Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Look: Phil's Texas Barbecue

Oh look! It's another wood-and-metal building on Washington Avenue! Wait, what? It's not a haven for the Ed Hardy-wearing, off-center-cap-sporting, woo-hoo-shouting people? It's a barbecue restaurant? This holds some promise.

Until you go inside and eat there. Phil's Barbecue actually fits into the Washington Avenue scene perfectly. It's immaculate inside. Polished concrete floors. Lots of shiny stainless steel. You get the distinct impression that if your next stop is Pearl Bar or the Roosevelt or any number of the shiny-shirt shops, this is the barbecue joint for you. It's trendy. You won't get your fingers dirty at Phil's. This is the antithesis of a genuine barbecue place. It doesn't even smell smokey inside.

Maybe these were just growing pains of a newly opened restaurant -- an unlikely event given the history of the owners -- but the brisket was dry and chewy. The ribs were dry and clung to the bone. The coleslaw, seducing you with the implication of a vinegar pucker, turned out to be oily and sweet. The macaroni and cheese tasted more of butter and cream than cheese, and it is slightly grainy as a result. The fries and onion rings looked good from a distance; maybe they were the key to happiness?

In any case, putting stock in a barbecue restaurants sides bodes ill. And there is nothing the sauce, sweet as dessert, can save. In the early days, it sure looks like Phil's is, at best, a place to be seen. Those looking for real barbecue are advised to head elsewhere.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I went on opening night and then a few days later. Brisket was really tough the first night and a little better the second time around. Sides (gritz, slaw, beans, mac n cheese) were fine, but not really memorable. Also tried the ribs (good and moist the time I tried them), sausage (somehow dry and grainy, which is bizarre) and turkey (meh, it's smoked, reconstituted turkey breast like from the grocery store).

Houston's not exactly a place where the barbecue cup runneth over, but this place isn't even average yet. Here's hoping they figure it out.

-KC

Tom Gutting said...

Good point, KC. I left out the turkey breast. I saw it sitting there on the line and almost ran out the door. Definitely just the reconstituted kind. Not good.

Frank Moore said...

For what it's worth, our friend, Ferenc Dreef, designed this place. He's also done Hugo's, Shade, Gravitas, Ibiza and some others. He was also initial designer on t'afia (cough!) until someone, who shall remain nameless, ended up stiffing him for several grand.