The joint’s not big. There are just a few tables, and most customers take their order to go. Behind the small counter is Kim Dunn who opened this place four years ago after moving from nearby Belton. As someone who seems to genuinely enjoy her job, there’s a good chance she’ll be smiling when she takes your order. Choose wisely, because there’s a large menu to pick from.
Dunn’s work in the food service industry has taken her from the fried chicken chain Popeye’s to Dallas-based Colter’s BBQ. That’s why you can get Cajun dishes like red beans and jambalaya along with your brisket and ribs. I was most curious about the items from her native Korea like the galbi beef short ribs. She urges her customers to call ahead if they want some because it takes about fifteen minutes to prepare. I isn’t so well prepared which gave me the chance to watch her cook.
Dunn orders cross-cut short ribs, or tablitas, and marinates them overnight. The meat is then placed in the pit directly over glowing coals and active flames from pecan logs. As I watched it sizzle I thought this is a fusion food I could get on board with – Korean ingredients and a Texas style cooking method.
The completed galbi was served with house made kimchee and fluffy white rice, which were the perfect foil for the sweetness of the beef. The meat had a pleasant chew, but easily came away from the bones. There was a smokiness and nice crust that was present only because of the high-heat, all wood cooking method.
A side of red beans was better than anything Popeye’s ever hoped to serve, and was about equal parts sausage and beans. The jambalaya was thick and rich, but more of a stew than the drier jambalaya’s that I’m used to. It was well seasoned, but a tip from Dunn took it over the top. She prefers to add some kimchee right into the jambalaya bowl for added spice and crunch. After a few bites I had to agree.
Potato salad with a sweet and tangy dressing and a crunchy cole slaw were a good start to the Texas side of the barbecue menu, but it faltered from there. I wish the Texas barbecue was as successful as the Korean barbecue. but there just wasn’t a comparison. The brisket was undercooked and lacked bark or seasoning. A swipe through her house made Cajun-Asian sauce gave it the necessary pop, but it was forlorn without it. Pork ribs were well cooked, but there was a dirty smoke flavor lingering in the rib’s bark. A few slices of Chappell Hill sausage were fine, but all I could think about was my next plate of galbi.
The better story here would be about a Korean woman who has mastered the art of smoked brisket as well as Korean style short ribs. The truth is that I would travel a very long way for another plate of that pecan grilled galbi and some kimchee spiked jambalaya, and I’d have a hard time finding a reason to order the brisket while scraping another bowl clean of red beans and rice.