The Arlington-Mansfield area has three Jambo’s BBQ Shack restaurants, but only one lives up to the original.
Only the Jambo’s Original on Farm Road 1187 in Rendon, now owned by the Strein family, can truly claim to serve barbecue the way founder and pitbuilder Jamie Geer started.
Two newer Jambo’s locations, one in Arlington and another in Pantego, are known as much for perpetual drama as for barbecue.
In a head-to-head matchup this week, Ashton Stauffer’s West Pioneer Parkway location in Pantego location had better brisket.
But ex-husband Paul Lovato’s West Division Street Arlington location had better pork ribs.
Lovato and Stauffer separated their Jambo’s restaurants March 1, Lovato said.
So the three restaurants have the same name but three different owners, and three very different settings.
The Pioneer Parkway restaurant was half-full at lunchtime one day this week. A sliced barbecue sandwich was notable for the lean, smoky brisket and above-average sweet-hot pickles. But a rib was small and dry.
In the same lunch hour, the Division Street location of Jambo’s. Sliced barbecue had almost no ring and was sliced thin, but it was on a much better toasted and buttered bun and served with what tasted like fresh green beans. A large pork rib at that location lived up to what Jambo’s diners expect.
Neither restaurant seemed to have the spirit or flavor of the original, which was busy later that afternoon with families and groups that had marked Rendon on their map as a BBQ stop.
“It’s all fantastic!” one diner shouted, showing off a rack of thick, meaty ribs twice the size of those in the Pantego and Arlington Jambo’s.
The Rendon location also has a new sandwich: chopped barbecue on white-cheddar mac-and-cheese, the “Waldo.”