I've been thinking about the "Cherrywood Grilled Hanger Steak" every time I drive by this place, so today I had to pick up some stuff at Home Goods and I stopped in on my way back. It was about 2:20PM when I got here, and there were 2 tables and 3 people at the bar with an almost full parking lot.
Red Cow Interior
One negative development that needs mentioning is the new "Award" that they have in their window.
Now I'd think that the owner would know better, but here's the problem with this kind of "advertising". First, everyone who has lived in Fort Lauderdale for more than 2 months knows that an award from New Times has the same impact as your Mom telling you that you're handsome. Second, everyone who lives in Fort Lauderdale knows that the so-called "awards" have nothing to do with any sort of measurable merit. Everyone gets an award. This year, Red Cow won because 1) They're new and 2) Everyone else already has one. Previous Best BBQ Winners:
2014: Red Cow
2013: Hickory Sticks
2012: Blue Willy
2011: East Coast BBQ (Closed Soon Afterwards)
2010: Art's BBQ (Coral Springs, Closed after a few Months)
2009: Georgia Pig, Bar-B-Q Jacks, Tom Jenkins, Deep Down South (Tie)
2008: Georgia Pig
2007: Tom Jenkins
2006: Texas Hold'Em
Notice how every year there's a new Best BBQ? Also, notice how EVERY BBQ in town has won? The reasoning here is that New Times encourages restaurants to use their Awards in advertisements, a trick used by bad PR companies, so they want as many places to get awards as possible. The problem is that over time, everyone has an award. It's like giving everyone a trophy; you just seem like a fool bragging about a trophy that everyone has. Signs like this are designed only to fool an occasional tourist and those with their heads in the sand, while eliciting snickers and head-shaking from the rest of us.
The awards this year are even more ridiculous than usual. The class of clowns they have working there is unprecedented.
So I sat down in the corner and got an iced tea; extra lemon was cheerfully included.
Red Cow Iced Tea
I ordered the hanger steak medium rare and asked if I could get a side instead of the unwanted arugula salad. "It's a pretty small salad", was her reply. Really, I can't get 1 side with a $23 lunch steak? I said I'd like the Cauliflower mash, which apparently is low-cost enough to allow the sub.
While waiting for the entree, I noticed that even with just 10 people in the room, it was incredibly loud. Even after 1 table of 4 left the noise was uncomfortable. Bad music didn't help; The Rolling Stones were mixed in with j-Lo, Justin Timberlake, "Ultramixx" and Rihanna. Bah!
I also noticed that there was no bread; it's the only 'que in town where you don't get bread or cornbread with your meal. Finally it was ready.
Red Cow Hanger Steak with Cauliflower Mash
My first thought was "Why did they ruin a nice hanger steak with all of that gunk?". I expected the blue cheese drizzle mentioned on the menu went on the salad and not the steak; and there was no mention of the onions on the menu.
I don't particularly like it when steak is pre-sliced; but I particularly don't like when it's cut incorrectly. Hanger steak should be cut thinly across the grain; This was cut thick with the grain. This is taught in Cooking 101.
Red Cow Hanger Steak Close Up
The sticky onions went well beyond your standard caramelization; this was like an onion BBQ sauce. Frankly, it ruined the steak. Hanger steak doesn't need all of this.
The cuts were chunky enough so that I could lop off some slices across the grain. It's really too bad about the blue cheese and the onions as the steak was cooked properly medium rare and I would have liked it better without the "drizzle" and with the onions on the side. I was also looking forward to a unique "cherry wood smoked" flavor, but I couldn't really detect anything special. I didn't care for the cauliflower mash, which needs to either be cheesy or buttery or garlicky to work. This was just pureed cauliflower without any distinct seasoning. If you'd rather have steamed cauliflower, the dish is a failure. I was disappointed by this meal generally. It was made worse by my expectations which were high going in.
I'll reiterate the observation that I made on my first visit: This place is just too expensive for lunch. With no bread and having to haggle to get 1 stinking side with my $23 steak, this place isn't good enough to justify a $30 tab for lunch.
After the boring $16 salad I got at Public House, I thought I'd see what kind of salad I could get at a BBQ joint. The "Red Derby" Cobb Salad caught my eye on the menu; Red Derby is a play on Brown Derby; which is supposedly the restaurant where the Cobb Salad was first conceived. >
They had 3 tables occupied at about 2:15pm; I got a regular table today. The chairs are kind of gimmicky; they're red. Not very comfortable. I'm not crazy about the big open room; there was a table nearby with a little girl who'd had way too much sugar and she kept zinging by the table. Luckily they were paying their tab so it didn't last too long.
Red Cow Interior
They have interesting beers on tap and "fun" sodas, and 3 varieties of BBQ sauce.
Red Cow Sauces
I passed on the cherry soda and went with Iced Tea. It was deliverd with extra lemon but no sweeteners; sweeteners aren't on the table by default.
Red Cow Iced Tea
They had a couple of specials but I stuck with the Cobb Salad, which is served with a "Maytag Blue Cheese Dressing".
Red Cow Cobb Salad
Visually, it was a little disappointing. Not as much stuff as I expected, and I guess I expected a BBQ version; maybe with pulled pork and pork belly bacon. It seemed way too organized for a BBQ Cobb. And they were kind of cheap with the bacon. >
The lettuce was largely iceberg; not enough dressing for my taste. I asked for some extra.
Red Cow Salad, Extra Dressing
The salad was actually quite good; it just would have been better with more, wobbly stuff on top and more chunks of blue cheese.
Service was a bit uneven. There's only 1 server and she was pretty chatty with the other tables which led to gaps in service. They play decent music; think Jack Jackson. They've got the 3 stooges and Daffy Duck movies playing, but during the day there's way too much light and the screens are difficult to see.
Red Cow Movies
I asked for my check and got a complimentary cookie. Chocolate Chip.
Red Cow Cookie
Not a bad salad for $13 I guess; certainly better than the one I got at Public House. But it's not their best dish.
I've been thinking about re-visiting the Red Cow for lunch, but every time I do, some much lower cost option pops into my head and off I go. Today I was losing my shirt in The Market, so I figured whats another $20 going to matter?
I'm not a big fan of the decor; it's purposely overcasual; it seems like a forced concept. The bar has saddle-shaped stools that are like sitting on a bicycle; no booths and red furniture to match the name of the restaurant.
Red Cow Bar Area
There's a big red cow on the wall, and 3 projector screens showing 3 stooges and lone ranger movies, which might be cool if the place wasn't so bright that you can barely see the screens, at least during daylight hours.
Red Cow Interior
And I'd prefer if they turned the sound up on one of the movies to the music they have playing; Montell Jordan, Everclear and Alicia Keys are hardly BBQ joint material.
On the table, they have 3 sauces labeled for amateur BBQers, just Bold, Spicy and Sweet.>
Red Cow Sauces
I asked about the "fish of the day", and I was surprised with the number of specials that they had; it reminded me of Coconuts, another restaurant owned by Elliot Wolf, where there are more specials than regular menu items. I considered the Jerkchuterie, but I wasn't sure about it, so I settled on the Babyback Ribs. No indication of the size on the menu, and it only comes with 1 side; I opted for the fried brussels sprouts.
The ribs come out laid out on paper on a metal tray; more stuff purchased in a "build your own BBQ" specialty store.
Red Cow Baby Back Ribs
9 ribs; usually a full rack is 11 or 12, but these were meaty and at least as much meat as the full rack I got at Houston's a few weeks back.
The plate was garnished with a pickle spear and a hushpuppy, which is better than a clump of curly parsley.
Red Cow Hushpuppy
The hushpuppy had a hint of jalapeno, but was overall uninspiring and not worth the calories. I liked the pickle, which had an interesting slightly-sweet brining.
I played with the 3 sauces; alternating with a squeeze here and there. I came to the conclusion that I didn't love or hate any of them; they each added a different flavor to the ribs. The brussels sprouts were an excellent accompaniment; they probably had all of the nutrition fried out but they were very good regardless. They didn't taste like brussels sprouts, which is always a good thing. >
On their own, the ribs were brilliant; perhaps the best I've had in any restaurant or rib shack.
Red Cow Baby Back Rib
The bill comes on a little wooden board with Wolf's signature "Be Nice"; $23 for a BBQ lunch with an iced tea.
Red Cow Bill
The first time I tried the Red Cow was just after they'd opened and the ribs were way too salty; it certainly appears as if they've got it down. I think they've done a few things wrong; the big "OPEN" signs in the window and the abundance of parking spots available may give me a clue that they could use an idea or 2.
First, the restaurant is forced casual, as if people prefer eating BBQ in a dump. The truth is that people tolerate eating BBQ in a dump, because it's CHEAP. But the Red Cow isn't cheap. To justify the prices, the Red Cow should be a nicer restaurant; an option for a date or a weekend night out. Somehow I don't mind paying $28 for ribs at Houston's but $19-$21 here seems high. Feeling like you're eating in a real restaurant matters.
They also need a lunch menu, because $23 is too much to spend on lunch for most people. If what I had today was 6 ribs for say $14.99 it would be more than enough food at a more acceptable price point. I thought about taking 3 ribs home, but it seemed like I might as well eat them; which means that I had more food than I wanted for lunch.
And they're never going to have much of a bar scene with this decor, so they might as well play decent music. Frivolous babes aren't going to hang out in here, so why play music for stupid people when it doesn't fit your clientele?
When I heard that Elliot Wolf, owner of Coconuts, G&B Oyster Bar and The Foxy Brown was opening a BBQ in the old Texas Hold'em location, I was intrigued. When I heard that Texas native Stephen Shockey, previously the chef at G&B, was manning the kitchen, I was downright excited.
The menu is clearly more interesting than any other BBQ in town, where innovation is as scarce as hen's teeth. There are any number of things I'd like to try, I thought. When it came down to deciding, I realized that the menu is a bit confusing. Some items say that they come with 1 or 2 sides, so does that imply that baby back ribs and the beef ribs don't come with a side? $21 for ribs plus $4 per side? How many ribs do I get for that?
I didn't feel like asking, so I stopped in and ordered the Pork Spare Ribs, which are dry rubbed and include 1 side for $19. The decor is more casual than I expected. It really just looks like any other BBQ joint. Not that much different than it did when it was Texas Hold'em.
Red Cow Interior
Same bar as before, a few booths against the wall, and 3 projector screens showing Westerns or something. I'm glad I did take out.>
The big thing about the bar is the stools; they're some sort of saddle shape so you need to make sure you center yourself properly or you'll be sorry. Something that surprised me was that they apparently ripped out the brick BBQ pit and replaced it with a smoker and a rotisserie. This place is high tech as BBQs go.
Red Cow Bar, smoker and rotisserie
There were good smells in the car on the way home. Another thing about the menu is that they don't tell you the portion; no 1/2 rack or 4 ribs. So I wasn't sure what to expect when I opened the bag.
Red Cow Pork Dry Rubbed Spare Ribs
I tasted the cole slaw first; not sweet at all, with a very light dressing. Not really good or really bad. They didn't give me any sauce with the ribs; with dry rub you shouldn't need it but I don't think I've ever gotten ribs before that didn't come with sauce. The meat and crust were perfectly done, but after a couple of bites I realized that I wasn't going to be able to eat these without some sauce. They were WAY too salty. I had some sauce in the fridge; it was pretty old, but BBQ sauce is mostly vinegar and sugar so it should last practically forever. It was a spicy vinegar sauce and it balanced the ribs well; they were much better with the sauce.
I'd have to say the my first try here was underwhelming; I complained about Texas Hold'em charging $17.95 for 6 ribs with 2 sides; these ribs were bigger but it's expensive for BBQ. No Bread. And I'm not exactly rushing back to have these again.
One thing that's interesting is that they've only been open a few days and the menu has some different prices than the one they have posted. Just $1 here and there, but strange nonetheless.
It will be interesting to see how they do at these price points. Most people think of BBQ as a cheap night out, but taking a family here would be pretty expensive. $4 is a lot for a tub of cole slaw or baked beans. I also want to give them a little time; the first time I went to Hickory Sticks the ribs were absolutely terrible; the second time they were much better. It takes some time to figure out all of your equipment. They open for lunch next week, so there will be plenty of opportunities to sample other stuff on the menu.