Where to find it: 201 E. Hattie St. The buzz over Panther City BBQ grew significantly after Texas Monthly’s BBQ Snob, Daniel Wright, paid the food truck a visit. He especially raved about Panther City’s Pork Belly Poppers — a jalapeño stuffed with cream cheese and a pork belly burnt end.
There is a new trend in BBQ. You find a unique individual that truly knows what they are doing and that person starts a food truck or a very simple joint. It is endearing to see the simplicity of the BBQ restaurant because a bbq restaurant doesn’t need much. Then everyone experiences how great the not overly done BBQ is and takes a break from the over complicated part of life. Then EVERYONE discovers the BBQ join and people know its great because you cant get any food unless you wait in line for over an hour. Panther City BBQ is on its way to elite status within Fort Worth.
Fort Worth is slowly growing its BBQ scene to be able to compete with the rest of Texas. Texas requires a lot of intense smoke at a low and slow temperature in order to achieve the peak bark and tenderness. Heim currently has the top spot in Fort Worth but is honestly in a league of its own until Panther City BBQ has pulled up to the scene. Its pulled up to the scene because they operate out of a food truck. I am an expecting father so I am working on my dad joke level puns :).
I had the pleasure of trying this place out with one of my best friends. He told me that I had to give it a try so I trusted my buddies judgement. I pull up to the location and I am immediately struck with a case of deja vu. Panther City BBQ is located off the side of Republic Street Bar. This is a location that is very familiar to the current BBQ king of Fort Worth. I remember one of the last weekends of Heim being a food truck, I waited for three hours outside of Republic Street Bar to get some BBQ for them to run out of food. It was a great day….
But I pursued on following my buddy! We walked up and he distracted me from my failed memory with some incredible news in his own life and we ordered the cowtown platter to try the brisket, sausage, and pulled pork. I should also state that I specifically asked for the edge piece of brisket so that I could truly experience the spice and bark that they get on their brisket and holy hot damn. IT WAS GOOOOOOOD.
They don’t seem to over complicate the rub for the brisket. There is a healthy dose of salt and fresh cracked black pepper coating the entire outside of the brisket. That combined with the post oak wood truly just spoke to my heart. Post oak wood should honestly be considered Texas royalty. The official wood of Lockhart TX which has been dubbed the bbq capital of Texas. Panther City utilizes this post oak wood for their smoking and man you can tell. I learned about post oak wood by taking a BBQ tour through Lockhart with my dad. We decided one Sunday to just drive out there and give all of the top three BBQ restaurants a try. To this day it is still one of my all time favorite memories with my dad. The high heat of the post oak creates a steady smoke and temperature to break down the brisket to become incredibly tender.
In addition, this post oak did one hell of a number on the pulled pork. I was not expecting to like that nearly as much as I did. The sausage was definitely an above average sausage but thanks to the overwhelming quality of the brisket and the pulled pork was overshadowed. Our plate came with two sides which we tried the creamed corn and smoke mac and cheese. The smoked mac and cheese was great. You could taste the smokiness from the BBQ going into it. The creamed corn is also just a weakness of mine. I was so happy to see it on the menu. Panther City BBQ seemed to just keep it simple but also jazz it up slightly. The creamed corn seemed to have a sort of cotija cheese that was included with it that really elevated it beyond just the traditional recipe.
In addition to the sides, the meat came with sides of pickles, jalapenos, and pickled onions. I know that all of these traditionally go with Texas BBQ but I have never really had too much of a taste for them. That is until today. The pickled onions were incredible and gave phenomenal depth to the flavor profile in the edge pieces of brisket. The vinegar broke through the smokiness to create a flavor profile that I will be thinking about for days to come.
All of this incredible flavor and experience without a line! Granted I think that my experience is a little out of the ordinary, but it was still my experience! All I can say is that Heim has some serious competition and I dont see Panther City BBQ lasting too long out of a food truck alone. This BBQ is INCREDIBLE and needs to be experience by as much of Fort Worth as possible. So there you have it Fort Worth! Get out there and eat it!’
Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Magallanes and Ernest Morales.
Chris and Ernest, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far. We started doing competition BBQ and slowly built requests for catering and pop events via word of mouth. The requests became more frequent to the point we both had to take a lot of time off of our regular day jobs. In January, a fixed location for our food truck became available and we had to make a decision to either keep doing the weekend gig, or go full time BBQ. Full time BBQ it was.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? It was a slow start. We knew starting a food truck in January would be tough, but we were determined to stick it out and ride through until warmer weather.
Panther City BBQ – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition? We specialize in central Texas style BBQ. We are known for our slow smoked meats as well as twists on traditional BBQ. We are most proud of the time and effort we put into the food we put out. A typical day is 17-18 hours long. I feel the traditional cook of all wood on an offset pit sets us apart from most local BBQ companies who use gas fired pits.
What is “success” or “successful” for you? I think success in our industry is defined by the smiles we put on the faces of hungry customers. There is no better feeling than when someone approaches our food truck after a meal to tell us” you guys knocked it out of the park.” This isn’t a get rich business, but if we can pay our bills and put smiles on faces, then we have succeeded.
You’re only three steps out of the car when the smell of barbecue smoke hits your nose at Panther City BBQ — possibly fewer, depending on where you park. It’s the olfactory signal that lets you know you’re in the right place.
Barbecue fans familiar with this side of DFW will recognize the location immediately; Heim Barbecue got its start in similar fashion on this very spot, selling meats out of a trailer next to the Republic Street Bar, which led to its permanent spot less than a mile away. Panther City BBQ has been smoking meats since 2014 but only started serving at this spot in January, after another barbecue purveyor called it quits.
Panther City’s selection of barbecued meats is as ambitious as any brick-and-mortar shop. There’s brisket, pulled pork, spare ribs and two kinds of sausage, as you’d expect. But you’ll also find smoked turkey breast, smoked bologna and, as a nod to Heim, pork belly burnt ends. All that meat is smoked with post oak and hickory in two smokers sitting just behind the trailer.
EPanther City’s barbecue basics are some of the best in Fort Worth.Chris Wolfgang
SHOW ME HOW
The benefits of serving out of a food truck are obvious to new restaurateurs; not needing to worry about a full building and the obligations that come with it are a boon to the bottom line. That fiscal bonus translates to the menu at Panther City, where the per-pound prices for meats seem be a dollar or two less than what we’re used to. And on our three-meat plate of brisket, spare ribs and jalapeño-cheddar sausage, along with a side of macaroni and cheese and borracho beans, we were struck by the amount of food we got for just $16. In fact, it may be the barbecue bargain of the year.
Better yet, our $16 bought us some top-notch barbecue. Two generous slices of lean brisket sported a smoke ring that would be the envy of any backyard pit boss, as well as a nicely rendered fat cap pebbled with a peppery bark. The brisket was perhaps a touch light on smokiness but was juicier than any slice of lean brisket has any right to be.
Equally delicious was the sausage, with a thick casing that had wilted under the smoke but held in copious amounts of ground meat, jalapeños and cheese morsels. Rounding out our trio of meats, the massive spare rib had lots of tender meat on the bone, and we picked up bits of sweetness in the spicy rub.
For $16, Panther City’s three-meat tray may be the barbecue bargain of the year.Chris Wolfgang
The macaroni and cheese held true to promise, and we thought the borracho beans, in their thin and spicy broth, were a unique choice. The other side options are a red-skin potato salad and creamed corn, and banana pudding is the sole dessert choice.
We hoped to try more of Panther City’s offerings; in addition to the pork belly burnt ends, there was a pork belly jalapeño popper and brisket elotes as a special on the day we visited. But honestly, we were too stuffed from the three-meat combo to order any more food.
The only curiosity about Panther City BBQ is the lack of a crowd. Don’t get us wrong — not having to wait in the summer heat for barbecue this good is a bonus in our books, but it was somewhat surprising to see only three other sales made in the hour of our visit. Judging by Panther City’s Facebook feed, selling out seems to happen regularly, so perhaps we were fortunate to miss the crowds with our Saturday visit just as the truck opened for the day.
By comparison, we drove by Heim after we left, and a modest queue of patrons had already spilled out on the sidewalk. The draw of air conditioning can’t be overstated in Texas, but if the line at Heim ever deters you, you can do much worse than to skip over to Panther City’s food truck to fill your barbecue fix.
It would be too easy, not to mention unfair, to compare Panther City BBQ to Heim Barbecue & Catering. The former truck/trailer has set up shop on the patio of Republic Street Bar (201 E Hattie St, 817-615-9360), the same humble locale where the Heim juggernaut first took root and became a critical –– and commercial –– darling.
Panther City is no doubt hoping Emma and Travis Heim left some of their mojo on Republic’s spacious two-tiered patio, which is appointed with several picnic-style tables and benches and a modest stage for live music. I didn’t ask the PCB folks if they have the Heim-like ambition to start a (soon to be) sprawling ’cue empire, grace Texas Monthly’s Top 50 Barbecue list, and have seemingly permanent hour-long waits at their storefront. But who wouldn’t want to be that successful?
OK. OK. I told myself I wouldn’t write a column about Heim. Focus, Chow, Baby. And go …
On a recent cold weekday lunch, my guest and I gorged on a royal banquet of meats and sides at Panther City – the weather chased us inside the cozy environs of Republic, where we were forced to day drink. There was a modest line and wait, but it was nothing compared to the lines when Heim first got going. And PCB’s portions are right on level with … Damnit. Stop it, CB.
If you’re looking to really get to know Panther City in one visit, try the Cowtown Platter ($25), a dump-truck’s worth of snappy, spicy jalapeño sausage, a lush dune of chopped beef, and two beautiful-looking thick slabs of brisket (which were overcooked when I was there), all served alongside rich, spicy mac ’n’ cheese, creamy potato salad, marinated onions, sliced pickles, and wheels of jalapeño. The plate can easily feed two.
The mobile kitchen had sold out of burnt bacon ends, which is one of my favs at Heim. (Shit! Sorry.) So the nice guy taking orders offered me tender slices of perfectly smoky and moist turkey ($16 a pound) instead.
Lunch specials started at $5 on the day I visited, and those portions looked beyond ample. You won’t find many lunch bargains for that price, well, anywhere.