A visit to The Swinging Door truly feels like a brief sojourn to another era.
The Richmond institution has been serving its classic smoked meats in a rustic farmhouse setting since 1973, when it was founded by Steve Onstad and his father Ward Onstad.
In nearly 50 years, this old-school barbecue joint has hosted some of Houston’s finest, including Earl Campbell and other members of the Houston Oilers. The ABC “Monday Night Football” crew of Don Meredith, Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford from 1970-1983 also made several visits to The Swinging Door during trips to call Oilers games.
The hearty scent of pecan smoke and the sound of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of The Bay” and Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” set the tone for a throwback to a more relaxed time and place just as much as the drive there, through open Texas skies and bales of hay spaced out neatly on fields along Farm to Market Road 359.
I heartily endorse the sentiment of one of the house rules on the menu, which proclaims “if you start a jalapeño, you must finish it!”
The first thing your server will bring to your table, no matter what you order, is a plate of jalapeños, onions and pickles. That will be followed shortly by a plate of bread and a cup of The Swinging Door’s house barbecue sauce.
Choose from regular (one meat, two sides for $15.95) combo (two meats, two sides for $16.95) or super (three meats, two sides $19.95).
I went with the combo, which is probably the best way to get the most bang for your buck.
Choose from pinto beans, potato salad, chips, green beans, cole slaw or dirty rice as your sides. I went with the latter two. The dirty rice has delicious chunks of ground beef and Cajun spices.
Your meat options are beef brisket, pork ribs, chicken, sausage and turkey breast “slowly smoked with aged pecan” according to the menu.
The brisket bark packed plenty of seasoning and a smoky punch, as did the turkey breast. I prefer a leaner cut brisket and moist, juicy turkey and that’s exactly what I got from The Swinging Door.
The Swinging Door
Address: 3818 FM 359, Richmond
Dining Options: Dine-in, curbside pickup
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday- Sunday
Entrée prices: $7.95-$19.95
Senior discount: No
Healthy options: None
Star of the show: Brisket
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars