Is There Something Wrong at Cattleack BBQ?
Recently, we've received some strange e-mails from the folks at Cattleack BBQ. On random Thursdays, we've received pictures of an empty entryway and sidewalk with the statement "no line--get in here." The first time they sent it to us, we thought "how strange--why advertise you aren't busy?" Especially when you're the highly-touted "3rd best BBQ in Texas. After the second and third times, we thought "maybe people have stopped going."
Today, we got a separate (unsolicited) FAQ e-mail from Cattleack that was pretty snarky, and frankly, a bit over-the-top. Excerpts are included below:
HOURS – We are open 10:30am until 2:00 pm on both Thursday& Friday along with the 1st Saturday of each month. We work all week to make this possible and at this time, that is all we wish to commit to. This is a hobby that I love and am very passionate about. For me, more hours would make it a business and a job, and not my goal.
LINES – Why do we have lines and do we like lines? No we do not like lines and why would we? Lines exist in most things where large crowds go. Music events, sporting events, Six Flags, Black Friday, etc. Busy restaurants require reservations weeks in advance and others wait on top of that. I don’t know of any business who wants a line nor any customers who wants to wait in them. We close out an order approximately every 51 seconds. That’s the best we can do and still take a few seconds to say hello and be hospitable to those who have waited. To those who do not have time to wait, I get that; and I’m sorry, but every real good barbecue joint I have visited has a line.
OUT OF FOOD – Currently we feed 300-500 people at lunch depending on the day. With prep, cooking and resting times, great barbecue takes 10 to 40 hours depending on the item. Every single week, we look at amounts sold and try to determine how much more to make the following week. We do a pretty darn good job adjusting. While we may run out of a featured item, we very, very rarely run out of the holy trinity of bbq. Again, why would we want to run out? It makes no sense.
PRE-ORDERS & CATERING – We do not cater and do not want to cater. I like to serve what I can control and give you the best experience possible. If you are having a lunch event away from our shack and want to pick it up, we will try to help. See our web site for that process. We also usually sell whole chilled briskets and slabs of pork ribs.
DRINKS – Do we only sell bottled drinks? Yes we only sell bottled drinks. No cups, no ice, no straws. Without explaining the whole reasoning of the experience we want you to enjoy, a soda fountain machine does not fit into the backyard feel we have created for our dining area nor in the limited schedule of days we are open. We went to great lengths to have a large variety of drinks people would love from Big Red, to Topo Chico, Mexican Coke and water. We also sampled many bottled teas, since nothing can replace fresh brewed tea. Again we are BYOB at all times so if this is one of your hang ups, please feel free to bring any drinks you wish as you would to any backyard barbecue.
So, we had a few takeaways from that missive.
First, the owners work just as much as they want and this is a hobby for them. They don't want a job like what you have. So, don't bother them about being open like a normal restaurant. It isn't.
Second, they're very sensitive about the line issue, and seem to attack anyone who brings it up. It's almost like they were saying "hey--good restaurants require reservations, so aren't you lucky that we serve so many people without reservations?" Also, pointing out everywhere you can go to experience a similar line does not make us feel better. Not exactly a customer-friendly tone.
Third, they want to make it abundantly clear that they don't purposely run out of the food you want, just to spite you. I'm glad they cleared that one up. Because we thought they were specifically out to get us through malicious food prep. We feel better now.
And, while we're talking about food, they don't cater. And, they don't want to either. They may or may not help if you want to make a large to-go order. They will try. Check the website. You can always order cold BBQ if you want. Cause that's an awesome way to experience the "3rd best BBQ in Texas." Check the website on how to do that though. Also, they like the control they have from making your entire group come into the restaurant. You need to understand that, OK? Don't try anything funny like ordering to-go. It's not appreciated.
Finally, let's talk about drinks. They don't do fountain drinks. Or straws. Or cups. Or ice. They do have bottled Big Red. Because everyone loves that. And, they want you to know they "went to great lengths" to provide that Big Red to you, even though they prefer not to explain "the whole reasoning of the experience [they] want you to enjoy." You need to feel special and lucky and thankful. That's all. Oh, and they also went to the trouble of sampling a large number of bottle teas on your behalf. Awesome.
Now, we will say that we've been to Cattleack several times in the past year--including after it was named the "3rd best BBQ in Texas." We didn't bother ordering the lamb and fig boudan, or anything similar that Texas Monthly seems so hung-up on. Mainly because we have a tinge of self-respect left. And, because Cameron also wants our future children to recognize him as a man. We have (on multiple occasions), however, ordered the moist and regular brisket, sausage, the beef rib, and the wagyu burn ends, and frankly have pretty strong feelings about the experience.
In a word, we thought the BBQ was sub-par, across the board. The regular brisket was really tough and dry. The moist brisket was so incredibly fatty, it wasn't appetizing (also, the meat without the fat was still dry). The sausage was really tough and dry, and it was difficult to chew through the casing. The beef rib was leathery, extremely chewy, over-cooked and under-smoked. On one occasion, we threw half of it away. And, not to be outdone, the much-touted wagyu burnt ends--the pride of many a Facebook post--should have been renamed "wagyu cremated ends." They were so tough, we thought they should be packaged and sold as jerky. At least they got enough smoke.
Suffice it to say, we're not on board with Texas Monthly's assessment of Cattleack's quality. We've eaten at many a BBQ establishment throughout Texas, and have found a large number of them that far surpass Cattleack. From the angry e-mails touting an empty restaurant that they now seem obliged to send out, it seems the masses may agree with us.
Take a pro tip on this one--save yourself the drive, and go to Pecan Lodge. They're nicer, don't send strange e-mails about tea, and serve amazing BBQ. With a big smile on their face.