If you love proper smokey BBQ, there is only a handful of places that does it right. I got invited to Famous Dave’s new location in Abu Dhabi for a full review and what an experience it was!
They have a wide variety of starters and main courses that could satisfy the most picky customer. I was hungry, haven’t had a decent BBQ in a while and the timing was perfect.
We arrived at Abu Dhabi Mall and could easily find the gorgeous, rustic looking restaurant and couldn’t wait to get in. The staff were extremely excited and energetic, but the restaurant manager was exceptional. He literally, could be Dave himself. We checked, he wasn’t.
The interior was nice but it was a mixed bag of design and ambiance. Plenty of seating options in a variety of lighting conditions. We particularly liked the section with the large windows and outdoors-like lighting.
The manager had come by introduced us to Famous Dave’s told us about the background of the true smokey BBQ style, iconic flavors, signature sauces and recommended dishes for us. He was extremely well informed about the brand and the menu. What a great guy!
He brought us the menu while he went ahead to bring us samples of their signature sauces.
We were seriously lost, but in a good way. We wanted to try everything, but guess what? They have a feast for that! But with a range of steaks, ribs, combos, appetizers, burgers and salads, the feast could barely keep up.
Typical table settings at Famous Dave’s is a bucket and a tray of sauces. I was wondering if the bucket was the typical “Here’s a serving of peanuts while you wait” or if there was more to it. There was.
They have several signature sauces and we couldn’t wait to try them out and within a few minutes he had arrived with a serving of chips for the sauces.
Basically, they have a range of lovely sauces from sweet & zesty (children friendly), standard barbecue, and the more spicy Devil’s spit. It turns out they have another sauce they do not bring out except to order, Dave’s Revenge. I mean, how could we not try that?!
It was very spicy, and would burn your taste buds. So, great to try but if I wanted to enjoy the food, I had to stay clear.. for now.
We started off with their traditional wings with the Texas pit sauce, which was their signature barbecue sauce with a slight kick to it.
The wings were cooked very well, with a nice smokey flavor to it. It was served with celery, carrots and blue-cheese dip. Lovely flavors there, which was a great start of our experience.
We also tried another recommended appetizer, their Burnt Ends. These are tender pieces of Texas beef brisket seared and caramelized with their sweet and zesty barbecue sauce. Mouth watered yet? It was definitely delicious. The beef was a bit chewy and charred just right, while the sauce made it all come together perfectly.
The sides were crispy onion and pickles, which had a slight sweetness to them. We really enjoyed this appetizer and just made us really hungry.
Since we wanted to try out as much of the menu as we could, we got a feast that was upgraded with a few additional meats.
Just look at that picture! Where does one begin?
Let’s start with the boring stuff. There was a side of corn, potato wedges and biscuits. They were nice and the biscuit was a bit sweet, which was all very nice but we couldn’t focus on those longer than 2 seconds.
They love their beef, and it shows. The middle of the feast had three more sides; down-n-dirty rice, which had an interesting flavor to it and had some beef bits, baked beans which had some beef bits and fortunately their creamy coleslaw didn’t have any beef.
Now, let’s get to the meat of it.
We had two types of ribs, the beef back ribs and lamb ribs. These were really delicious. Surely very fatty but the smokiness was spot on, the cook was just perfect and the flavors (coupled with the sauces) made them just right. One of the best ribs I have had from a casual american restaurant.
Moving on to the roasted chicken, it was nice, but nothing to should about. They are all about the beef. It was cooked well and were juicy.
Two more things left! The brisket was really special and definitely a great continuation of our appetizers. The brisket was very smokey and full of flavor, I was actually sad we had only 4 slices. Final thing on the feast was the sliced leg of lamb, which was tender and juicy but lacking a little of flavor for me personally. Perhaps I was spoilt by all the ribs!
It was only after all the meats that we came to appreciate the sides. They were quite nice but nothing really stood out more than the beans. The rice was nice but slightly bland, could do with more seasoning, and the coleslaw was fresh but had a weird flavor to it, not sure what they had used to make it taste a bit funny.
If you think that was it.. it wasn’t!
The manager insisted we try their cedar plank salmon. It was served on a plank of cedar and not just served, but actually smoked with it, so there was an extremely rich aroma and flavor seeping through to the piece of salmon. It was cooked really well, and had a great flavor to it. I am not the biggest sea-food fan, so I cannot judge it spot on but my friend absolutely loved it.
The sides did not match the dish, but it was just for us to try more sides. You are free to order which ever sides you like at Famous Dave’s. The grilled pineapple was nice and the mac-n-cheese was interesting but slightly bland to me, definitely could use some more seasoning.
At this point, we couldn’t breathe, but I was just too curious about their desserts, because it could be a point where they fall short.
Let’s just say, they didn’t fall short. The dessert menu wasn’t mind blowing but they recommended the Famous Dave’s bread pudding.
It was quite nice, soft and with the pecan and praline sauce, it was actually quite a lovely dessert. I particularly liked it because it was not very sweet, almost a savory dessert, which was just fitting with such a meaty meal.
Overall, it was a very good experience at Famous Dave’s. It is a place to go for a very hearty meal, and meat lovers. Keeping in mind that this is a place focused on briskets and ribs, expect to get messy and make good use of that bucket for all the bones. The food is very good, quite on the fatty side but it is expected from this kind of cuisine. The atmosphere, staff, menu and food make it an all-round great restaurant to visit every once in a while for a good change. I don’t think many people can have this kind of food regularly, which is why I think they needed and nailed having variety on their menu.
The service: the staff were all new and excited about serving, although some of them had not fully grasped the menu and there were times when they did not know everything. On the up side, they were always around and happy to help, and we were always no longer than a minute away from being served. The manager was phenomenal and knew this place inside and out! He was the biggest fan of the place, and was extremely friendly and helpful.
The value: It would be hard to sum it all up considering this could vary hugely depending on what is ordered, but overall, I would say it is around the average of this american style restaurant with a check average of around 120 AED.
The Place: 6.5 / 10
The Service: 6.5 / 10
The Food: 7 / 10
Overall: 6.7 / 10
I would recommend giving Famous Dave’s a try as a great alternative to the quite typical american restaurant you would find in malls, and especially if you’re a barbecue and ribs fan.