Whether you are a Texas native or you got here as fast as you could, you know that barbecue is a way of life here in these parts, and Texans do not mess around when it comes to good food!
Frisco is home to restaurants of all kinds, so when one of its newest restaurants, a family-owned Texas pit barbecue restaurant, Tender Smokehouse, opened its doors, it made a name for itself almost as fast as folks could get there to try the food.
With a focus on quality meats, excellent service and a fun atmosphere for the entire family, Tender lives up to its name by offering some of the best barbecue around. Tender initially opened in Celina before opening another location here in Frisco. The pit master and owner, Dante Ramirez, offers customers handcrafted Texas barbecue, in addition to other tried and true favorites, along with friendly service in a laid-back atmosphere.
For me, dining out is as much about the atmosphere and experience as it is the food, and Tender hit both nails on the head the evening my friend Katie and I visited. Tender is located just off of Preston Road, set back behind Hooters, in the former location of 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House. The black smoke stacks that say “God Bless BBQ” standing tall from the roof serve as a beacon for the food that awaits patrons. The restaurant has a spacious, dog-friendly patio on the front of the building, complete with fans and picnic tables under a pergola that provides shade for those that want to enjoy some fresh air. Edison bulb string lights transport diners to a simple country-like setting. Even before we walked up to the front doors, we could smell the amazing aromas that generally accompany good barbecue.
We were met with the warm, inviting smiles of employees at the front desk who directed us to the counter to the left to order (or to take to-go orders and help in any other way). While many barbecue restaurant atmospheres go all-in on the stereotypical western décor, Tender’s atmosphere is inviting, eclectic and even a bit modern. Black industrial ceilings and exposed brick throughout the open space pair with copious amounts of seating choices, from high-top tables and bar seating to over-sized booths, round and rectangle tables and plush, dark leather couches perfect for enjoying a cold beer. Off the main dining room is more seating and a space ideal for large or private parties. Open garage doors pull the main dining room into the space so you never feel like you are away from the action. My favorite part visually was the subtle, modern rustic décor that lends itself to Texas pride (sparsely placed mounted deer heads, a subtle painting of Texas on exposed brick, an antique truck hood and even a few mounted fish) and the huge red industrial fan on the ceiling that adds a pop of color to the main dining area. Large televisions are strategically placed throughout the restaurant and the bar boasts a vast selection of Texas-brewed beers, as well as a few domestic selections.
We made our way to the left of the restaurant, per the employee’s directions and the direction spot on the floor that had arrows pointing towards the line. We were greeted by another energetic employee and we told her it was our first time, so we were not familiar with the menu. She let us know we would order at the counter, receive a number, grab soft drinks or water (alcoholic beverages can be purchased at the bar) choose a seat and our food would be brought out to us. The menu stands tall behind the counter on a hand-written chalkboard. Tender offers all of the barbecue favorites when it comes to meat and can be ordered in ¼-pound, ½-pound or one-pound portions, or as a sandwich and includes prime brisket, pulled pork, sausage (original or jalapeño) or turkey breast. They also offer half and full slabs of spare ribs, as well as baked and sweet potatoes that can be ordered loaded with meat! The menu “specials” include Big Beef Ribs, “El Jefe,” a sandwich with stacks of meat topped with Tender’s beans and garnished with a spare rib, the “Sledgehammer,” which is prime brisket and sausage hammered together with two buttery pieces of Texas toast and even Frito chili pie. Tender does not leave the little ones out! The kid’s menu includes grilled cheese, a chopped sandwich and a turkey sandwich that comes with a side and a drink.
Fully knowing I would not finish even half of it, I, admittedly, went a little crazy and just knew I needed to try a few different things. I ordered ¼-pound of prime brisket, ¼-pound of the original and ¼-pound turkey breast, as well as the beans and potato salad. Katie opted for ¼-pound turkey breast, the pineapple slaw and mac and cheese. Neither of us can pass up a baked potato, so we opted to split half of a made-to-order baked potato as well. No dinner is done right unless there is dessert, so we added an order of their banana pudding, too! The cashier rang us up and gave us our cups for drinks. We made our way over to the drink station that offers sweet and unsweet tea, soft drinks and water. The wall behind the drink station boasts huge silver decorative tiles giving the area a touch of sophistication.
We chose a high-top table in the bar where we sat our order number tent. Our table pick allowed us to really take in the entire restaurant and enjoy the bar area, as well. The bar has a vast selection of Texas beers, many of which are local to Dallas/Fort Worth, on tap and ready to be served up ice cold in both short and tall mason jars. There were some beers we had never heard of that we were interested in. The personable bar tender was happy to allow us to try a couple in the cutest, tiniest mason jars. The beer menu is above the bar and lists them all out, including where they originate from … a detail I really loved.
Before our food arrived, an employee dropped off a bottle of Tender’s house-made barbecue sauce. Soon, the aromas came to life as our orders were delivered. We had so much food! Tender’s orders are served on metal trays with natural-colored parchment paper lining the bottom. Each order comes with raw white onions, sweet pickle slices and a piece of halved and buttered Texas toast. We grabbed the barbecue sauce and dug in!
The prime brisket might just be the reason Mr. Ramirez named the restaurant “Tender.” I will be honest … I cannot wait to go again to have more! It was incredibly tender and so flavorful. The sweet sauce gave it an extra depth of flavor and accentuated it perfectly. The turkey breast was perfectly moist and the flavor rub permeated the meat in the best kind of way, while the smoked sausage was perfectly cooked and tender.
The sides were all phenomenal. My favorite ended up being the mac and cheese (how could it not be), as it was wonderfully cheesy, velvety and just plain good! The beans were interesting, to say the least, as it took me a second to wrap my head around the flavors, but they were so delicious. They are sweet, tangy, tender and so unique! The manager told us the sauce of the beans is actually their barbecue sauce. So, the beans are not to be missed. The pineapple slaw was another unique item I was excited to try. It was sweet and the small chunks of pineapple were the perfect addition. The potato salad had great flavor and was topped with diced green onions, which added a good subtle crunch to a few bites, while the baked potato was perfectly cooked and everything we wanted. We enjoyed the Texas toast, white onions and pickles that came with our orders, as they each added their own pop of flavor to the dishes throughout the meal.
I am not a big banana pudding fan (blasphemy, I know), so Katie was happy to have it to herself. It came in a small cup with a Nilla wafer placed atop the order of creamy, decadent pudding with additional cookies buried on the bottom.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Tender and will be thinking about the food until we can make it back. The food was amazing and the atmosphere wonderfully thought out and orchestrated. We loved the interactions we had with all the staff members we encountered. From the first smile to the bubbly cashier and manager who took the time to stop by our table during our meal, it is very easy to see how much pride employees take in welcoming customers and ensuring they have a phenomenal experience.
Tender, located at 4226 Preston Road, prides itself on simplicity, good food and good people, and they are killing the game in all three respects. Go to tendersmokehousebbq.com to check out a menu before you visit!
Frisco STYLE Magazine dining reviews are not scheduled with or paid for by the featured restaurant. All reviews are completed for the purpose of helping readers know and enjoy local dining options.