Bartley's BBQ in Grapevine Made the Top 50 in TxMo -- A Lone Brit Investigates

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Gavin Cleaver
Visit No. 2. Roll from bakery next door. Deliciousness ensued.

Here's a fact that drives pageviews and purchases -- everyone loves a list. They do. It's easily digestible, it's automatically controversial by dint of ordering and omitting things that people concerned enough by the subject to click on the list care deeply about, and it's endlessly repostable. It's the entire philosophy behind websites like all-consuming comedy behemoth Cracked.com. Furthermore, if you compile said list by using statistics and numbers, you can add the ever-exciting secondary debate over what relevance numbers have to qualitative subjects.

As you can tell from my opening paragraph, I don't find lists particularly exciting. However, when Bible of Being a Texan, Texas Monthly releases a Top 50 Barbecue list, you kind of have to pay attention, if only to complain. I especially have to pay attention for I am meant to know what the bejesus is going on, a task I often admirably fail at within seconds of being asked a question. So, among the expected DFW suspects on the TxMo list, we had Bartley's BBQ in Grapevine. You guys are meant to advise me on good places to go, and we all missed this one. I can't do research; I'm foreign. We don't even use Google, we just shout words into the sky in the hope someone tells us the answer.

So, I mean, I had to go. It's right by my house. Bartley's is an unassuming and pretty small strip-mall joint, with the "B" from Bartley's missing off the sign over the door. Inside, it's a festival of wood and old, yellowing pictures. This has been a family-owned barbecue joint since the year 8, as is evidenced by a man who I imagine is the owner being the only guy cutting the meat when I get there. My reasoning for this is him loudly telling everyone he just turned 83, and calling one of the other employees to bring his driving license so he can prove it. Bartley's atmosphere then, when you combine all these facts with a deep smoky smell, is excellent. Everything inside is totally legit; it's just the fact it's in a strip mall that isn't.

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Gavin Cleaver
Obviously I am at the wrong place, "Artley's"

The meat being under heat lamps at the front is usually a bad sign, and after I pick up the expected brisket and sausage (I am left rib-less and alone due to it being the evening) I pick up some mac and cheese (which seems to be made with mayonnaise rather than actual cheese because I guess that's a low-calorie option compared with cheese) and a potato salad before retreating to my table by the window. I've got some of the fattier brisket, and it has a nice smoky taste to it, but it's been dried out by heat lamps to the point where it's kind of ... chewy. It's pretty thick too. When you get some of the bark by itself, it's delicious, but everything is dry. On the other hand, the sausage is fantastic, with a snappy case and a delicious smoky inside that verges on Polish sausage levels of smoked. It is amazing. Still though, top 50? Over Smitty's? I shouldn't get wound up over lists. The stress will lower my life expectancy even more than the several years that the mounds of brisket have already cost me.

The people that compiled the TxMo list claimed that they went to each place several times and at different times of day, and indeed I've noticed that barbecue can be of extremely variable quality from afternoon to evening depending on a bunch of different reasons I won't pretend I understand. So I go back to Bartley's for lunch a few days later, feeling emboldened by my commitment to quality information for you, my valued reader. Predictably, it's much better, and I even manage to get ribs this time. The fat on the brisket is liquified and so is great, and just as smoky. The sausage is similarly excellent, and the ribs have a lovely sweet glaze and are probably above average. They still trim the brisket of most of the good stuff, and my dining companion gets lean brisket and thus is sad, but it's night and day compared to evening here. (I realize the last part of that sentence was confusing as fuck but it's staying, all right?)

While I'm not sure how this place is better than Smitty's (I found Smitty's brisket to be divine if a little bit undercooked, and their ribs made my mouth collapse in on itself in a saliva landslide of joy), it is pretty good and for sure above average for DFW. Just make sure you go for lunch (it's conveniently located in that lunch capital Grapevine, by the airport!) rather than dinner. That's the danger of lists, I suppose, especially ones that are compiled using an average score from ratings of multiple people. Sometimes weird things happen. People die, businesses are ruined and all with a single sweep of TxMo Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn's spreadsheet. One row accidentally goes missing and a barbecue joint disappears from the face of the earth. He's like a third-world dictator, only with Microsoft Excel and qualifications in architecture.


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13 comments
Volta
Volta

That place is pretty good! Definitely better than other hole in the wall joints like Main St. BBQ in Euless. The only thing I wish they were consistent was the bbq baked beans. They used to dice up the smoked sausage into them. 

Eric_The_Midget
Eric_The_Midget

I find that Bartley's is only good for lunch during the week.  On the weekends I've found that teenagers are running the place and the service and quality is off.

gurillabeats
gurillabeats

Gavin... have you ever tried Smokey Joes Bbq in oakcliff? You should try it. It is off of 35 and laurelland on the service road. Its a hole in the wall and all meat is smoked

todd
todd

I ate dinner at Bartley's once and was not impressed.  If I'm in the area, I'd give them a shot at lunchtime.

One evening, we were driving past a Discount Tire and noticed the O in the sign was not illuminated.  Much sophomoric hilarity ensued. 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

*ha ha* " Artley's"

 I love it when letters fall out of signs and the proprietors neglect to replace them.

Way back in the 1900's I was on a bowling team with some friends at a small neighborhood alley called Cudahy Bowl, except the "B" in Bowl was missing from the lettering across the facade of the building. This prompted all of us jokers on the team to refer to the establishment as Cudahy Owl, much to the puzzlement of the owner who often worked behind the bar on the night we bowled.

I don't think he ever really caught on as to why we called it that, and he never asked. I suppose after running the place for decades, he didn't even notice the missing letter, anymore.

*sigh*

Good times.

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

You would have loved the original Bartleys when it was on Main St, just around the corner from the current location. It was truly an old time barbeque place. And the brisket was even better. But that was the mid 80's, when I first went, and the building is gone and City Hall stands there now.

cynicaloldbastard
cynicaloldbastard

"The fat on the brisket is liquified"

That would be rendered.

Just as you found Bartley's to be much different on two different visits, Smitty's is all over the board in consistency.  Some days, just like the old days, other days, inedible.

Daniel Vaughan is saying that the decision had been made to drop Smitty's from the top 50.  Because of their legendary status they give them three more visits in a week to make sure.  All three visits were terrible. Daniel also called various food & travel publications that had reviewed Texas BBQ joints in the past year.  He asked a simple question, "where was the worst bbq you ate?"  All answered Smitty's.  

Gavin, you should consider yourself lucky that you had a good meal there.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@gurillabeats If I'm not mistaken, I believe Smokey Joe's is take out only. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@todd 

Maybe Shooter stole it so's he could put the "O" back in country.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

@cynicaloldbastard well, you know, you knew what I meant. Kind of. 

 I saw all Vaughn's reasoning. Part of the point of this article is that lists are so subjective, I suppose. One man's outrage is another man's total lack of surprise, after all. I just found everything at Bartley's to be average, when I was expecting excellent, that's all I was trying to say. Not to focus on Smitty's.

gurillabeats
gurillabeats

No correction needed, and mistaken you are not. It is take out only as it is a converted gas station. And most of the room is taken up by large smokers containing delicious moist meat. I am a satisfied customer of over 15 years. I also invested alot in a nice dining room set. So me and my family prefer to take out and enjoy the extreme comforts of our home.

Joshstruckoutagain
Joshstruckoutagain

It's okay mate, I've been to Smitty's atleast 6 times and haven't ever had brisket any better...cept for at Franklin's...that stuff makes your tongue try to slap your brain around. 

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

@gurillabeats I've spotted Smokey Joe's many times when I drive to Austin. Next time on the way back to Dallas, I'll stop in to get some ribs and brisket to eat at home.

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