BBQ City Limits: Bone Daddy's House of Smoke

An ongoing series of barbecue reports from Austin. Not Llano, not Lockhart, not Taylor. Austin.
Bone Daddy’s House of Smoke
11617 Research Blvd. 346-3025,
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday. 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 03.18.12
This Austin barbecue series has taken me to places with heart and soul. And now breasts. That’s the Bone Daddy’s experience, with impossibly young waitresses in crop tops and short shorts. It’s so full of perky strip-club ambiance and aw-shucks country grammar that you’ll want a cigarette and a blindfold before you go in. If only they allowed smoking.
There’s plenty of wink-wink nudge-nudge to go around. The beer menu says “Nice Cans,” a souvenir T-shirt proclaims “Blondes: The Other White Meat,” even the salads say “forkable.” The Grateful Dead plays incongruously on the speakers. A long, strange trip, a theme-park attraction for which you must be this tall — or this full of curious shame — to ride. But like a theme park, it’s clean, comfortable and well-organized. Except don’t hug the mascots. I took the family (I know, Father of the Year), and the staff turned the flirt factor all the way down, so that’s the last I’ll say about all that.
On to the barbecue. Bone Daddy’s is a five-store chain based near Dallas, and the barbecue has a formulaic feel. The brisket (part of a three-meat plate for $17 with two sides) is like barbecued Steak-Umms, with a stiff, razored uniformity, a smoke ring so precise it looks painted-on and a body-fat ratio so low you’d think it was applying for a job here. I can taste sharp wood smoke, at least on the parts that weren’t already covered with sauce. The sausage wore a sauce jacket, too, but not enough to cover up the cross-cut slices as freckled and orange as an Irishman’s forearm. Sausage is a mystery on its best days, but here the dense splotches of mystery meat floating in a lagoon of finely ground other mystery meats turned me away more than the heavy red-spice heat and the plastic-like casing. A haunch of chicken with golden skin and a rub with blooms of paprika, salt and pepper was the plate’s strongest feature, with meat the color of a shy blush.
Was this a $17 plate of food? That’s a stretch, but not as hard a stretch as $14 for a plate with six pork spareribs and two sides. They’re short, leathery and sweet as BBQ Skittles. Likely the result of the overcompensating process described on the menu: seared, rubbed, mopped and smoked twice. They’re the diminutive size of babyback ribs without the better-meat benefits. A babyback plate is $22 for a rack, $15 for a half-rack. But I didn’t want to use that word in mixed company.
Two sides: With their saucy sweetness and tangle of onions, barbecue sauce and shredded meat, Bone Daddy’s skillet-head beans are like dessert, something to order by the bowlful with their cheese-filled rolls. The sides, in fact, were the most rewarding part of the visit. Gooey elbow mac and cheese, a tightly packed slaw dressed with something like Green Goddess, okra with a fried and crunchy-shaled crust. All of them added something the barbecue itself was missing.
Dessert: I think $5 is too much to pay for dessert at a barbecue joint. But this is a fine bowl, full of sliced banana, air-whipped pudding, crumbled vanilla wafers and whipped cream dusted with cinnamon sugar.
Sauce: I taste smoke and dark sugar, a sauce that leans on the syrupy notes and leaves nothing to the imagination.
Mike Sutter’s BBQ City Limits
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)