Off the Bone 2 -- The Bonenining
There's already an Off the Bone. I went there once, back in the mists of time. I remember that the location was worrying, that I had to take holiday allowance from work to be able to order a buttermilk pie in a misunderstanding that ran for several days and that the ribs were easily worth the trip. Back then, I thought the idea of driving to Fort Worth to buy barbecue was outlandish in some way, that it was a remarkable thing to make a 45-minute "trek" for barbecue. How stupid I was.
Photos by Gavin Cleaver Notice the clarity of this photo. Gavin bought a camera, and we're very relieved. We feared cataracts or some such.
In the long, long list of things that prove I'm stupid, somehow managing to forget to review Off The Bone 2, conveniently located just past the Dallas Convention Center on South Lamar, is yet another notable addition. They're not associated with each other, you see. One's in a former gas station off a freeway, the other is the only developed building in an industrial zone. There's not even a Bone family chain of barbecue places because it turns out Jack Perkins of the Slow Bone, rather than simply maneuvering his restaurant to the position where simple negotiations can form a Bone Chain, actually just likes rude names.
So, rather than play favourites I shall name Forest Hill Off the Bone OTB1 and the Dallas Off the Bone OTBA. That way we haven't even specified an order, in exactly the manner that modern society demands we treat children. And, in a way, every barbecue restaurant is like my child, given my struggle to choose between them and my delight when they do the simplest things right. I would happily put pictures any barbecue place drew for me on my fridge. I'm even prepared to forgive them the bad times, as long as there's meat. I'm not sure how that last point relates to child-rearing. I'm not an expert.
Nevertheless, OTBA is a petite building plopped at an angle into a parking lot somewhere across from a bunch of warehouses. It is not subtle. Nothing around it looks welcoming. If this is a plan by the owners to make it stand out as a beacon of welcomingness in a sea of industrial indifference, then it's worked, but also serves to make purposefully finding it, rather than happening upon it after spending yet another of those evenings trapped inside a warehouse complex, somewhat confusing.
The sides of the building are glass, normally a bad sign, but this place is small enough to be welcoming and homely. It's really small. I've seen larger briskets. There are only five tables, and four of them are tiny. Our large group (the latest Equal Opportunity BBQ Posse, we have a rotating cast so as not to discriminate) occupies the middle table, because screw everyone else. We can only be so accommodating. Plus, the more people you take to OTBA, the fewer other people can fit in there, and thus the more meat for you. It's simple maths.
There are many options on the OTBA menu, somewhat incongruously displayed on a sleek flat-screen TV above the meat counter. You can get the regular, but also rarities such as brisket or rib meat tacos, full plates of pasta (heresy, if you ask me), and an entire barbecue chicken that is so cheap ($10.45!) that I wonder if the owners also have a fancy collection of chickens and thus extraordinarily low overheads. I get a pound of sliced brisket (The Daniel Vaughn has taught me to reject the chopped variety), half a pound of ribs and half a pound of sausage. I return to my table as king of a very small room, prepared to defend my meat to the death from all those except wife Richard and my stepson, my queen and prince (not the singer). When it arrives, of course. This is table service, that concept most alien to Texas barbecue.
Richard has been sidetracked explaining the film Gosford Park to some Americans she is in extraordinarily close proximity to, for some reason, so I begin with the sausage, which is also coincidentally the first thing to arrive. It's actually fantastic, verging on the "gourmet" this joint enthusiastically applies to its name. Snappy case, smoky contents, no gristle. Yes. Entirely yes. Next comes the brisket. I asked for a fatty slice, but not for the first time, or even for the first time in a place called "Off the Bone," the staff have simply decided that I'm insane and that they should interpret my desires the best they can given the challenging circumstances. The brisket is very lean, and subsequently pretty dry. The fat tastes properly rendered, and the outside is smoky, giving me hope that someone knows what's going on. I would order more, but I'm feeling awkward enough as it is.
The ribs are last to arrive, and are triumphant. They come clean off the bone but cling just enough that it's not ridiculous, like Tredways in Corinth where I ended up with rib after rib in my lap, failing to learn from my all too apparent mistakes. Sure, they're a bit saucy, but if you go here without a British accent you might also have the chance to get them without sauce. The meat is great. So smoke-filled. As you might expect from a place called Off the Bone (and the same was true of OTB1), the ribs are the best thing here, although the sausage is worth a look too. Check it out. It's pretty convenient. Just look for some warehouses.