NOTE: This is an older review, kept on the site for historical purposes only. For my most recent reviewof Texas BBQ Company, click here.
Texas BBQ Company is a small roadside joint on Route 20 in Northboro, MA, just a few miles west of Route 495. It was a steamy 107 degrees on the August day they opened, so I waited until day #2 to try them out. A converted sandwich shop, Texas BBQ Company has a small dining area and a small bar with a TV. Bowls of nuts and pretzels are available all around the bar. The walls have understated metal stars and metal lamps with steer designs. Booths and tables were fairly empty on my first visit (a Thursday night). When I returned the following Monday night with a friend, the place was packed.
The menu itself is fairly interesting and well written, describing the Texas style of barbecue and the various options. Appetizers are very limited, with only soup, salad, fries, onion rings and "Texas Caviar Dip & Chips."
Barbecue sandwiches include the usual suspects (chopped beef, chopped pork, pulled pork, pulled chicken), plus turkey breast and sliced pork loin. Sandwiches are $7 and include one side. For entrees, there are four kinds of ribs (beef, pork babybacks, pork spare ribs and pork rib tips), sausage, and all of the meats that are available on sandwiches.
The first night, I just had a quick snack of brisket and pork spare ribs to go, sampling half of it. The ribs were pink, slightly smoky and somewhat juicy, with a pleasant, natural taste. Not all that tender, but not bad. It was just your basic spare rib; I didn't really taste the distinctive Texas style here. The brisket, cut in 1/2-inch thick slices, was better. It had a great flavor, a nice smoke ring, and good bark. Those flavors were definitely there.
On the second visit, my friend and I both got 3-meat combos ($19), eating in the dining room. I got brisket, beef ribs and pulled pork; he got brisket, beef ribs and babyback ribs. The brisket was the same, but noticeably drier this time. The beef ribs were very appetizing, with pink areas, a smoke ring and good crust too. The flavor and texture were both good, but they were way, way too salty. The pulled pork was just slightly dry, but the quality of the pieces and flavor of the meat were right on. Babybacks were dry.
All meats are served unsauced here, allowing you to eat them as is or add sauces from bottles on the table. I like this approach, but I thought their sauces were uninspired and not all that different from what you might find at the store. There's a regular and a hot.
BBQ entrees come with two sides and your choice of cornbread or Texas toast. I found the sides to be mediocre: fries and onion rings tasted like the frozen kind; corn tasted canned. Interesting cornbread was a soft, gloppy mound that stuck to my fingers. On my second visit, I tried the Texas toast, a thick (nearly 2 inches) slice of doughy bread buttered and grilled. Not bad.
Service was a little shaky both nights. On the first night, visitors arrived a few times with none of the waitstaff anywhere to be found. On the second night, our server had trouble dividing attention equally among her tables, resulting in some waits unrelated to the kitchen's struggle to meet demand. Part of this is simply figuring out the routine, so I expect this will get better.
The bottom line: It's still early. Despite some problems, there were some flashes of excellence. Think of Texas BBQ Company as the girl with the braces and thick glasses. It may not be much now, but I see the potential for it to blossom into something beautiful. It's their move.