Here’s the headline: Texas Jack’s has the best brisket I’ve had in the DC area. (Note: scroll down for important updates.) I mean actually good brisket, and until now, finding very good brisket in Washington has been like finding a herd of unicorns.
I had been to Texas Jack’s last year with Doug Jacobson, the Kansas City Barbecue Maven, and at that time, as noted in our review, the brisket had a real smoke and beef flavor; however, it was dry. This time, it was moist, tender, and flavorful.
My return visit was prompted by my new duties as the area rep from the Campaign for Real Barbecue, an effort to certify, celebrate, and publicize places that make True ‘Cue, barbecue cooked only with wood. I knew that Texas Jack’s used wood, but I hadn’t pinned down that they didn’t have a gas or electric backup. Also, the Washington Post annual 10 Best Barbecue report picked Texas Jack’s as the best in the DC area. It had the top rating in 2018, too. This year, they noted that Texas Jack’s had brought back their original pit master to help rework the entire kitchen operation. It really worked with the brisket. So off Nancy and I went to Arlington for a Saturday lunch at Texas Jack’s.
Well, Saturday lunch turned out to mean brunch, as Texas Jack’s had its special brunch menu. I passed on the All You Can Eat option ($34.95). I didn’t ask if that included all you can drink, this being a working lunch. The brunch options looked good, and Nancy succumbed to the huevos rancheros, which came with brisket. Nancy didn’t want the brisket (she ate too much lean brisket when we were in Texas), so I persuaded her to ask for the brisket on the side, while I ordered a quarter pound of pork and a half pound of sausage. They didn’t have collards on the brunch menu, worse luck, so I ordered potato salad and macaroni and cheese to round out the meal … and myself.
Nancy liked the huevos rancheros
and here’s the side dish of brisket, photographed in progress.
Nancy really liked her huevos rancheros. They were very tasty and had a good presentation. And Nancy, who is not a brisket fan by any stretch — she ate a lot of pork ribs when we were in Texas — really liked the brisket at Texas Jack’s. She remarked a couple of time on its tenderness, and didn’t let me hog more than my share.
Here’s my tray:
Ah, the sausage. Texas Jack’s serves good sausage. They may make it in house. It had a good rough grind and very good seasonings. It’s the best sausage I’ve had in a DC area barbecue place. I would have put that right up front, but I haven’t had sausage in that many places up here.
The pork. I mentioned that Nancy and I spent some time in Texas, specifically while I taught for a term at Baylor Law School. Armed with the Texas Monthly 50 Best Barbecue Places issue, we ate at a whole lot of barbecue places. Here’s some advice: stay away from pork barbecue in Texas. Eat the brisket and the sausages, as I did, pork barbecue lover though I am. Pork and brisket are separate skill sets.
Based on this trip, Texas Jack’s illustrates that principle. I think on my next trip I’ll see if I can get some pork with no sauce to give it the true test. As it was, the pork was a notch above most of the pork in the area, or in Texas, for that matter; but barring success with sauce-free pork, I’d stay with the brisket and sausage. They’re really good. The pork is chopped and mixed with a little vinegar and a bunch of spices I couldn’t identify. Too many spices, really. I believe that if they ditched the spices in favor of just vinegar and pepper, it would let the pork shine through more. Indeed, the pork was a lot better with the homemade pickles there in the upper right. They had a real pepper bite, and they paired very well with the pork. (The pickles on the lower right are sweet.)
The sides: The macaroni and cheese had a sauce of four cheeses and, I guess, cream. It had a very good flavor, enhanced by some garlic. The pasta had been overcooked by maybe a full minute, but I ate every bit of it, and would have eaten more. This is good stuff. The redskin potato salad with a nice little touch of spring onion was fine, not overcooked or overdressed.
Oh — we each had water to drink, and Texas Jack’s is one of the few places that ask if you want a straw. Most places give you straws that you (at least I) don’t want, and the straw ends up being shipped to China where it’s dumped into a river, thence to wind up killing a sea turtle. Good for Texas Jack’s for asking.
And I’ll admit that we shared a jar of the banana pudding. Good stuff, from the good whipped cream to the banana, the custard, and the ‘nilla wafers.
Texas Jack’s is a nice place, definitely one of the modern places — as the brunch menu suggests. There are more mimosas than sweet teas, and they have valet parking. It has two rooms, a bar side with tables and multiple TVs, and a dining side with a view of the kitchen. But it also has an Old School side. Someone watches the fires overnight to make sure the wood fires don’t get out of control or go out. The servers are friendly and well-informed. And the front has a sign with that siren song, EAT, and an inspirational interior sign.
Nice photograph. Note Nancy’s Game Day houndstooth scarf.
Go to Texas Jack’s. Revel in the brisket. Savor the sausage. See about some pork without sauce. Let me know.
UPDATE: At the time of my visit for this post, just as during my initial visit, I was assured by the waiter and the manager-on-duty that Texas Jack’s does not use gas or electricity, just wood to cook the meat. I subsequently have established that they use a Southern Pride Smoker, and that all Southern Pride smokers are gas-assisted. Texas Jack’s has declined to answer my specific question as to whether they use only wood. As of now, they are not a “True ‘Cue” place. If I get an answer, I’ll update.
That’s not to say that the food tasted any different: there are places that make tasty barbecue using gas. As to serving the best brisket in the area, I’ve since been to Monk’s and Sloppy Mama’s. And I’ve been advised that Sloppy Mama’s serves moist-end brisket, which is the best part of a brisket. I’ve asked for moist at Texas Jack’s, but received lean. That may have been a fluke , so I’ll keep you posted.
Teaser: I’ve found a new place with really good brisket. Stay tuned for a review. Hwere’s the review.
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