There is a new restaurant on the Abu Dhabi scene that has been causing quite a stir since opening just a couple of weeks ago. Famous Dave’s Barbecue is a haven for all you carnivores out there and we are talking about copious amount of meats – whether ribs, wings, or brisket be your preference.
We are not generally fans of the in-mall dining experience, but Famous Dave’s is a great exception. As soon as you enter the restaurant, it no longer feels as if you are within the confines of a busy retail destination. Instead you are transported into a butchery in America’s deep South (and for that we are grateful).
The ambiance is strictly slaughterhouse chic. A large free0standing barn fills the middle of the restaurant. This white coloured free-standing structure has open sides and looks like an abstract artwork, made of slatted planks of wood, you half expect a cow or some other farm animal to poke its head through at any moment. This ‘barn’ not only adds a great visual spectacle to the ambiance, but is ideal for breaking up the huge warehouse sized location, thus giving the tables and booths a bit of privacy.
The decor is all wood and red leather upholstery, with hardwood flooring and wooden tables and chairs. The back of the restaurant contains large windows which let a lot of light into an otherwise gloomy space, and provide views down onto the busy streets gf Abu Dhabi’s Tourist Club area.
There is a large bar area and murals emblazon the walls, plus we have exposed brick and piles of logs to further enhance the ‘meat shack theme.’
The Abu Dhabi branch of Famous Dave’s marks the first opening outside of the USA. Famous Dave himself is regarded as one of the most-awarded pitmasters in history and spent over twenty five years searching America for the best BBQ – from the smokehouses of Georgia’s Southern foothills to the huge mesquite pits of Texas. What Dave found, was that the best way to cook ribs, was to hand rub each slab of the finest quality meat with a secret selection of Southern spices and then slow smoke them in a pit of smouldering hickory. This is the methodology for which the establishment has earned its reputation and the same techniques are still used to this day.
What really elevates the experience in this barbecue joint is the staff, who are courteous, attentive and really knowledgeable. We have not heard staff in a restaurant talk so passionately about the dishes on offer for a long time. Making even the mundane task of orders an absolute pleasure – the enthusiasm displayed by everyone we met at Famous Dave’s was quite simply contagious.
All of the meats available at Famous Dave’s are fresh and there is certainly no re-heating here. The meats are smoked daily in a special smoking machine, that has been specially imported from the US to ensure the smokiest flavours. These fantastic aromas will engulf you, if you’re sitting in the vicinity of the large kitchen area.
The menu offerings for appetisers included chicken wings, salmon and chipotle hummus. Whilst mains are the usual mix of steaks, burgers and endless meat options. Being a BBQ restaurant, it is unfortunate that vegetarians are not really catered for.
Our waitress passionately talked us through the menu, providing us with options based on our own personal preferences (as well as her own). We were also provided with a ‘sauce tour’ accompanied by a bowl of crunchy tortilla chips. Much of Famous Dave’s reputation stems from its selection of sauces, that perfectly compliment the meats. The sauces range from mild to very hot, with quirky names like devils spit (described as a devilishly good hot sauce) and buffalo (complete with buffalo kick). We enjoyed the variety, though in all honesty, didn’t find any of them particularly spicy – despite the inventive names.
We were really excited to try the burnt ends, as they are one of ut favourite barbecue dishes, and a rare find here in the UAE. Our waitress informed us that the brunt ends at Famous Dave’s are smoked for twelve hours and caramelised in a sweet and zesty sauce. We were literally drooling at the mere thought of it and the resulting dish did not disappoint. The sauce was sweet and thick and really complemented the smokiness of the cubed beef brisket, and the dish was served on a wooden board with some onions strings (lightly bleached and flash-fried). Though not as tender as some of the other burnt ends that we have experienced, the flavour could not be faulted and didn’t last more than a couple of minutes on our table – we can certainly see why this dish is described as the ‘pitman’s secret.’
Beverages include a selection of juices, cocktails and sodas. As expected at an establishment such as this, all sodas were refillable.
The clientele at the time we dined was mainly families and Famous Dave’s is a great place to dine with children. Staff really went above and beyond to ensure that our children were well looked after and having a good time.
For our main course we ordered the combo and when it arrived we couldn’t believe our eyes! The plate was literally the size of our table and was crammed full of ribs (the biggest we have ever seen), thick slices of lamb, flame roasted chicken, corn on the cob, copious amount of fries, beans and hands down the best coleslaw and cornbread that we have ever sampled. Both of which were very sweet and absolutely delicious, with the coleslaw having a distinct apple flavour which was delightful.
The huge ribs contained a considerable amount of tender meat that was simply wonderful. In a week where we had dined at a number of five star establishments, it was a welcome change to get ourselves into a meaty mess! There is simply no polite way to devour these gigantic ribs and trust us when we say that hands will be required.
The chicken was well flavoured and the lamb was nice and moist, with even the corn being cooked to perfection. There was enough food left over, that we took some home to eat the next day Despite being described as a combo for two to three people on the menu, the food could feed a small army and is very reasonable for the price of 159 AED
When it comes to desserts, Famous Dave’s does not fail. The sweet offerings are on par with the savoury dishes and choices include banana pudding, chocolate and coffee brownies and ice cream sundaes. We were torn between the banana pudding and the bread putting but eventually settled on the bread option. Served with whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream the bread pudding was warm, melt-in-the mouth gooey-ness and the definition of a comfort food, excelled by a pecan and praline sticky sauce.
As a celebration of Southern culture, Famous Dave’s is a resounding success and we cannot wait to return, if only to try the mac and cheese and the banana pudding!
For Abu Dhabi residents, this is a great dining option. With huge portions that dwarf those served at the similarity popular Cheesecake Factory. We finally have a restaurant with a cuisine that Dubai does not (hooray)!
Back In East London, Bodean’s is one of our favourite spots to dine (and we ensure that we visit each time we return home for summer). So it is absolutely fanatssitc to have the same offerings of good quality meats right here on our doorstep in Abu Dhabi. Just one word of advice though – the meat sweats are inevitable.
We suggest that you believe the hype and in the words of famous Dave himself “May you always be surrounded by good friends and great barbecue.”
As stated in ‘Formation’ the latest track from Beyonce “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag” – this is definitely an ethos that rings true here.
Location: Famous Dave’s BBQ, Abu Dhabi Mall (Second Floor), Tourist Club, Abu Dhabi
Opening Hours: 11am – 11pm daily
Phone: +9712 658 7863
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.