Where in San José’s restaurant scene can you find a “Don’t Mess with Texas” bumper sticker in the window and country music wafting from the speakers?
A little restaurant with big flavor, Texas BBQ Company in Sabana Sur offers authentic dishes and ingredients straight from the LoneStarState. This unassuming locale is one of the few places in Costa Rica where you can find genuine Texas-style barbecue ribs, tender brisket, chicken, sausage, traditional sides such as coleslaw and potato salad, and peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
The small, charming restaurant is done up with wooden tables, red-andwhite decor and a black-and-white poster of John Wayne. It started as the dream of a U.S. citizen and a Costa Rican who were unsatisfied with the variety of food in the capital. Business partners Cody Christensen and Juan Carlos Ortiz opened Texas BBQ Co. in December, bringing true barbecue technique and a few secret recipes to their western San José location.
San José-born Ortiz lived for two years in Austin, Texas, where he worked at Branch BBQ restaurant and learned the tricks of the trade.
“I fell in love with the sausage and the brisket because it’s something we don’t have here,” Ortiz said. “I learned to do barbecue, salads and sauces, and how to truly smoke meat.”
Ortiz personally slow-cooks all of the meat using a pit and electric smoker. The brisket and ribs, for example, take eight hours to cook. Burning coffee wood in addition to the traditional oak gives the smoked meats a Tico twist, he says. Texas BBQ’s special sauces are made with original U.S.-imported ingredients, including chili powder and celery seeds that are hard to come by in Costa Rica.
I tried a sampler plate with barbecue chicken, brisket, two kinds of ribs, sausage and sides. Though the mashed potatoes and sausage could have been better, I was beyond satisfied with the chicken, brisket and ribs. More than any other dish, I recommend the chopped brisket sandwich with pickles and a side of potato salad for ¢1,500 ($2.70), including lemonade or iced tea and one side.
Serving a diverse clientele, the restaurant draws about 70 percent foreigners, mostly from the United States, and 30 percent Ticos, according to Ortiz.
To really judge the caliber of the restaurant, I brought along some Texan students studying abroad in Costa Rica for a taste test. Whitney Workman of El Campo, Texas, said, “My town is known for its barbecue, and (Texas BBQ) is one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Comparing it to barbecue back home, on a scale of one to 10, Billy Brubaker of Tyler, Texas, gave Texas BBQ a nine. “I didn’t think it would be near as good as it was. They did a very good job making it taste just like it does in Texas,” he said.
Ortiz, who manages the restaurant almost every day of the week, is fluent in English and Spanish. His bona fide barbecue mastery and friendly nature make patrons feel at home in his little patch of Texas, where “sauce is boss,” he says.
In addition to lunch and early dinners, Texas BBQ provides catering for special events, business meetings, parties and a surprising number of baby showers. The reasonably priced family packs and combos are perfect for takeout and picnics in nearby La Sabana Park.
Texas BBQ Company
Location: South side of La Sabana Park, 150 meters south of the Comptroller General’s Office.
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact info: 2231-0025, www.crbbq.com