Sticky fingers

Texas Soul owner Manuel Gomez with a plate of baby back ribs.

Texas Soul owner Manuel Gomez with a plate of baby back ribs.

Photo/Allison Young

Texas Soul BBQ is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Mon-Sat.

At the busy corner of Neil Road and Moana Lane there’s a small shopping center serving a blue-collar neighborhood. Thousands of people likely pass by without a glance, but if you take the time and navigate into the tiny parking lot, you’ll find yourself at Texas Soul BBQ. It’s worth the effort.

The decor is spartan but very clean and welcoming. Curtains and the backs of refrigeration equipment create “walls” separating kitchen from dining room—however, I admire the focus on food rather than excessive effort spent dressing up humble surroundings. It’s definitely the food you should focus on.

We started with tacos al pastor ($1.25 each) and a small order of barbecue chicken wings ($5.50, 6 pieces). An order of wings shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes from start to finish, and these were right on time. Perfectly cooked, crispy yet not dry, finished with a sprinkle of dry rub and dollops of the house sauce on each drumette. The tacos were excellent, featuring housemade tortillas and tasty filling. Both made for a great start to our meal.

My wife’s combo plate included baby back ribs, chicken and beef brisket ($14.95), served with coleslaw, and hand-cut, seasoned potato wedges. The slaw was pretty standard, and my wife enjoyed mixing it with the brisket. The potatoes were tossed in the same seasoning blend we enjoyed on the wings. Everything was definitely housemade and tasted fresh.

If you’re a fan of slow-cooked meat that can’t wait to slide off the bone, you’re going to like this. No joke, both the ribs and chicken bones slipped out without a fight, as if they’d only been there to lend shape to the meat. The brisket and pulled pork were among the most tender you’ll find, and the sauce—though sweeter than my own—had enough zip to satisfy. My only criticism might be that I prefer ribs with a little fight left in ’em, but I know I’m probably in the minority. The brisket was served in large, thin slices that was a bit odd to me (being used to chopped or torn chunks), but my wife really liked this preparation. Slow-smoked for 14 hours, you could cut it with a wooden spoon.

I couldn’t decide between meats, so the combo sandwich with brisket and pulled pork ($10.95) was just the ticket. A large, fluffy sandwich roll was stuffed with meat and sauce (lettuce on the side), which I enjoyed with baked beans and potato salad ($2.95 for the extra side). Both sides had great flavor, though the potato salad was less chunky than I prefer.

Smart barbecue joints feature rolls of paper towels on the tables. At worst they’ll give you horrid little “wet naps,” wherein you attempt to tame handfuls of sticky sauce with a damp postage stamp. Texas Soul BBQ surprised me with finger bowls of water and lemon peel accompanied by a stack of napkins. This is a really nice, practical touch, although you have to keep the bowl to the side after use, lest you gross out your wife.

A slice of warm, housemade sweet potato pie a la mode ($3.50) rounded out our meal, much to my wife’s delight. I don’t normally care for sweet potato anything, but this was not hard to enjoy. Don’t leave without trying it.

The owner is pleasant and courteous, eager to share his years of experience and love of making people happy with a good meal. As we left a family entered, the youngest girl nearly shouting, “Oh, my gosh, it smells so good in here!” Just wait till you taste it, kid.