Shootin’ Straight About Cowboy Chow in Roanoke,Texas

The Weekend Entertainer
March 15, 2011

First let me preface this review with the fact that I have never been someone who craves bar-b-cue. If we are going out to eat, bar-b-cue is the very last thing that crosses my mind. It isn’t that I don’t like it, in fact nothing says summer to me more than ribs and chicken on the grill, coated in a sugary, spicy sauce. I just prefer homemade bar-b-cue on a grill that’s all.

Since bar-b-cue restaurants are prevalent in the state of Texas, when one stands out and becomes the talk of the town, I put it on my radar for a place to try. After a Saturday of chores, errands and a wedding shower, Bryan and I needed a relaxing evening and meal to ourselves. We decided to head north to Roanoke, Texas and Cowboy Chow, which was been named one of the top 3 restaurants to watch in 2009 by D Magazine. Roanoke has been busy developing excitement around a main street of new restaurants and entertainment. Walking up to Cowboy Chow, we noticed that everything about this place screamed Texas. In fact, the name and décor of the restaurant is a tribute to open range dining and chuck wagon cooking used by the cowboys in the old west. An outdoor, stone fire pit welcomed us on the patio before we hit the front door. The upper half of the restaurant walls were opened up to reveal the tables and bar stools inside the restaurant on the other side of the wall. A unique set up allowed patrons to sit inside while facing their dining companions on bar stools on the outside of the restaurant and table. It is a great arrangement for parents who want to sit inside and kiddos who want to sit outside!

Since the restaurant opened up to the patio, the feel of outside dining carried into the bar and main dining room. We chose to sit in the bar at the highball tables because they provided a great view of the entire place. Large blackboard menus and turquoise longhorn heads covered the rustic, wood walls. Cactus and multicolored string lights hung whimsically over the windows and old saloon wallpaper framed the bar. It was the little touches that added a western warmth; booth seats were covered with cow hide printed material, lanterns flickered on the tables and a stone fireplace provided a hearth in the corner for the kids to sit on.

The menu wasn’t complicated. In fact it was refreshingly simple and easy on the pocketbook. The buzz I heard on the streets was that they are known for their brisket tacos and mashed tater parfait. Neither one sounded appealing to Bryan and me so we studied the menu while our server got our drinks. To snack on while we decided, we ordered some Cowboy Nachos made up of homemade potato chips covered with pico de gallo and cheese, served with Southwestern ranch dressing. We both agreed that this was the best dish of the entire meal. The chips were crispy and salty with the perfect thickness. They were served on an iron skillet like most of the other menu items. That made me feel like I was sitting on the ground around a campfire on the prairie! One dollar bought a fried green tomato lollipop on a stick. The idea and presentation is adorable but the flavor wasn’t quite there.

For dinner, Bryan ordered the ribs with root beer bar-b-cue sauce, oven roasted green beans and cheesy corn mashed potatoes. I ordered the Cowboy Grilled Cheese; brisket, sauteed onions, cheese and horseradish on grilled bread with a side of macaroni and cheese to share with Bry. I was really disappointed with the lack of flavor in my sandwich. I was looking forward to the horseradish and brisket combo but I honestly couldn’t taste much of the horseradish. I could see it but it might as well have been non-existent. The macaroni and cheese was served in a tiny cast iron pot which I think made it taste better. It was warm and creamy. I ended up eating it with some of the green beans. The meat on the ribs fell off the bone like ribs are supposed to do but the root beer sauce was an odd combination of sour and sweet. It was a little too trendy for us.

We decided to skip dessert but watched as their signature s’more sundae come out of the kitchen one by one. They weren’t giant as desserts have been upgraded to lately. It was the perfect size to share after a filling meal.

We sat for a while and enjoyed the ambiance. Bryan nursed his beer and I sipped on my Texas Claret. Our server, Melissa, was wonderful and never let us go without anything we needed. It was proof that great surroundings and service could make up for the ordinary food. We both agreed that we probably won’t go back, not because the experience was terrible, but because it just wasn’t our cup of tea, or cattle-drive coffee, I should say!

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