Strip malls are the stigmata of suburbia: bland architecture filled with non-descript businesses that you only patronize because they're convenient to your dull drive home. When space aliens first land in the suburbs, they'll assume we're a species that loves donuts and manicures and lacks the ability to do our own laundry.
Expectations are lower when you go to a strip mall restaurant, with certain exceptions made for certain ethnic cuisines in certain suburbs. Imagine my surprise, then, when I stepped out of my car at Fat Cow BBQ in Lewisville and smelled wonderful barbecue smoke. Yes, it's located in a newer-looking strip mall, but out back sits an honest-to-goodness woodshed and large barrel smoker. Smoke really does make everything better. Even strip malls.
Inside is clean, and not overly kitschy. Sure, there's wood panelling on two walls (seriously, is this page one of the How To Open A Barbecue Restaurant In Texas handbook?), but faux-rustic signs and distressed flags are thankfully absent. Simple vinyl-topped tables and chairs fill the dining room.
Most experiences with strip mall barbecue revolve around some bland meats that started out dry and ended up arid by the time they make it to your mouth (we're looking at you, Dickey's.) The 'cue served at Fat Cow avoids this fate; every meat I tried was swimming in its own juices.
Fat Cow won't be mistaken for a Central Texas-style barbecue joint any time soon, and that's okay. The brisket on my plate was a pile of chopped lean meat, instead of slices like I was expecting. There wasn't any salty bark to be seen, but it was juicy and had decent smoke flavor. The same can also be said of the pulled pork and the smoked pulled chicken. The two kinds of sauce on each table are wholly unnecessary, which is a good thing, since they are the weak point of the experience.
The ribs pulled off the bone with comical ease. This wouldn't be a problem if they were seasoned with a dry rub, but they're doused in a sauce that makes eating them a slippery proposition. Make sure to grab a handful of wet-wipes with your order.
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All meat plates come with two sides and a homemade roll that puts your mee-maw's rolls to shame. Baked beans and a mac-and-cheese dish both tasted homemade, too. The cole slaw was probably the weakest side, but at least wasn't offensively sweet. The rule of "everything's better with bacon" is applied to the green beans, which were also tossed with sautéed onion.
Speaking of bacon, you should spend the extra $2.25 to add a Fat Jap, its poorly considered name aside. A jalapeño is jammed with cream cheese and pulled pork, then wrapped in bacon, and sent to get some love from the smoker. It's every bit as tasty as it sounds. If you need some sweet to offset the heat, peach cobbler, banana pudding, and an assortment of pies are made in house, too.
In short, Fat Cow BBQ is strip mall barbecue that doesn't suck. Their presence in a strip mall doesn't make all strip malls better, just this one. It may not be worth a special trip, but as long as you're picking up the dry cleaning, you could do worse by stopping in.
Fat Cow BBQ 850 Valley Ridge Blvd #128 Lewisville 972-420-9398 www.fatcowbbq.com 11-8:00 Tuesday - Saturday