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BBQ review: Hard 8

Hard 8 Pit Bar-B-Q
Hard 8 Pit Bar-B-QPhoto; J. Watkins

The Hard 8 BBQ is technically a chain restaurant, however with only three locations it’s a small chain. I’m typically not a fan of chain barbecue restaurants, but I’ve heard only great things about Hard 8. Here locally, Hard 8 is located at the intersection of Freeport Parkway and Bethel Road (just north of Freeport and 635) in Coppell. Hard 8 started in Stephenville, southwest of DFW, in 2003, and since then they have added the Coppell location as well as another back out southwest in Brady.

After hearing the numerous suggestions of how good the Hard 8 was, it was finally time to see what they have to offer. I was pleasantly surprised as I walked through the parking lot and could smell the beautiful aroma of wood smoke. Hard 8 is different from most barbecue places, as you first start outside in a covered area with a handful of open pit smokers packed full of all of their barbecue selections. You make your selection and then move inside further down the line where you can pick up some sides before finding a seat in their open dining room. Don’t worry about not seeing beans as a side dish. You’ll find kettles of beans in the dining room, and feel free to go back for seconds or thirds on beans (just don’t be surprised if your friends move away from you after your second bowl).

For my introduction to the Hard 8, I mulled over the vast menu for a minute or two before deciding on pork ribs and some brisket. For my sides I had some jalapeno cream corn, and some coleslaw. After making a stop at the bean station I found a seat at one of the long tables with attached stools. When the restaurant is crowded don’t be surprised to find your self sitting next to, across from, or in close proximity to someone you’ve never met before. It’s a salute back to some older barbecue places, with rows and rows of tables where you don’t know who you’ll meet there.

I was excited with anticipation as I looked at the tray before me with some good looking barbecue on it. The ribs had a nice spice encrusted bark on them, with a very nice looking smoke ring just under the bark. The brisket looked just as nice. After a bite of both, I must say, I was a little disappointed. The meat had some nice smoke flavor to it, but it didn’t live up to all the hype I had been fed by so many people, and was quite a bit on the dry side. Neither the ribs or brisket was anything spectacular. Honestly, my side dishes were the highlight of the meal. The jalapeno cream corn had the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, while the beans were indeed some of the best I’ve had.

I left the Hard 8 feeling as though the barbecue could have indeed been better. Perhaps some day I’ll find myself back in the Hard 8, and maybe that day it’ll be a better barbecue experience, but for now I can definitely name some places that have much better barbecue nearby.

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