As a born and bred Texas girl, most barbecue joints fall short on the “impress me” scale. I have been in my fair share of restaurants that serve up their version of the “best barbecue in Texas.” Please. There is nothing worse than biting into a rib or piece of brisket that is full of fat, served with dried-out veggie sides that have seen better days or sweet things masquerading as desserts. But, thank goodness, my search for a local, down-home, hits-the-spot-every-time barbecue joint has ended. All bets lead to Hard Eight BBQ in The Colony. It is by far the best barbecue experience I have ever had, from beginning to end. Put your money down here and you will come out a winner, every time!
Hard Eight BBQ is a family-owned and operated business that opened its first restaurant in Stephenville, Texas, in 2003. The idea of bringing mesquite-smoked barbecue was started by the late Phillip Nivens and his wife Vicki, along with his son-in-law, Chad Decker, and his wife, Carie. The Texas Hill Country style of cooking (direct heat cooking) took off. After opening two more locations in Coppell and Roanoke, their fourth and newest addition recently opened in The Colony. This location is on State Highway 121, in the Nebraska Furniture Mart complex, so it is in a cannot-miss, easy-to-access spot. I recently visited this Hard Eight BBQ for the first time. Needless to say, it will not be my last dining experience with them!
Upon walking in the establishment, I was visually pleased with what I saw. Growing up in east Texas, I am accustomed to a down-home, unpretentious atmosphere, and I was not disappointed. Huge, black pits stationed around the entry were billowing with smoke. I took this as the first good sign. There are not only a few of these pits … there are eight! That means options are plenty. All of the meats are cooked on the pits using fresh mesquite wood. Your sense of smell is piqued as the aroma wafting out of the barbecue pits serves only as a prelude of wonderful things to come. Heaping mounds of perfectly prepared meats await a new home on your tray. As you walk the line bordering the pits, you simply tell the pit master what you would like. Three ribs, a couple of slices of brisket and a piece of sausage sounded good to me right about then. Your choices are placed on a tray and weighed. If you are with family or friends, it is also fun to choose a selection of different items to share. They are simply piled on a tray for you take to your seat and enjoy.
From brisket and pork ribs to turkey and regular or jalapeno sausage, all of the classics are present and accounted for. If that does not provide enough choices for you, the pits are full other yummy protein, like ham, sirloin, chicken and shrimp poppers, chicken and sirloin kabobs, half chickens, two-inch thick pork chops and their famous prime rib. Really! They even offer a hand-cut, 16-inch ribeye with onions, cooked to order, just the way you like it. They are not playin’ here, folks. This is serious eatin’!
Also available from the pit are corn on the cob and baked potatoes … stuffed with brisket, turkey, sausage or ham, or plain. Nestled alongside all of the meats in the pits, the corn and potatoes have a place to stay warm, while being infused with smoky flavors. There can only be one word that describes this: yummy. Once you load up with the pit offerings, take your tray and enter inside, where you will find all of the other usual suspects, including barbecue sauce, pinto beans, potato salad, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, onion rings, Hard Eight’s famous fries, salad, fruit and chips. For drinks, you can enjoy sweet tea (a true Texas staple), unsweet tea, sodas, beer, wine or a margarita. For dessert, you know you have stumbled onto something special when multiple cobblers (peach, apple, cherry and blackberry) and a variety of pies are offered, along with cheesecake, pecan pie and Oreo mudpie. But, who am I kidding? They had me at “peach.” The cobbler had hints of mama’s home cooking and was a great choice for the final piece of my meal
The dining area offers more Texas comfort. It is very large and open, with spaces accentuated with several table-dining options. For larger families or groups of friends, you can saddle up to family-style picnic tables. For smaller groups, there are tables for four, and if you are looking for a more intimate setting, you can find tables for two. You might even get to share a table with strangers. It is family style in Texas, so that means strangers are just friends waiting to happen. Pull up a chair. No one will mind. Whatever seating arrangement you are looking for, the option is there. The comfortable atmosphere allows you to enjoy your food and engage with your company in a relaxed setting. If you are alone or with a crowd interested in watching the latest sporting event, many big-screen televisions are located around the room for easy viewing. And, of course, there is a centrally-located bar, complete with comfy chairs that entice you sit down and stay a while.
Once you find your perfect place to land, everything you need is right there. Each table is provided with all the necessities like paper towels, salt and pepper. Plenty of flatware is available, but hey, we are in Texas … eating barbecue. So pretty much, the only utensils diners need are fingers. No judgments. It is that good. An added bonus was the visit we had by the table busser. He identified himself as “Bob the Busser,” and he chatted with us for a few minutes. He was genuine and shared funny stories. Another positive layer was added to our overall experience by his friendly Texan disposition.
A large covered patio area offers additional seating and room to stretch out outside. Plus, if you are there on Friday or Saturday night, you will be treated to live music. (If you or your band are interested in playing on the patio, give the team a buzz. They will try to get you on the schedule)! The patio is designed with garage door style windows that are easy to open and close. When open, it adds an extra element, bringing the outdoors in. Enjoying your barbecue and listening to music with your toes tapping makes for a pretty relaxing evening.
If you do not have time to sit a spell, you can always take your order to-go. The pit masters are skillful in helping you get what you need in a timely fashion. The location makes it an easy drive from just about anywhere to get lunch during the week. Many local businesses turn to Hard Eight BBQ for their catering needs. Catering is a big part of their business and serving working men and women in their place of work is something this crew is dedicated to. They offer full-service and custom catering, perfect for weddings, corporate events and parties. They also provide lunch and dinner deliveries just right for small groups, families and corporate lunches.
Hard Eight BBQ, located at 5300 State Highway 121, in The Colony, offers a one-of-a-kind eating and dining experience. If you want quality meats, cooked to perfection over smoky mesquite, this is the place for you. The rustic atmosphere is comfortable and inviting. The authentic food and the pit cooking and serving approach are unique aspects that fans have fallen in love with. This is definitely a place where all of your senses are stimulated. You can also visit hardeightbbq.com to purchase meats, seasonings, sauces and more!