My niece and nephew were in town for the weekend, and my wife and I were thrilled to be part of their first trip to the zoo. I certainly wasn't expecting to find barbecue out amongst the lions and giraffes, but far be it from me to pass up an opportunity for smoked meat.
Near the entrance to the Dallas Zoo's "Giants of the Savanna" exhibit lies the Serengeti Grill. There wasn't much in the way of indoor seating here, which was unfortunate given the 100 degree temperatures outside. We managed to find a few tables under the outdoor awning. The indoor tables are in high demand because of their proximity to the sleeping lions propped up against the cool glass. I wasn't sure how good the food would be, but the promise of lions was worth the risk.
Although the sliced beef plate sounded pretty tasty, I opted for a bbq chopped beef sandwich instead. I probably could have substituted potato salad or beans as my side dish, but the pre-selected side of french fries seemed the most appropriate pairing for this sandwich.
Judging by the way my sandwich was stacked on top of the fries, the Dallas Zoo is hell bent on conserving paper plates. In fact, their paper plates and bowls are made from recycled sugar cane, the utensils from recycled potatoes, and the cups from recycled corn. The fries were obviously frozen and were probably better suited for making plastic forks than for eating. I wish there had been more seasoning than the mere sprinkling of salt I received. The barbecue sauce runoff from my sandwich was a nice addition to the otherwise bland fries, but wasn't enough to salvage things.
The brisket had a better flavor than I was expecting, and the homemade bun was a nice touch, too. I found big chunks of beef rather than the finely-chopped sloppy joe I had pictured in my mind. Any remnants of bark/crust had unfortunately been trimmed off. The meat was fairly tender, although I couldn't taste any smoke. This was probably the result of an over-abundance of barbecue sauce, but it's still no excuse. Despite its prevalence on the sandwich, the sauce didn't have much of a pronounced flavor; it was more tomatoey than anything. I also found a few diced grilled onions mixed in. They didn't add much in terms of taste, but they did add a pleasant texture. Overall, I was fairly disappointed.
Admittedly, the Serengeti Grill wasn't the best place to look for phenomenal barbecue. My tablemates seemed to enjoy their cheeseburgers just fine, so perhaps I was just too ambitious. The main reason to eat here is the view, and even then the lions don't always strike the most modest of poses.
650 S. RL Thornton Freeway
Dallas, TX 75203