By Clare Myers
As a native of the Midwest, I was under the impression that moving to the Lone Star State meant that I would be treated to delicious Texas-style BBQ immediately upon arrival. Imagine my disappointment, then, upon discovering that of the major cities in Texas, Dallas is not exactly a hotspot for BBQ. But Dallas-Fort Worth is an enormous metroplex, and one should not despair of finding a respectable representative of any kind of cuisine in the area. It was not until this past weekend, however, that I had my first taste of excellent BBQ in Dallas. Some friends and I ventured to Hard Eight BBQ in Coppell, just 15 minutes from campus.
Not knowing what to expect, I was surprised at the layout of the place. Customers wait in a line that leads right up to the pit where the cooks are grilling the meat. It is an experience in itself to watch the crew preparing your meal for you. While we waited, the cooks offered us samples of what they were grilling: succulent prime rib and flavor-packed bites of sausage wrapped in bacon. I was instantly sold. We placed our orders at the pit, choosing a variety of meats among the group. Meat is sold by the pound, so we were able to specify exactly how much we wanted of each. Most of the options, from brisket and pork ribs to sirloin kebabs and sausage, are $15.50 per pound, while some of the pricier choices, such as ribeye or shrimp poppers, go for $24.50 and $25 per pound, respectively. (I found that a quarter of a pound was more than enough to put me in a food coma.) After the crew handed us our orders, we continued down the line to pick up bread, condiments and sides. We loaded up our trays, paid at the register and hunted around for a minute or two among the large wooden picnic tables to find an empty one. We chose a spot in the conveniently heated outdoor area where a live musician was strumming a guitar, adding to the casual, rustic vibe of the restaurant.
On the whole, my meal was delicious. I opted to try both the chicken and the brisket, both of which were spot-on. The brisket in particular was expertly prepared and the clear favorite of the table. A friend’s pork ribs were a little dry, but the general consensus was that the BBQ was excellent. The sides were decent — the jalapeño sweet corn ($2.25) was a bit too creamy and the corn on the cob ($2.25) and pinto beans (complimentary) were nothing special — but the focus was on the meat, and for good reason. As for the sauce, the regular BBQ sauce was solidly tasty, but the remarkably flavorful apple cider vinegar was the real star.
The staff members at Hard Eight were a jovial bunch, and their friendliness only added to the noisy, good-times vibe at the place. After we chatted with one of the crew members about the various meats they were preparing, he promised to bring us a sample of the jalapeño sausage, only to discover moments later that they had run out. Halfway through our meal, he sought us out to deliver us a complimentary plate of it, freshly prepared and bursting with juicy flavor that stood up to its heat factor.
The food at Hard Eight was excellent, but it was the atmosphere of the restaurant that made it really stand out. As a non-Texan, it was exactly how I expected a real Texas BBQ to be.
Hard Eight has two locations in the metroplex, but the closer one and one visited by this reviewer is at 688 Freeport Parkway, Coppell, TX 75019.