Most professional food critics will make at least three visits to a restaurant before completing a review or issuing a star rating. Given the miles that I travel (without a traveling budget) in search of smoked meats around Texas, I don’t get this luxury. I routinely provide a rating based on a single visit, which can be a bit nerve-racking knowing I may have gotten the best or worst version of what any joint can offer on the day and time that I visited. After a quick stop at Fargo’s a couple of years back, I enjoyed some of the best brisket and ribs I’ve had anywhere. My euphoria came while driving down the road back to Dallas with the steering wheel in one hand and a rib in the other. On this return trip, I was nervous to try the meats in hopes that they would live up to the earlier rating. I needn’t have worried a bit for Fargo’s is one of the finest smoked meat purveyors in the state.
Owner and pitmaster Alan Caldwell has secrets. Ask him to see the smoker(s)? Nope. What’s in that rub? Not a chance. What wood are you using? Nada. What he lacks in a forthcoming attitude, he and his wife make up for in warmth and hospitality from the minute the screen door clanks closed behind you. My heart fluttered when I saw the meat display case. It sits on the counter and is impossible to miss while standing in the small front room waiting to order. Beautiful black-crusted briskets were piled atop one another, rust-hued racks of spare ribs beckoned, links of brick-red sausages and perfectly bronzed half chickens begged to be chopped and bagged. I had to have them all even though I rarely order chicken.
Without a dining area, we opted for a picnic spread on the trunk of my car. Large spare ribs had the perfect balance of smoke and saltiness with a bit of sweetness and black pepper that kept me coming back bite after bite. Each bite through the yielding crust and layers of nicely rendered fat came easily off the bone. Pork ribs of this size can have issues with consistent texture throughout since the tips can dry out easily. These ribs had a perfect level of moisture and tenderness from end to end. The texture of the chicken was also commendable. Neither chewy skin or dry meat afflicted this bird. The skin was crisp, salty, and luscious. The meat beneath was smoky and ridiculously moist. This was a good bird.
After a few bites of the snappy and peppery sausage link, I went right for the brisket, most of it cut from the lean end. Pencil thick slices were piled high in the styrofoam container resting on my car’s trunk. The long slices broke in half under their own weight as they were lifted from the box. This can be a sign of dry brisket, but not in this case. Smoked just beyond tender, each slice had a thick line of rich velvety fat that was bursting with smoky flavor. A thick red smokering sat beneath a thick black crust, which brought even more smokiness to the table. I had eaten several meals on this day already, but I simply could not keep my hands off the next slice of brisket. Near the bottom of the pile sat some fatty slices. I didn’t think this experience could get any more satisfying until I sank my teeth into the buttery meat. An intense rush of flavors followed. This was barbecue nirvana unequaled by just about every place I’ve been to previously. There was an immediate revelation that my earlier visit was no fluke, and the validation of my previous review was delicious, but it was nothing compared to that brisket.
(This review originally appeared on Full Custom Gospel BBQ.)