There’s nothing quite like the excitement of setting foot in a new restaurant for the first time. No matter the cuisine, hope shines most brightly in those first steps in the door, when the possibility of finding a new favorite is at its zenith.
Alas, more often than not, there’s some reason to be let down, the newness and novelty seeping away like helium from a balloon, and the cycle repeats.
As we sit at Blu’s Barbeque on Preston Road in North Dallas, that familiar feeling creeps in, and the shininess of finding new barbecue fades just a little bit with each bite. The premise of Blu’s Barbeque feels solid, but the finished product needs a little polish to be a true barbecue gem.
Blu’s Barbeque used to be a barber shop, but the transformation into a restaurant required some creativity in finding extra space, so the owners brought in some shipping containers to house the smoker. It’s still a snug dining space; customers queue up to order along the right side of the dining room, and a handful of wooden-topped tables and metal chairs are nestled to the left. Exposed beams and light fixtures sporting a small fortune in Edison bulbs help the restaurant feel bigger.
Blu’s menu features the barbecue basics for now: Angus brisket, pork spare ribs, pulled pork and two kinds of sausage, all sold by the pound. Meats can also be ordered on a bun, and just four side dishes are available, along with a special or two that changes each day.
Perusing the digital menu board while we waited in the short line revealed a lot of space for new items covered with “coming soon” banners. For now, the abbreviated menu means not having to overthink your order.
Unencumbered by decision-making, we leveraged that freedom to order a little of almost everything, and ended up with enough food for three meals, an easy trap to fall into when everything is sold by the pound.
Emboldened by the sight of a new brisket being unwrapped before us, we ordered both lean and moist slices, along with two pork spare ribs and a sausage link. A side of smoked baked beans and five-cheese mac and cheese rounded out our glutinous order. Perhaps as a nod to Lockhart’s, Blu’s doesn’t do trays, so we schlepped our haul of wrapped meats over to a table and proceeded to unfurl their handiwork.
Let’s start with Blu’s brisket, which caught our eye so early on. At $10.49 per half-pound, it’s the most expensive item on the menu, and the glistening bark had us enthralled. Upon closer inspection, though, that glorious slab of beef went straight into the smoker without any trimming whatsoever.
On the lean slices, the layer of fat was tolerable, and there was some decent flavor to be found. If you order moist slices, though, there’s simply too much fat to render away during the smoking, and the brisket flavor suffers for it. We don’t condone fat shaming, but we’d be much happier if Blu’s brisket trimmed around the edges before cooking.
Thankfully, there’s joy to be found in Blu’s ribs and sausage. The sausage is a blend of Akaushi beef and pork, and we found our link to be flavorful and moist without being greasy ($7.49/half-pound). The ribs are also smartly executed, with a sweetness to the rub that really allows the pork flavor to shine ($8.49/half-pound). It certainly didn’t hurt that they were also perfectly cooked, balancing tenderness without being fall-off-the-bone mushy.
There were more pluses and minuses on the sides front.
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The smoked barbecue beans ($3.25) held visual promise, but the sweet sauce that ensconced the beans quickly turned overly spicy just a few seconds into each bite. The five-cheese mac was our preferred side choice ($4). Blu’s take is a casserole style, and the counterman told us that it’s American, cheddar, Gouda, provolone and Parmesan cheeses contributing to the name. All the cheeses harmonize with the noodles like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and it’s definitely a rich dish.
We’ve often said that new restaurants need some time to mature, and Blu’s Barbeque does nothing to change our opinion. On our recent Saturday visit, crews were hard at work turning a neighboring vape shop into a future Blu’s drive thru. We’re also curious how the expanded menu plays out.
But there’s a lot of money that goes into launching any new business, and we understand the urge to open as soon as possible to start recouping the investment. While it takes time to hone the fare, time is also money, and Blu’s seems willing to learn on the fly. With a bit of refinement, though, Blu’s stands to become a solid addition to Dallas’ barbecue scene.
Blu’s Barbeque, 17630 Preston Road (North Dallas). 972-316-7478. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. or until sold out Tuesday-Sunday.