Resident English guy and barbecue sauce addict Gavin Cleaver reviews barbecue restaurants for City of Ate. Because in the end, what do any of us know, really? We're all just dang ol' hickory smoke in the wind.
Eating at a restaurant on your own is a strange experience, isn't it? Normally, whenever I do one of these reviews -- hell, whenever I go out to eat anywhere -- I have friends or family or both in tow and the food comes second to, you know, hanging out. This week, though, I was a bit stretched for time so hit up somewhere on the way back from work, which meant that the weirdness factor was doubled, because it was 6 p.m. and the only other people about were seniors, or OAPs (Old Age Pensioners. Now I type it out that sounds kind of a harsh way to refer to old people) as we Brits would call them.
Why do old people eat so early? Have they been waiting for food all day? At 5 p.m., do they throw down the knitting needles, say, "Gosh darn it Hank, if I have to knit another cute cat into this jumper for the young 'uns I will literally shit. Let's go and exploit our age with discounted prices on smoked meat." While I am no expert at writing dialogue, I feel like if I had been married since the dark ages to a man named Hank, I would be unafraid of telling him my opinion in such forthright terms.
And so it was I found myself at Marshall's Bar-B-Q in Carrollton, by myself, surrounded by old people with marriages so stable they no longer need to communicate with each other using any method other than cold, hard indifference. The copy of that storied, magnificent, venerable newspaper the Dallas Observer that I picked up with which to entertain myself grew stickier and less navigable with every sauced-up hand that touched its glorious pages, and, incomparable publication though it is, it doesn't mock my every move anywhere near as much as wife Richard. I have grown used to her mockery to the point where, every time I am at work or by myself and do something stupid, I have begun to mock myself in the exact style she would have employed. I felt an emptiness inside. An emptiness that could only be filled by high-quality barbecue, am I right?
It was pretty good. Not good enough to fill the intense sense of longing and sadness I felt in my heart, but good enough to distract me from the undeniable truth that we will all one day die alone. The ribs were simultaneously chewy and tender, so considerably better than the brisket, which was only really edible with sauce (not that I'm complaining, I bloody love sauce me), and the sausage was very good. This is another place that keeps its meat under the heat lamps at the front, so it was all a bit dried out. Or maybe I was just depressed. Even a Tuesday night special offer of a free fried apple pie couldn't tear me away from the morgue-like silence of a dozen stale marriages.
So there you have it. Marshall's Bar-B-Q -- good enough to distract you from the inherent loneliness of your existence, but it cannot compensate for an absent family. I guess that makes it, what, three stars out of five?