A beloved barbecue restaurant in northeast Tarrant has opened a second location in an unlikely spot: a shopping mall food court.
Called Berry Best BBQ, the restaurant opened on June 13 at North East Mall at 1101 Melbourne Rd. in Hurst. But it's no run-of-the-mill mall-food eatery. Owner John Berry has already made a name for himself in local and regional barbecue circles, impressing even BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn.
Berry says that the mall sought him out.
"They really wanted me to go in there," he says. "At first, I didn't know what to think about it. But people at the mall eat, and people like barbecue, so why not?"
Berry says North East Mall management caught wind of his food at an event he was catering. "They went nuts over it," he says. "And since then, they’ve been talking to me opening a location there. Eventually they came to me with a great offer."
This is Berry Best's second location. The original store opened two years ago in a tiny building in Watauga — so tiny, there's no seating; there's a walk-up counter and a drive-thru window.
The menu at the new location is similar to the Watauga menu. There’s brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken, and bologna, all smoked over pecan. Berry adheres to the low-and-slow cooking method, smoking meats for hours in a custom-made steel smoker.
But unlike pitmasters who specialize in Central Texas-style barbecue, Berry freely uses barbecue sauce, which he makes himself. "My style is more East Texas style, with my own twist," he says.
All the meats share a common trait: a slightly spicy seven-blend seasoning that the Oak Cliff native says took years to perfect.
Meats are served by the plate or pound, or in sandwiches. They're also used as toppings for huge baked potatoes.
Sides are made in-house by Berry and his wife, Brandi, and they're not the same-old same-old. Collard greens go on the smoker, as does the mac and cheese. Their most popular side are baked beans, which Berry tricks out with rub-seasoned ground beef.
Berry says that, for them, the sides are equally as important as the meat. "We spend just as much time working on the sides as we do the main dishes, and it shows," he says. "There are people who come in and just want the beans."
The North East Mall menu will offer a handful of items not available at the Watauga location, including a chopped or sliced brisket sandwich topped with sauce and cole slaw.
A former construction worker, Berry got his start in the barbecue 'biz after he catered a 2016 Super Bowl party at his church. Someone made a pun that stuck: "'These are the Berry best beans I’ve ever had,'" Berry recounts. Soon after, he turned his part-time hobby into a full-time job, opening a food truck in the Keller area. After he gained enough confidence — and followers — he opened the store in Watauga, which frequently draws long lines.
His first day at the mall started with a bang.
"We were busy all day," Berry says. "I actually ran out of food. In the barbecue business, that's a good thing."
The new restaurant will celebrate its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting and party at 4 pm July 10. It is open to the public.