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McCook’s Taste of Texas BBQ does the state proud
by Pam Soreide, Betty Sayers and Phil Soreide
Loyal readers of the Rural Foodies have figured out by now that the three of us live in Holdrege, a town of about 5,000 set among the cornfields of south central Nebraska.
Even in places bigger than Holdrege, a new restaurant coming to town is the kind of topic that starts conversations. For weeks, the tension had been building. It started as a whisper that “some people” had been looking at Holdrege as a place to open a restaurant. The Chamber of Commerce was being tight-lipped in the name of business privacy, but the rumors persisted for weeks and the speculation about who or at least what kind of restaurant reached a fever pitch.
While there’s still been no announcement in the paper, it’s pretty official that Holdrege is going to get the second Taste of Texas BBQ in the world, the first having been created in McCook. Ever curious and wanting to be the first to know, the Foodies journeyed to McCook for a taste of what’s in store.
A little bit of Texas
We picked a Friday night to go on our reconnaissance trip. McCook is a little over an hour’s drive, so we had time to decompress from the busy workweek — and build up an appetite — on the way
When we arrived, we noted that the parking lot was comfortably full…always a good sign. Inside the décor was evidently meant to evoke a little bit of Texas, but it was a highly eclectic collection of objet d’art. The wall inside the front door included a fairly extensive hubcap collection mixed in with a few skulls, a couple of awards and a framed flag. Further inside, the tables back up to a diorama of game birds not unlike you might see in a natural history museum. (As we were seated, a young man was giving his daughter a tour of the exhibit. “Quack!” she squealed, pointing. “Yes, that’s a duck!” he agreed enthusiastically. We agreed this décor was more educational than most.)
The display was exemplary of the feel of the restaurant…hunting trophies, boots, lariats, and military memorabilia decorate the walls, making this a comfortable watering hole for males but not so overwhelming as to make women uncomfortable. We noticed the Taste of Texas BBQ appealed to all ages, with both families and couples out on a Friday night.
An extensive menu
As we perused the menu, we ordered a drink – they have a full bar but a somewhat limited wine list — which is OK, because barbeque is more of a beer kind of an outing anyway. The menu was quite extensive, featuring traditional barbeque plates of one, two or three meats and a choice of two sides, plus a number of steaks, fish, hamburgers and sandwiches. We decided on a three meat plate (to do justice to our sampling of their craft), the smoked prime rib special, and a plate of ribs. Choices of sides included mashed potatoes, potato salad, baked beans, coleslaw, and fried okra. Also available (at additional charge with some meals) were a loaded baked potatoes and green salad.
This is Texas-style barbeque, which means it’s mostly served as a dry rub on slowly smoked meat with a sweetly tangy sauce on the side. A basket of biscuits appeared, paired with the barbeque dipping sauce — a great way to get a preview of what was in store.
When our meal arrived, the smoked meats plate included chicken, brisket and ribs, all of which were extremely tender. The brisket probably featured the most distinctly pronounced smoky flavor, and as a side benefit, leftovers divided into small morsels and eaten with crackers at home the next day made a divine hors d’oeuvre. The chicken was moist and yet infused with BBQ flavors, and the ribs were very meaty, not fatty or greasy at all.
The prime rib was better than any we’ve seen in a long time, gently smoked so as not to overpower the flavor of the beef and delightfully pink. Served with a horseradish dipping sauce and the (outrageously) loaded baked potato, it was certainly the kind of dinner that would satisfy a hungry Texan or Nebraskan. Or three.
On the side
Of the sides, the table’s favorite was probably the fried okra — not a dish you can get just anywhere in Nebraska. We didn’t ask if it was house-made, but either way, it was carefully treated so the okra was still crisp inside the light breading. The baked beans were lovely, the salads were fresh and the blue cheese dressing could hold its own with any we have sampled. Cabbage slaw belongs in the tradition of barbecue, and the Taste of Texas chefs prepare a vinegar-based and deliciously sweet, creamy coleslaw.
As we arranged our take-home boxes, we chatted for a moment with our server who asked if we were interested in dessert. Of course we’re interested in dessert! What red-blooded American isn’t at least interested in dessert? So despite our clearly not-room-for-another-bite stomachs, she told us about the molten lava cake and the warm apple pie topped with caramel sauce and ice cream, and then there was the apple dumpling sort of thing and probably more. I got lost thinking about the pie, but managed to weakly protest that I didn’t think we could do them justice, so she finally took pity and brought us the bill.
We did learn that the deal is real and that Taste of Texas BBQ hopes to open in Holdrege in July. We hope so. We’re still thinking about those ribs. And we’d like to try the pie…
Who to Contact
Taste of Texas Barbeque
112 West 11th Street
McCook, NE 69001
308 345 1611
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 11 a.m. -2 p.m. and 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday 11 a.m. -2 p.m. and 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sun. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.