One of the great joys of entering a good barbecue joint is smelling the smoke from burning wood. It suggests that the barbecue you're about to try will probably be authentic and probably be good. At Bison County, the smell is something altogether different: lighter fluid. It's not so intense when you first enter, taking in the large bar area that has about a dozen high-top tables and nearly as many TVs. When you venture into the smaller dining area, the smell really hits you. At the back of the dining area is the open grilling station. There are smokers behind the grill, so there is hope. The decor is mostly southwestern, with mock adobe walls and pastel accents.
We asked where to sit and were told anywhere, then had trouble getting menus and silverware. A nice treat was the warm buttered mini loaf of cornbread that arrived ahead of the menus. It was decent, but a little greasy. Bison County has babybacks and "Southern" ( St Louis) ribs. I got the Southern ribs and pulled pork combo with cole slaw and beans.
The ribs were significantly smaller than they were on my last visit about a year earlier, and the meat was of lesser quality. On the plus side, they seemed to be smoked before they grilled, and somewhat pink and somewhat tender. On the downside, they were greasy and infused with an unpleasant lighter fluid, liquid smoke flavor. The pulled pork was dry and flavorless. There weren't any sauces on the table other than hot sauce (and the server never offered a choice of sauce). Beans were soggy and had very little of the pulled pork and burnt ends that the menu promised. Cole slaw was creamy and pretty good. Bison tips, ordered rare to medium rare, arrived well done. In previous visits I tried the Carolina wings, which were OK, nothing exciting.
There was a time when I used Bison County as a barometer for judging new barbecue joints. While never great or authentic, they served quality cuts of meat with decent enough flavor, so if a place was better than Bison County it was at least pretty good. Nowadays, being better than Bison County doesn't count for much. Moody Street has a lot of restaurants and Bison County doesn't really strive to win your business. For ribs, there's a better place across the street (the much improved Jake's Dixie Roadhouse) and a much better place in the next town (Blue Ribbon). For wings, there's a better place across the street (Sadie's) and another across the street and a few blocks south (Wings Express). Having bison is a nice novelty, but it would carry much more weight if they knew how to cook it.
The bottom line: it’s OK for a drink, especially if you want to watch sports, but for serious barbecue, there are better places close by.