Thursday, September 12, 2013
Park Tavern (Dallas, TX)
Today my mother-in-law noticed that I hadn't updated my barbecue blog in over a week and was understandably concerned. I don't like to disappoint, so I started researching possible dinner options. My evening barbecue choices are usually much more limited than around lunchtime, but the nearby Park Tavern seemed worth a try. I headed over to see how their ribs measured up to more traditional barbecue joints.
Park Tavern had a rockin' bar scene and felt much less pretentious and hipster than the usual Dallas spots - only a handful of people were wearing glasses ironically, and I didn't see a single fedora. There was great music and a great energy. It was a little loud, but I was flying solo tonight so I didn't mind too much. The high ceilings gave the interior a really open feel. Their large outdoor patio area seemed rather popular, despite the scorching heat and unbearable humidity. I opted for the indoor bar instead and took a seat for the TCU/Texas Tech game.
All of the bartenders were really friendly and attentive. I missed happy hour by about 5 minutes, but I came here for smoked meat rather than libations. Although, it did mean I'd miss out on the appetizer specials.
I ordered a half-rack of Baby Back Ribs, which come topped with a cascabel chile barbecue sauce. You also get your choice of two sides. I really wanted to sub in their chorizo deviled eggs from the appetizer section, but I was told this wasn't an option, despite the eggs being the same price as most of the individual sides. I even offered to trade both sides for some deviled eggs. Sadly it just wasn't happening. Party poopers. I begrudgingly picked the Hand-Cut Fries and Jalapeno Bacon Mac as my side dishes.
The hand-cut fries were definitely fresh and homemade. They were natural cut with the skins left on. I noticed a slight sweetness to the fries, and also found just the right amount of salt. The parsley sprinkled over the top added nothing, but I guess they looked prettier that way.
Interestingly, the mac and cheese was also topped with parsley. It was made with penne rather than the usual elbow pasta, which was a welcome change of pace. I was expecting gooey cheese, but my mac was drowning in what was essentially a runny cheese soup, and I thought about taking it home to eat with tortilla chips. The cheese sauce also didn't have much flavor. Despite the jalapenos, I found only a slight spiciness. The bacon was a nice touch, as were the breadcrumbs, but apparently there are things even bacon can't fix.
My ribs were the third piece in a parsley-topped trifecta, suggesting that the chef needs more practice with garnish diversification. The lemon wedge nestled next to my rack told me that these ribs were best suited for a knife and fork. Beneath the sauce I could see a decently-peppered crust. Cascabel chiles fall somewhere between poblanos and jalapenos on the Scoville scale, but I didn't really pick up too much heat (some, but not nearly enough). I tasted a decent smokiness in the barbecue sauce, though not at all in the meat. The few bites of sauceless meat I found were actually almost devoid of flavor. I liked the sauce a lot, but their total reliance on it for flavor was really disappointing. As I feared, the rib meat was noticeably overcooked and falling off the bone. The bone side of my rack was complete mush from resting in its own grease and juices for who knows how long. Oddly enough, the ribs were both tender and chewy at the same time, which admittedly makes no sense.
Overall, Park Tavern was kind of a let down, from the runny mac and overcooked ribs to the chef's disturbing parsley fetish. The ribs were listed in the "Smoked" section of their menu, but I have my doubts. I'd go back there to watch more college football and possibly to try the chorizo deviled eggs, but definitely not for barbecue.
8166 Park Lane
Dallas, TX 75231