Follow The Trail Through The Dallas Area's Smokin' Hot Barbecue Scene

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 you can find some choice contenders right here in the metroplex.

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 joint that's only open for a few hours, two days a week. And it's not just Texas-style barbecue that's been making a strong showing– 18th and Vine serves up a taste of Kansas City in the form of succulent ribs and drool-worthy burnt ends.

If all these places are whetting your appetite, then keep reading to find out about more sizzling barbecue hot-spots to try out right now.  

Outlying Dallas Suburbs
Hard Eight BBQ
Photo courtesy of Hard Eight BBQ


All you need to do to find this behemoth, wood-paneled smokehouse is to drive to the general vicinity and let your nose lead the way. Once there, stake your place in the line around the pits outside the front door and choose from brisket, ribs, sausage, kabobs, chicken, turkey and pulled pork, all of which is sold by the pound or a fraction thereof. After you've snagged your meat, head inside to select sides like fried okra, cornbread salad and mac & cheese. And it's not only barbecue that's on offer here, other stars include 2" thick pork chops, ribeyes and juicy prime rib, cut to order. Oh, and did we mention that you can have your fill on pinto beans for free?

ONE90 Smoked Meats
Photo courtesy of ONE90 Smoked Meats


Despite seating just five diners at a time, this multi-tasking meat market and taco haven has 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 sink 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 sandwiches and tacos. No worries if you can't snag a seat, you can get it to go and enjoy it at White Rock Lake, located just down the road.

The Slow Bone
Photo courtesy of 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.

Off the Bone Barbeque
Photo courtesy of 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.

Smoke Restaurant Dallas
Photo courtesy of Smoke Restaurant


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 include a margarita, made with cedar wood infused tequila, agave nectar, orange liqueur and fresh lime. Smoke also offers weekend brunch-- featuring everything from blueberry ricotta pancakes to smoked brisket cornbread hash.

18th and Vine Barbeque
Photo courtesy of Ilene Jacobs


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. Follow on Facebook to find out about special events.

Lockhart Smokehouse
Photo courtesy of Lockhart Smokehouse


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.

CattleAck BBQ
Photo courtesy of Cattleack BBQ


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, Fridays and the first Saturday of the month. 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 in the 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 crammed with hot links, brisket and pulled pork. Don't skip dessert, the crack cake is wicked.

Pecan Lodge
Photo courtesy of Pecan Lodge


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.

Hutchins BBQ
Photo courtesy of Hutchins BBQ


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 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 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 (smoked 18 hours over oak and pecan) that has folks coming from far and wide. Speaking of brisket, don't miss the Texas Twinkies– jalapeño poppers stuffed with marbled brisket and cream cheese before being slathered in a sweet barbecue glaze.


Meet 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. When she's not writing about the latest happenings in...  More About Ilene