Jerry Jones and the city of Frisco will have spent $1.5 billion on The Star, the 91-acre development that serves as the training facility and headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys, by the time it’s finished. The complex, which opened last year along the Dallas North Tollway, includes a 12,000-seat stadium (which doubles as Frisco ISD’s home field), a hotel, retail stores, and a collection of restaurants. At this showcase of Texas-ness, The Star brought in local eateries like Cane Rosso, Liberty Burger, and The Common Table. But for barbecue, it curiously went to California instead.

Tri Tip Grill opened at The Star last month. It’s the third location (the other two being in New York) with this name, but it’s part of a larger California barbecue chain, Buckhorn Grill. California has barbecue, you ask? Yes, and as much as it differs from Texas barbecue, it’s also one of the few beef-centric styles around the country. They focus just on grilled tri-tip steaks instead of smoked briskets.

Tri-Tip is a great cut for serving at home. Since a single steak serves three to four people, and it takes 30 minutes or longer to get it to medium rare, it can be challenging for a restaurant kitchen. I witnessed this in Santa Maria, Calif., while I ate at a restaurant well known for tri-tip. Their grill is on display through a picture window, but it was empty when I walked to my table. For me, a cooled tri-tip that had already been grilled was sliced and heated in a sauté pan. It didn’t look or taste fresh. I wondered if Tri Tip Grill would be able to serve a juicy slice of medium rare tri-tip in a similar setting.

Two thick and nicely cooked ruby red slices of beef came on my platter at 2 o’clock in the afternoon at Tri Tip Grill. The outer edge was black from an aggressive sear on the gas char broilers on display. After searing, the meats go into Southern Pride smokers behind the counter. The meat smokes until it’s medium rare, which is the default serving temperature. On two visits, I wasn’t asked for a preferred doneness while ordering at the counter, but received properly cooked medium rare slices both times. The $2 upcharge for Wagyu beef hardly seemed worth it given how good the standard Certified Angus Beef ($16 for a platter) tasted.

Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

The same thick-sliced tri-tip doesn’t come on the sandwich, where the beef is instead shaved thin. It was good beef on a nice roll, but they could have taken a few cues from Santa Maria. In California this sandwich would have come on toasted garlic bread with a tomato salsa. Toppings like caramelized onions, bacon, and blue cheese can be added for a price, but the basic sandwich could be livened up a bit.

Even as a brisket fiend, I really enjoyed the specialty tri-tip here. It was when they tried to veer into more familiar barbecue realms that the Tri Tip Grill faltered. Ribs were covered with a sticky sweet glaze, but the dry meat told me they were likely reheated. Pulled pork was also a bit dry and was more like crumbled pork. Bland beans and gloopy, raisin-studded slaw weren’t a great duo. The grilled vegetable side with peppers, asparagus, and corn was a nice change of pace. Unless you specify, the vegetables come with every platter along with some decent red-skinned, garlic mashed potatoes, a sweet cornbread muffin, and a warm cup of au jus.

The staff said this was the first of five planned locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but weren’t sure where the next one would land. It’s worth a visit if one opens near you. Just stick with what the Californians do best, and order the tri-tip.

Tri Tip Grill
6775 Cowboys Way No. 1305
Frisco, TX 75034