid critic. Suit up and start your own restaurant and then I'll listen to you. Your a Joke"
1. The fact that Mr. DeWeerd has to resort to posing as a customer in order to defend his restaurant is just sad. Other comments seem to agree with my critique of Ellis County BBQ. Considering that there are no actual customers coming to his rescue, I'll stand by my review.
2. Mr. DeWeerd mentions numerous awards won by Ellis County BBQ. Interestingly, the restaurant's website doesn't list a single specific award. After 20 minutes of Googling, I couldn't come up with any results either. Perhaps none of these awards were recent enough to be noteworthy.
3. The comments suggest that simply starting a restaurant somehow magically makes a food critic's opinions valid. Does owning a McDonald's qualify someone to critique a Michelin-star steakhouse? I have eaten at countless horrible restaurants over the years, so maybe we should strive for standards a little higher than that.
4. If Mr. DeWeerd wants his comments to be taken seriously, I suggest he first learn to spell and use proper punctuation. The sloppiness with which he writes truly exemplifies the quality of the food at Ellis County BBQ.
Ellis County BBQ
700 Silken Crossing
Midlothian, TX 76065