Tollie's Barbecue 6407 S. Cooper St., Ste. 101 Arlington 817-465-8300
Like our own Hanna Raskin has written, the contemporary food critic is tasked with finding gems in the 'burbs. Since my Arlington-living mother-in-law returned from a holiday in Europe, the family and I thought a little Texas 'cue at newly opened Tollie's Barbecue would be the perfect welcome-home gift. Owned by the namesake former caterer whose business was so successful he couldn't keep up, Tollie's offers smoked meat from all the major barbecue regions -- Texas, Kansas, Memphis and the Carolinas -- a refreshing decision, one that could mark it as a metroplex BBQ destination.
Or so it seemed until we tried the place, even if our bad experience could be blamed on opening weekend hiccups.
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The photo gallery on the restaurant's website would like you to believe the food is a party in your mouth. It's really a party in your tummy -- a toilet-hugging party after a night of a salacious bachelor party. A party one looks forward to, one at which it's permissible to let loose inhibitions and submit to the decadence of abundant flesh. The stuff of legend, a legend one wishes to erase from memory.
Our order was missing promised ingredients. The vegetarian in the group saw that the menu listed an attractive garden salad. She jumped at the chance. When it arrived at the table, her salad was the size of one expected in the side choices -- something that should have been made clear on the menu. It was also missing croutons, black olives and feta. The waitress had to check with the kitchen twice before notifying us they were out of those items. The kitchen was out of those items when only five other were tables occupied. You're probably asking, "Why spend so much time on a veggie option at a BBQ joint?" Well, it was a portent.
The combos ordered were bantam and unsatisfying. The Carolina pulled pork was missing a side of vinegar-based sauce. The ribs supplied were two measly bones with little meat. The best part of the chopped pork sandwich was the bun and the side of potato chips. The meat was dry and couldn't be helped by the sauce. The brisket was also dry. Thankfully, submersing the meat in sauce saved it. The corn on the cob was grilled until the kernels were deflated and nothing more than an excuse to use floss. The best part of the meal was the smoked sausage. It left an addictive heat lingering in the throat. Diners can order meat by the pound, but after the disappointed sampling available in the combo platters, why would they?
Located south of Sublett Road in a slowly developing area of farm plots, Tollie's is far from central Arlington's open-air mall, the Highlands, where locals can wait 45 minutes for a table at BJ's, Chuy's or P.F. Chang's but should check out India Grill, where there is nary a wait. It serves some of the best subcontinental cuisine this side of Curry Hill. Anyway, this isn't about India Grill's excellent saag. Why the proprietor chose South Arlington is baffling. Empty and unfinished strip malls abound, making the destination an unattractive one for the manicured-lawn set in the mood for a new restaurant. The same can be said of the food at Tollie's Barbecue.