Monday, November 16, 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009: Harold's Pit Bar-B-Q (Abilene, Texas)

I’d heard for some time about a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint in Abilene whose proprietor sings gospel music a capella inside the restaurant from time to time. The joint also made the latest Texas Monthly Top 50 list, but, since that list has left many of us scratching our heads from time to time—and since I hadn’t heard much fanfare about the food—I had a feeling that in-house gospel might be a big reason the joint made the cut.

As luck would have it, our noon trip to Harold’s Pit Bar-B-Q in Abilene was on the Saturday that all three Abilene universities held their homecomings. As such, when we arrived at noon, the line was well out the door. While we were outside, Harold made his way to the single-room dining area and sang a nice rendition of “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” The door was open, so we could hear, and I watched through the window. We had a nice time visiting with folks in line with us and, needless to say, were ready to eat by the time we finally made it to the counter around 1:00.

The food did wonders for my cascading blood sugar, but I wouldn’t say that it was worth the wait. The food was flavorful enough, but it was all pretty pedestrian, at best. I ordered ribs, even though Harold warned me that they were kinda off that day – and they were. They were so soft that they didn’t stay on the bone when you picked them up, and, given that they (like all the meats) were covered in sauce (which was too sweet for my taste), they ended up just being a sloppy mess. The ham wasn’t bad but would’ve been better sans sauce. Amber’s slaw and potato salad were much better than my greens and green beans. Having to swat flies wasn’t a highlight of the meal.

Flies notwithstanding, the place has character – from the hole-in-the-wall feel to the gospel singing to the pictures on the wall. And Harold and all of his staff were friendly. It was nice of Harold to make the rib disclaimer and to offer to make me a new plate after I got a plate covered in sauce, after ordering sauce on the side. Considering I ordered the ribs anyway and considering I declined his offer to remake my plate, without sauce, I guess I can’t really complain too much about either…so discount some of what I wrote above.

To sum it up, Harold’s is a joint to visit more for the experience than for the food – although the food was better than what I had at the only other Abilene joint I’ve been to (Sharon’s). If you knew that Harold would be there, Harold’s is worth a trip, if only to hear some gospel and meet some friendly folks.

Amber’s thoughts: “Ambiance: the hour long wait, pictures on the wall, fellow customers sharing their Harold stories and of course Harold himself singing were all great... but the flies on the condiment station killed it for me. (I don't know why plastic bags with water work, but they need to get some!) Service: Harold, his wife and crew could not be nicer people but the orders were messed up for the people in front of us and ours. I took the plate even though it was covered in sauce because I hate to see food go to waste. Sides: jalapeno poppers were good, hot water cornbread is just not my style, potato salad was of the cold mashed potato variety, coleslaw was solid, green beans limp but flavorful. Sauce: too sweet and, again, flies all over the crockpot at the condiment station. Turkey: good flavor and tender. Pork ribs: Fall off the bone tender but covered in sauce.”

Amber’s scores – Pork ribs: 8.6; Turkey: 8.7; Sauce: 8.4; Sides: 8; Service: 8.75; Atmosphere: 8; Overall experience: 8.4

Drew’s scores – Pork ribs: 7.5; Ham: 7.75; Sauce: 6; Sides (mine): 5; Sides (Amber’s): 7; Service: 9; Atmosphere: 8.5; Overall experience: 7.5

Overall Man-Up Score: 7.95

Harold's Pit Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon


casey said...

On the way to Amarillo last Thanksgiving I forced the family to stop at Harold's based on TX Monthly's recomendation. I too started in the line on the front porch...but it took us an hour and a half to finally get to order.

The food wasn't bad and the place was memorable BUT it wasn't worth the wait (nor the ensuing grudge from my wife). Nor does it hold a candle to the greats from Lockhart, Lexington and Taylor.

Drew Thornley said...

True. Strictly based on the food, Harold's is not anywhere near the level of the BBQ in the places you mention.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised you didn't get recommendations from those waiting in line. The real secret to Harold's is the cobbler.

Strawberry, Blackberry, Peach... can't go wrong with any of the three. My favorite is Strawberry.

I've been there over 100 times and am on the wall, so I know what I'm talking about.