Located in a mini strip mall (next to a larger strip mall) on route 139 just off route 3, Bendle-Bean's looks like a converted takeout pizza shop. There’s lots of space, not so much personality. Wall décor consists mainly of an enlarged menu and some helpful photos of some of the meats. Service is over-the-counter, with lots of indoor picnic tables. On the side there's a TV set, a foosball table and a kids play area. They offer beer and wine in addition to sodas from the fountain or by the bottle.
The Bendle-Bean's menu, which states that they do Texas style barbecue, offers all the usual dishes, along with Mexican burritos. On my first visit, I ordered a half rack of the ribs. These were huge, juicy spare ribs, a good cut of meat. But I didn’t find much flavor in the meat, on the rub (I didn't see any) or in the sauce, which was probably a spiked tomato sauce. The ribs’ outsides were charred, the insides looked pinkish. They didn’t taste smoked, but rather like the kind of ribs I cooked in the oven in the early 1980s before I learned better. These weren’t horrible, but not what I call barbecue.
On my second visit to Bendle-Bean's, I ordered a 3-meat combo with ribs, pulled pork and brisket. Ribs were the same as last time: good meat, nice and tender, but no smoke flavor or oomph. The Carolina style pulled pork was very good, with good sized pieces, plenty of bark, and a vinegar sauce with plenty of bite (you can also get the pork with tomato-based sauce). This time I made it a point to get the brisket, figuring, when in Texas, eat as the Texans do. I opted for the chopped version over the sliced, and it came in small chunks, with just the right amount of a not-too-sweet brown sauce that complemented the juicy meat perfectly. I liked the fact that there were a lot of very crispy pieces in there, like mini burnt ends. I was pleased.
Sides are a mixed bag. Refreshing cole slaw was tasty and interesting, sweet and vinegary with either mustard or celery seeds and no mayo. Mexican rice was very starchy, with a slight hint of sauce, but no chunks of meaty goodies. Soupy baked beans were smoky and in a tomato sauce similar to the ribs.
The bottom line: if you equate barbecue with ribs, either strongly rubbed and savory ribs or candy sweet ribs, you might not like this place. But if you like brisket and vinegar- and tomato-based sauces, Bendle-Beans will give you a good meal. They have an all-you-can-eat rib night every Friday for $13.95, with unlimited sides. It sounds like a good deal, but the brisket and pulled pork are the real reasons to come here.