After a long time I finally took the opportunity while in Dallas recently to get back to Hard Eight BBQ. For a regional chain joint, they really do an outstanding job. The branch I visited was in The Colony. And it is an impressive sight to see the meat you’re gonna eat right there in front of you in the warming pits where you order. The smell of the mesquite that they’re burning down to coals in front of the restaurant is such a welcome smell, and the two massive cylindrical burn pits are a pretty cool sight too. Their pitmen and pitwomen shovel coals out of the burn pits and put them directly under the meat that is cooking in long horizontal pits. The meat sitting directly above the coals then has the juices and fat drip onto the coals and vaporize – that is what produces Hill Country-style smoke. Sadly that part is mostly for show – since the majority of the cooking at Hard Eight is done with Southern Pride rotisserie pits. Even so, those gigantic burn pits are an impressive sight.
This time around I just had some of their delicious moist brisket, and a few of their chicken poppers. The brisket, as usual had an excellent smoky flavor and the fat was well rendered. It did not have a dark bark; instead it had a very nice mahogany color with excellent flavor. The chicken poppers were overdone, sadly. The pitman had just thrown out a batch of shrimp poppers because they had been sitting there too long. They should have done the same thing with that batch of chicken poppers as well. I am sure they would have been much better had they been fresh. Even so, they did have some good of flavor still, given all the jalapeño and bacon you get in each bite. For my side I tried their cornbread salad. It wasn’t bad, but I won’t likely get it again. Their other sides are more my style. I didn’t realize that it was going to really just be crumbled up cornbread. I had to mix in some barbecue sauce to make it more palatable. It would have been way too try otherwise. And of course with dine-in, there is an endless pot of pinto beans available – and I had to have some of those. They’re always good.
I’m glad I was able to get back to Hard Eight. It is a friendly and fun atmosphere, and the food is consistently good. This is not a craft barbecue joint by any means. But they are a solid barbecue option pretty much anytime.