The Brisket Is a Letdown at This New Plano Barbecue Spot, But All Is Not Lost

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There seems to be no end to the explosion of barbecue restaurants in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and we’re beyond the point of offering guesses as to when the trend will peak. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; when the craving for barbecue strikes, there’s a preponderance of choices no matter what part of the area you’re in, many of which don’t involve ubiquitous yellow cups. Rap's BBQ is the latest to toss their hat into the area's crowded barbecue ring. On their website, Rap's boldly proclaims “No Meat Smoked Better," so we stopped in to see how they stack up.

Open since early October, Rap's location is a small, sparsely decorated shop in a strip mall at the intersection of Custer and Parker road in central Plano. After perusing the menu choices listed on a flat-screen TV, patrons place their order at a tiled counter in back; a handful of tables offer space for dining in, and another large TV was airing football during a weekend visit.

The menu offers plenty of choices that stretch beyond barbecue. In addition to smoked meats on bread, Rap's offers a hot dog and burgers. There’s also a section of baked potatoes that can stand on their own or can be ordered with any of Rap's meats piled on top. The meats are available by the pound, or in a one-, two- or three-meat combo plate that includes two sides. On our visit, the menu only offered four sides: beans, potato salad, cole slaw or fries. While pondering our choices, the gentleman behind the counter informed us that green beans, corn, or a corn casserole were also available.

Rap's sandwiches may look rather pedestrian on simple white bread, but they come stacked with copious amounts of meat. The “plates” are little more than the aforementioned white bread lining the bottom of a basket, with the meat or meats of your choice piled on top, along with two sides. There’s little in the way of presentation, but there’s also little reason to walk away hungry.

The pulled pork was our table’s consensus winner for best of the proteins; the moist chunks of pork weren’t overwhelmingly smoky but were still plenty flavorful. The same lightly smoked profile graced the ribs, which were generously sized and adorned with a mild rub. The sausage was decent, if mass-produced, and was served with a charred glaze of sweet sauce on the top.

The brisket was, simply put, a letdown. I asked for moist brisket as part of a three-meat plate, but the three slices in my basket were from the flat, the leanest part of the brisket, with a copious fat cap left on them. Usually, leaving the fatty cap in place helps keep the the brisket moist over the time it takes to properly smoke a brisket, as long cook times are usually key to a tender brisket. At Rap's, the brisket could definitely spend more time in the smoker, both to pick up more smoke flavor and to produce a more tender meat; the three of us who ordered brisket found it chewy and tough almost to the point of being inedible.

Fortunately, the sides are a strong suit that helps pick up the slack. The french fries were promptly dropped in oil after we ordered and came out crispy and light, while the corn casserole was a revelation of cheesy corn goodness. The pinto beans, with chunks of meat and pepper swimming in broth, definitely hit the mark as well. The mustard potato salad had a delightful zing, while the cole slaw mixed well with the pulled pork and the tangy barbecue sauce.

To finish the meal, we split an order of banana pudding. The vanilla wafers in the pudding had thoroughly soaked up the pudding and banana flavor, and a thick whipped cream topped the dish.

Rap's feels like a work in progress. Most people hungry for barbecue don’t care what the place looks like, as long as it’s clean — and we’ve been fooled before by barbecue places that spend more time on interior decorating than the food. Despite the plain-looking space, most of the protein choices are better than what’s being served at many barbecue chains, plus the side dishes were all top-notch. However, barbecue in Texas lives and dies by brisket, and Rap's brisket needs improvement before they can count themselves among the area’s best.

Rap's BBQ, 3131 Custer Road, Plano, 817-682-0559. Open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

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