In the summer of 2018, a Pakistani restaurant named BBQ King moved from downtown Richardson to a new, larger location in Garland. The news didn’t generate any headlines in Dallas food media, but it was a watershed moment in the recent history of our South Asian food scene. To put it simply, BBQ King was one of Richardson’s most interesting restaurants — and now it’s one of Garland’s.
Since BBQ King moved a year ago, Yelp and other online review sites have been flooded with angry one-star reviews from regulars and first-timers finding fault with the new location. It is true, as some of the online critics contend, that the kitchen here isn’t the fastest. But over multiple visits to the new location, we couldn’t find much reason to join the chorus of naysayers. There’s a lot to like about BBQ King’s Punjabi-style cooking.
The main focus here is on stews and charcoal-grilled kebabs. Some of the most successful stews here include kunna gosht, meat from a leg of goat served in a tiny, saucy pot ($16), and beef karahi, a classic thick-sauced preparation that’s warmly spicy but with a hint of a tomato’s sweetness ($12). BBQ King is clearly using good-quality beef, not stringy chunks of stew cut. If you try to cut the beef with your fork and it resists, the meat’s not tough; turn it 90 degrees and, cut with the grain, it will fall apart.
Be sure to save some naan to dunk into both sauces. Naan, in fact, is one of BBQ King’s core strengths. The varieties here include classic varieties and stuffed breads, all fresh-baked with satisfying char along the edges. Aloo naan, for example, is filled edge to edge with a thin layer of fragrantly seasoned, gently spicy potatoes ($4).
The one thing aloo naan can’t do is calm your taste buds down after an especially spicy dish. For a cooling effect, for dunking in sauces and for all-purpose use as a utensil, the best choice might just be the $2.49 sesame seed naan, generously topped with sesames and cilantro. It’s some of the best naan in the Dallas area, and it’s one of the reasons that some of this restaurant’s regulars never pick up their forks.
Another core specialty here is haleem, the stew made by combining lentils, grains (in this case wheat), ghee and ground meat into a thick mixture with a texture like porridge. Like the grains and lentils, the meat breaks down in the combination, so whichever protein you choose, its flavor will live on in the background ($10 for chicken, $11 for beef, $14 for goat). Haleem is filling, satisfying soul food, and it’s made livelier by its garnish: strips of fresh ginger, golden shards of fried onion, lime juice and cilantro.
Off the charcoal grill comes beef bihari boti ($11), a kebab of sliced, marinated meat. Cooked with garlic and topped with a blanket of raw red onions, the boti is flavorful, but it’s also aggressively salty.
All of the above description probably makes it sound like BBQ King is a habitat for carnivores. But the vegetable offerings are good too, with the exception of the free salad that arrives on every table, composed of pre-shredded lettuce and carrots with some cubes of cucumber. There’s at least some interest in the creamy, spicy cilantro dressing, but it’s better to spend actual money on your veggies.
Consider starting with a batch of pakoras, slightly doughy in their clumps of chickpea batter, but in a good way ($4). Think of them as thick, battery, well spiced onion rings. Bhindi masala is a combination of sauteed okra and onions ($9). Sliced into thick coins, the okra avoids the “slimy” pejorative many American diners use against this vegetable, but when you’ve finished scooping bhindi masala out of its small metal pot, you may discover a few tablespoons of extra oil. Less oily — and a far more agreeable way to use up any extra sesame naan — is muttor paneer, the classic curry of paneer and peas, as good here as it gets anywhere ($11).
There are some service hiccups at BBQ King, though not the kind of nightmare stories conjured up by some commenters online. It’s not always very clear who will take your order or when food will start arriving, although the kitchen seems to serve a la carte orders more quickly if a buffet line is running too.
On one visit, we were surprised by the last-minute arrival of an unordered dessert: kulfi, the dense, delicious South Asian preparation of ice cream. After cleaning our plates and licking our spoons, we looked at the bill and discovered that this apparent freebie had, in fact, been added to our bill, even though we never ordered it ($3). Maybe it was a test to see if we could resist the temptation.
Still, we couldn’t muster much outrage over the surprise charge. BBQ King’s new Garland location — barely 500 feet from Richardson city limits on Jupiter Road — is a far larger space for a budding Dallas institution. With space for a private dining area, a buffet line and a counter selling paan and tobacco, the new BBQ King feels like it will be part of the neighborhood for a long, long time. All the better for those diners who’ve become addicted to its sesame naan, haleem and Punjabi specialties.
BBQ King, 3112 N. Jupiter Road, Garland. 972-807-6910, bbqkingrestaurant.com. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday and Saturday.
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