There's no doubt that barbecue reigns king in Texas– and if you haven't experienced it first hand, then you basically haven't been living. But there's no need to make a pilgrimage down to Central Texas' barbecue belt to get your 'cue fix on when some of the best in the state can be found right here in Big D.
First up is Pecan Lodge, a veritable temple to wood-fired meats that's known as much for its lines as it is for its mind-blowing barbecue.
Talk about lines, there's always one outside of CattleAck BBQ, a hole-in-the-wall place that's only open for a few hours, two days a week. Don't let the crowds dissuade you from coming though, folks say that this place's brisket is the stuff of Dallas legend.
And it's not just Texas-style barbecue that's been making a strong showing. One of the new kids on the block, 18th and Vine, is bringing a taste of Kansas City to Dallas in the form of succulent ribs and drool-worthy burnt ends. It also boasts an intimate jazz lounge upstairs.
If all these places are whetting your appetite, then you'll want to follow this handy 10Best guide to find out about more of Dallas' most sizzling barbecue hot-spots.
Smokey John's Bar-B-Que and Home Cooking
It's suffice to say Smokey John's knows a thing or two about barbecue. After all, the family has capturing the hearts and palates of hungry Dallasites since 1976. It's not much to look at from the outside, and the interior boasts much of the same. But you don't come here for ambiance, you come for some of the most delicious hickory smoked barbecue in the area. Tender, slow-cooked brisket– and plump, juicy ribs are the most popular dishes, but you'll also find spicy garlic sausage, spit-roasted barbecue chicken, fried catfish and awesome burgers. If decision making is a difficult task, then take it to the max by ordering up the "pound of smoke platter," so you can tuck into five different meats as well as all the fixings. And you definitely want the fixings, especially the mac and cheese. Perhaps the candied yams too. Oh, and don't forget the cornbread. As for dessert? Three words: Butter Bomb Cake. (214-352-2752)
ONE90 Smoked Meats
Despite seating just five diners at a time, this multi-tasking meat market and taco haven has, in less than a year –carved out a reputation for serving some of Dallas' finest barbecue. Or more specifically, small-batch craft smoked meats, that can be enjoyed on the premise or taken away in vacuum-sealed packages for easy preparation at home. The place is the brainchild of three guys who crafted their 'cue skills in the backyard before turning their passion into what's now a thriving business. And there's certainly plenty here to get your teeth into. Options cover everything from smoked cured pork belly and duck confit to brisket, ribs, sausages, free range chicken, bison and lamb. They also do killer tacos ( think pulled pork with habanero mango sauce) as well as sandwiches–like the DLT (smoked duck breast, lettuce and tomatoes) and the spicy brisket (a fan favorite)– with roasted poblano peppers, pickles, onions and melted cheddar cheese. If you can't manage a seat, grab it to go and eat it at White Rock Lake, located just down the road. (214-346-3287)
The Slow Bone
Not only can Jack Perkins flip a mean patty at his iconic Dallas burger spot-- Maple and Motor, he can also smoke up some killer barbecue at his cafeteria-style (lunch-only) diner, which fired up the Design District in 2013. Recycled church hymn boards display the meats and sides of the day, which run the gamut from hickory-smoked chicken and fall-off-the-bone ribs to sides like jalapeno mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole and fried okra. But if you really want to experience Texas barbecue at its best, go for the brisket, it's a melt-in-your-mouth black bark crusted heap of deliciousness. Just make sure to save room for dessert, the cornbread pudding is insanely good. (214-377-7727)
Off the Bone Barbeque
Think you know ribs? Think again. Set up in a former gas station, this family-run joint is not only a popular barbecue destination (even other chefs eat here on their off-hours), it's a veritable place of pilgrimage for baby back rib devotees. In fact, it was owner and pitmaster Dwight Harvey's ribs that put this place on the map. His secret? He slow-cooks them over pecan wood for about five hours and then cooks them an additional hour with a coating of sauce. The result is a rack of glistening, deliciously tender, juicy ribs that literally fall off the bone at first bite. But it's not only ribs that command attention, the brisket, coated in a sweet-spicy rub and pit-smoked for fourteen hours– is equally terrific. Sides don't rest on the sideline either: expect to find everything from blue cheese and bacon coleslaw to deep fried corn on the cob. If you still have space after all that, get the peach cobbler, it's to die for. (214-565-9551)
Smoke Restaurant Dallas
At Smoke, a cozy rustic-chic restaurant adjacent to the Belmont Hotel, Dallas chef and James Beard Award winning author, Tim Byers, pays homage to campfire cuisine by cooking nearly everything on his farm-to-fork driven menu over seasoned hardwoods. Items like coffee-cured beef brisket and a mammoth-sized beef rib are definitely a draw, but the wood-fired fare goes well beyond your typical barbecue. More hits can be found in dishes such as pit roasted cabrito, served inside a masa shell and dressed with a sauce of goat's milk cajeta and green apple salsa verde. The fire roasted oysters, swaddled in scampi butter and topped with a smoky ash salsa is another winner as well. Boozy liquids inlcude a margarita, made with cedar wood infused tequila, agave nectar, orange liqueur and fresh lime. Smoke also offers an overwhelming popular weekend brunch-- featuring everything from blueberry ricotta pancakes to smoked brisket cornbread hash. (214-393-4141)
18th and Vine Barbeque
Opening a barbecue restaurant in Dallas is gutsy enough, much less one that specializes in Kansas City-style (the Missouri one) barbecue. But right off the bat, 18th and Vine was an instant hit. Though, don't be fooled into thinking that this is your regular homespun type of barbecue spot –it's decidedly more upscale, with real plates, cloth napkins and food that pleases 'cue lovers as well as finicky gourmands. Starters come in the form of pit-roasted oysters and charcuterie, while mains include everything from smoked brisket, ribs and house-made sausages to wood-kissed salmon served atop creamed corn and pickled ramps. Whatever you do, make sure to order the burnt ends ( caramelized nuggets of brisket ). You'll be dreaming about them for many moons to come. Ditto for the fried okra. And did we mention live jazz? They didn't name it after K.C.'s historic jazz district for nothing. Keep an eye on Facebook for the weekly schedule. (214-443-8335)
Named after the official barbecue capital of Texas, this popular Bishop Arts smokehouse serves what many locals consider is the closest thing you can get to authentic Central Texas-style barbecue. Which is no surprise since
the co-owner, Jill Bergus, happens to be a member of the family who owns the legendary Kreuz Market in Lockhart. As with most Central Texas barbecue, the emphasis is on the meat rather than the sauce, and it's suffice to say that Lockhart's meats are flavorful enough to stand out on their own. The chicken is tender and moist, the ribs are smokey and sweet, and the same goes for the brisket, which is slow-smoked over post oak to perfection. And don't skip the sausages, they're brought in fresh from Kreuz Market. Not sure about what to get? No problem, just ask for a sample. Make sure to call before you come, the place shuts down as soon as it sells out. (214-944-5521)
Perhaps Dallas' worst-kept secret, just getting into this cult destination can feel like cause for celebration. You'll almost certainly encounter a line, and it's mostly outside. Plus the place is only open for a few hours (10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.) on Thursdays and Fridays. But as they say: Good things come to those who wait. And one of those good things is free beer to drink while you're queue for the 'cue. As for the rest, house-made sausages, gargantuan-sized pork ribs and generously charred Akaushi beef brisket compete for your attention with other equally tasty contenders like Wagyu pastrami burnt ends and sandwiches that come crammed with hot links, brisket and pulled pork. Be sure to save room for the crack cake, it's wickedly good. (972-805-0999)
Dallas is filled with barbecue joints, but none can compare with the smoky goodness coming out of this rustic barbecue haven. Pecan Lodge's 'cue is so good that Texas Monthly named it one of the top BBQ joints in the state, and Food Network's Guy Fieri featured it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Here, people line up daily just to get their fix of house-made sausages, mesquite smoked brisket and mouthwatering ribs. They also churn out fab fried chicken and sublime sides. And if you haven't tried the hot mess,
a sweet potato stuffed with shredded brisket,chipotle cream cheese, butter and green onions– then you've really been missing out. There's also Aunt Polly's banana pudding--get that too. (214-748-8900)
Regardless of which location you go to (Frisco or McKinney), trying to get a table at this smoked meat mecca usually involves a little patience, especially if you come around mealtime. Which is no surprise, really: the place has won awards out the kazoo, including being named one of the state's, no scratch that– one of the world's 50 Best BBQ Joints by the barbecue cognoscenti at Texas Monthly. Not only that, pitmaster- co-owners, Tim Hutchins and Dustin Blackwell, also scored an invitation to cook up their 'cue at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City. As for that BBQ? You can't go wrong with any of the choices: slow-smoked St. Louis–style spareribs, smoked chicken, pulled pork, sausages and the like. But it's the brisket that has folks coming from far and wide. Is it the prime meat they use? The way they cut it? Or the fact that it's been cooked eighteen hours over an oak and pecan wood fire? Doesn't matter, whatever the secret is, all that's important is that it's some seriously crave-worthy meat. Speaking of brisket, don't miss the Texas Twinkies. They're basically fancy jalapeño poppers stuffed with marbled brisket and cream cheese and covered in a sweet barbecue glaze. Fair warning, though: don't be surprised if you find yourself falling into a substantial food coma for the remainder of the day. (972-377-2046)
About Ilene Jacobs
As a perpetual wanderer, foodie freak and wannabe chef, Ilene is always on the lookout for the best places to see, eat, drink and sleep. Ilene got hooked on this wanderlust lifestyle after spending 10 years as a university student in Paris where she spent most of her time eating her way around France.
When she's not writing about the latest happenings in her hometown of Dallas, she's hanging out in Paris and road tripping around Europe with her spunky teenage son.
You can find Ilene's articles about her favorite hot spots and foodie finds at 10Best.com, CBSDFW.com and Examiner.com.
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