By Greg Holman
Move over slim, there’s a new BBQ sheriff in town and his name is Slow Bone! Don’t let the moniker fool ya though… he’s real quick on the draw!
Jack Perkins is a Texas character with a colorful past, and his diversity in life definitely shines through in his culinary endeavors. The author, ex-computer tech, English teacher, football coach-turned restaurateur, grew up in Dallas and after a tour in the Navy, he learned the ins and outs of the restaurant trade by working at such Dallas high-end eateries as Landry’s, Morton’s, Chamberlain’s, Sullivan’s, Mi Piaci’s, and Roaring Fork Steak House.
“I had always wanted to own a restaurant,” said Perkins, who was looking for something a bit more accessible to the general public than where he had been previously employed. The result? His insanely popular burger joint Maple & Motor.
Neighbor and partner-in-crime Austen Wright had a big hand in inspiring the development of Maple & Motor. After locating a very old flattop grill at a defunct restaurant in Vernon, Texas, months of long, hard grilling and beer-drinking in Perkins’ garage ensued, and that grill turned out to be the key to making the perfect burger. The rest is history!
The success enjoyed by M&M made additional locations a real possibility, but it was decided that “watering down the concept” was not an option, so the Slow Bone idea quickly came to fruition.
I spoke with Wright, who was instrumental in the creation of Slow Bone, and reclamation and recycling were at the forefront of the construction agenda, for both cost and aesthetic reasons. They wanted the place to have a comfortable, lived-in feeling without “junking” it up. The slat wood above the counters came from the dining hall of the South Dallas Camp Wisdom Boy Scout Camp. Old Dallas Trolley tokens are embedded in the concrete tables. A motorcycle dangles from the ceiling, vintage signs dot the walls, and the bar is crafted of old window frames from the Cisco Systems’ building in North Dallas.
Slow Bone sits at Wycliff and Irving Blvd., directly across from Off Site Kitchen, and seats almost 100. It’s run like Maple & Motor, with the “No sitting before ordering” rule intact. The Trinity Strand Trail route runs directly behind Slow Bone, and the guys are planning a large deck, akin to the Katy Trail Ice House patio in the near future.
Meat is smoked on “Miss Jessie,” a huge hickory-fed (NO GAS!… until after the meal, that is…), rotisserie Oyler pit that holds up to 1,000 pounds of meat. She’s controlled with blower fans to keep a consistent temperature during the extensive 18-hour brisket cooking process.
The pit’s name has racy origins, as “Miss Jessie” Williams was the proprietor and original Madame of the infamous Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas (listen to the ZZ Top song). It was the oldest continuously operating brothel in the nation when it closed in 1973. And as the boys say, “Who better to smoke your meat than Miss Jessie!”
Service is cafeteria style, on Melamine school lunch trays from Texas Ware. Chalkboard menus display meats and sides of the day.
The brisket is amazingly tender, juicy, and just smoky enough, with a pronounced black crust (ask for it lean if you prefer the flat to the point). St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs are well, but not overly seasoned, and a bite pulls away cleanly, without taking the rest of the rib meat with it. The chicken is cooked competition-style, brined, then rubbed and smoked, giving it a succulent and moist, fall-off-the-bone tenderness. Three sausage options are available; a jalapeno brat, an old-style red, and a cilantro (my favorite!). The pork loin is wonderfully done and is stuffed with a caraway-seasoned ham/sausage mixture. Both Perkins and Wright are adamant that if you’re served a cut of meat not to your liking, just ask and it will be corrected.
There are two sauces; both thin and vinegary. One is served warm and has a distinct cumin flavor; the other is served cold and is extremely spicy. They also make their own pickles, chowchow, and pickled red onions.
The sides are all made in-house and include tasty pinto (borracho-style) beans, jalapeno and green chili mac and cheese, a great green bean casserole topped with crispy onions, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower au gratin (stellar!), fried okra (crispy and sweet), pea salad, mustard greens, whipped praline sweet potatoes (amazing!), and more. Bread options are a semi-sweet cornbread and giant crispy hush puppies.
A wide beverage selection includes beer, imports and domestics, bottled, canned, and on tap. Non-alcoholic offerings include regular, sweet, and apple-mint teas. Sodas represented are of the traditional ilk plus Abita Root Beer, Big Red, Mellow Yellow, and Grape Nehi, on tap.
The thing that strikes me the most about Slow Bone is that it’s atypical of most Dallas BBQ joints, with its diverse and regularly changing side dishes, its competition-style que, a relaxed atmosphere, and friendly and accommodating staff; it kind of feels like going over to your buddy’s house for an afternoon of beer drinkin’ and great BBQ. So stop by the “Bone,” say “Hi” to the gang and let Miss Jessie smoke your meat! Hey now!!! You won’t be disappointed.