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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Durango Grill’s Texas-Style Barbecue

Old World Third Street’s newest addition

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Old World Third Street, just a short distance from the Bradley Center, is one of the city’s most popular spots for drinking and dining. Usinger’s and Mader’s number among the veterans, but the street continues to change. The newest arrival is the Durango Grill, which replaces the short-lived Capone’s Grotto.

Durango Grill’s interior remains much the same, with a front barroom and a side dining room. Photographs and paintings of the Southwest have replaced Capone’s mobster photographs. A skull of a Texas longhorn completes the motif.

Andrew Jepsen, winner of many awards for his barbecue cooking, has created a menu that is geared toward casual diners who enjoy the flavors of Texas.

First-time visitors would do well to order one of the sampler platters. The Amarillo sampler ($14.95) easily serves two with a few ribs, chicken wings, two sliders and two side items. The barbecued meats have a distinctive, smoky flavor. The chicken wings come with a delicious sauce that has plenty of heat and the large, meaty ribs arrive in a milder, sweeter sauce—all of which makes for good eating. The two sliders are of pulled pork and beef brisket. The pork comes with a sweet and tangy sauce, so a dash of hot sauce does not hurt. The slices of brisket are rich and smoky; not a lot of meat is needed. The larger San Antonio sampler ($19.95), recommended for four people, adds Texas torpedoes to the mix. The torpedoes are whole pickled jalapeños filled with Chihuahua cheese and wrapped with bacon. They also can be ordered on their own ($8.95) and include tortilla chips, pico de gallo, sour cream and wedges of lime. The torpedoes have a lot of spicy kick, but pickled jalapeños and bacon make for odd bedfellows. The commercial tortilla chips are ordinary, but the pico de gallo is good.

Besides barbecue, the other specialty that is taken very seriously here is chili. The Texas red chili ($4.95-$9.95) is made the proper way, with no beans. It is very meaty, soothingly spiced and topped with grated cheese. The Colorado con carne ($4.95-$8.95) replaces the beef with slow-cooked pork in a green chile sauce. Be warned that even the smaller serving is very filling. Although the Colorado is perfectly good, the Texas red wins this chili cook-off.

The remainder of the food menu consists of burgers and sandwiches, except for barbecue ribs that are served as a one-third rack ($10.95) or a double portion ($16.95). The smaller version offers four ribs in a dark sauce that is not too sweet. The meat sticks to the bone (a good thing!). In fact, these are some of the best ribs to be found locally.

The pulled pork and beef brisket are sold as a trio of sliders ($7.95) or as larger sandwiches ($7.95-$8.95). The beef is more distinctive than the pork. The smoky blues ($8.95) is pulled pork topped with a sweet, creamy coleslaw with bits of blue cheese. This is the way pulled pork sandwiches are made in the Carolinas.

The burgers are big—a full half-pound of ground beef. The Silverton burger ($10.95) is topped with sautéed onions, sweet red peppers and quite a few jalapeños. Lettuce, tomato and red onion come on the side. Even the bun is spicy, as it’s made with jalapeño cheddar cheese.

Sandwiches include one side item, while the ribs get two. Onion strings are thin and crisp in a light batter—a sound choice for a burger. The mac ’n’ cheese is actually penne pasta enlivened by Southwest seasoning, a perky cousin of chili powder. The seasoning is also found on the tasty fries. The ribs call for a side of cowboy beans, a blend of five beans with bacon bits and onions seasoned Texas-style.

Specialty drinks make up the final items on the menu. The spiciest ones are made with habanero-infused tequila. The bar is a destination in itself, smaller and more intimate than the larger establishments nearby. Grab a seat, order some Durango wings and finish them off with an ice-cold beer. This is the place to enjoy some good barbecue.n

Durango Grill

1007 N. Old World Third St.

(414) 312-7988

$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Smoking: After 10 p.m.

Handicap Access: Yes