Texas Food with a Twist at FM Smokehouse in Irving

Think beyond BBQ at this "Gastro-Tex" restaurant.
FM Smokehouse

Chicken Fried Steak at FM Smokehouse in Irving, Texas.

Brian Rudolph calls what he and his wife are doing at FM Smokehouse “Gastro-Tex,” a play on the gastro pub phenomenon. I only have one word for it - good. OK, maybe two words. Damn good.

“Classic dishes gone quirky,” is what Rudolph calls the FM Smokehouse menu. “We take traditional, local food and build it up right in a casual atmosphere with a good beverage program.”

It’s a really good beverage program actually. They have the largest whiskey collection in Las Colinas, including sixteen Texas whiskeys, and they have the best beer selection in a ten mile radius. FM Smokehouse has forty-two beers on draft. Twenty-eight of those are from Texas.

As for the menu, well, Rudolph prides himself on the fact that everything is made in house except for the Challah burger buns. They even grind the meat for their burgers (90% sirloin, 10% pork fat). “I’m not a fan of Solent pink,” teases Rudoph. “I want to know what's in my food. We're for people who want to be adventurous with their food but also who want to know what’s in it.” Their tortillas and empanadas are made in-house, from the very same dough in fact. Even the ice cream for their desserts is homemade.

When FM Smokehouse first opened, Rudolph and his wife began by focusing just on BBQ. “But Texas cuisine is so much more,” Rudolph says. All of the food is influenced by smoke and Texas, and some benefits from Mexican influences as well. Most importantly though, everything is done with some sort of creative twist, including the fact that many of the sauces are made with beer. Rudolph says he likes to deconstruct dishes and then reconstruct them just right.

Appetizer menu highlights include the Cabrito Street Taco-ettes, three smoked goat meat tacos with cilantro and crumbled queso fresca on housemade half corn/half flour tortillas; Wild Boar Empanadas, two empanadas stuffed with smoked boar, roasted pepper; and cheese served with a (512) Pecan Porter reduction with tomato relish.

If you’re thinking, “too gamey for me,” think again. Neither were gamey and both were tender and delicious.

As for entrees, the BBQ Trinity Plate is an excellent bet with sliced brisket smoked with spicy BBQ sauce, smoked pulled pork with southern mustard sauce, and homemade, spicy sausage with honey bourbon sauce, served with tri-color cole slaw, and Santos borracho beans.

The meats were flavorful and melty, and the companion sauces were spot on. It was fun to have a different dip for each meat, which were paired so perfectly as to really change the flavor of the meat itself.

But the real star on the menu is the Chicken Fried Steak. Before you turn up your nose, hear me out. FM Smokehouse’s version is prime rib smoked rare, battered and fried and served with bacon mashed potatoes and white pepper gravy. It’s not an exaggeration to say I gasped when I tried it.

No dried out, hammered flat, cheap piece of meat fried to death to cover the lack of taste and texture. Instead, it was a ridiculously tasty cut of meat in a crisp, yummy crust with a rich, seasoned gravy on top. Heavenly.  

The Smoked Brussels Sprouts in IPA Sauce from the side’s menu are also not to be missed. They were tart and citrusy and super tender, the way Brussels sprouts should be.

Regardless of what you have to eat at FM Smokehouse, be sure to leave room for dessert, particularly the Croissant and buttermilk biscuit pudding topped with candied pecans and Whiskey sauce and (512) Pecan Porter Ice Cream. I don’t even like bread pudding, but I sure liked this. The combination of textures and flavors was a lovely treat and a welcome taste after the smoky, spicy, savory seasonings of the meal.

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Rudolph studied engineering when he was in college. So, when he can't find what he wants, like the perfect tortilla or flavor of ice cream, he creates it himself. “Not having a culinary background has helped me because I don't have any preconceived notions,” says Rudolph. “I don't know how to do it ‘right’.” So he has to be creative and figure things out for himself. So far, for diners at FM Smokehouse, he’s been figuring them out deliciously.