Fargo's owner and pitmaster, Alan Caldwell Wyatt McSpadden
Rating: 4.5. Opened: 2000 Pitmaster: Alan Caldwell, age 49 Method: Oak (and another unspecified wood); indirect-heat pit Pro tip: Always choose ribs over rib tips.
A few months back Fargo’s moved out of its original building, a cramped place that lacked indoor seating—or outdoor seating, for that matter. Though the restaurant is now located just a few blocks from the first location, the large dining room, lined with big windows, feels miles away. One thing that hasn’t changed is the friendly but efficient service. A line forms along the large glass case, where the meats are all on display.
What you won’t find on display is the pit. Pitmaster Alan Caldwell prefers to keep his exact smoking method a closely guarded trade secret. Even the woodpile is hidden behind a cinder-block wall and a tarp-covered gate. We’ve spotted some oak back there, and the flavor of the ribs suggests commercial charcoal, but Caldwell refuses to confirm or deny either one. No matter the method, the meats that come out of his mystery pit are spectacular. The spareribs are hefty (Fargo’s uses a larger than normal rack), and the well-seasoned pork and layers of expertly rendered fat come away from the bone more easily than you’d expect for such a large rib. As for the brisket, well, rarely will you find a deeper smoky flavor or a thicker smoke ring. Beneath a bark that almost crackles is juicy meat with just enough salt to keep you coming back for more. The brisket from the flat can be spotty (sometimes cut too thick, sometimes a bit dry) when compared with the consistently high quality of the fatty slices, so go lean with caution. But you can safely waive all caution when confronted with the chicken. The hard-to-attain combination of moist, smoky meat and crispy skin is on target, and the addictive seasoning makes this bird hard to put down. If you need a sweet counterpoint, look no further than the peach cobbler. One order is plenty to share, but you may not want to.
720 N. Texas Ave., 979-778-3662. Open Tue–Sat 11–7. Cash only.