By Steven Doyle
The point where smoke meets meat is the primordial birthright of man. A variation of the word barbecue exists in virtually every civilization on the planet, and for an excellent reason. We crave the charred goodness our ancestors enjoyed so many years ago. What might distinguish the style of cooking over indirect heat in the United States is a matter of wood selection, choice of meats and how the pit-master goes about saucing, or not saucing their product.
In Texas the marker for excellent barbecue is beef. Here the pit-masters wrangles the very toughest selection of cow into total submission; the result is smooth and tender brisket with a kiss of smokiness, fat and relenting layers of meat.
Some of the early contenders of barbecue in Dallas include Hardeman’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant, which was founded in the 1930s by Chester Field Hardeman. Hardeman had restaurants scattered about the city, and many have been converted to other restaurants – some stilled owned by relatives of Hardeman.
Today we explore several of our top contenders of barbecue. Although barbecue can be extremely subjective, most will consider this list to be made of the elite of Dallas barbecue.
Lockhart Smokehouse, which is located in the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, has a fine example of excellent barbecue. Owned by Jill Grobowsky Bergus has the legacy of smoke etching through her family history that dates back to 1948 where her family bought the Kreuz Market located in Lockhart, Texas. Today Lockhart serves up some of the finest barbecue found in North Texas as guided by Will Fleischman who has been named one of the very best pit-masters in the United States.
Lockhart’s specialty definitely includes their award winning brisket, but never leave without sampling the ribs or Kreuz-made sausages. The sides are extreme and include kicked up deviled eggs, potato salad and mac and cheese. On a good day you might find rib jam sitting in the cooler case. This would be a very good day to tuck a small tub of the meaty jam underarm for later consumption.
Pecan Lodge is another top contender in the Dallas area and is located in Shed Two of the Dallas Farmers Market. This barbecue mecca is not as accessible as many of the area restaurants as they are only open Thursday through Sunday. The lines get heated on the weekends, so it is best to go early. Pit-master Justin Fourton’s specialty is his brisket, but his ribs are definitely some of the very best. The ribs are as tender and smoky as you will ever find.
Consider yourself one of the elite if you are able to snag a plate of Fourton’s burnt end pieces. This cut is taken from the cap of the brisket, chunked, slathered with sauce and smoked for an additional few hours. Pecan Lodge also features excellent fried chicken and a very large sweet potato filled with pulled pork called the Hot Mess.
Meshack’s is located in Garland on East Avenue B in an unlikely section of the city. The restaurant has a busy history with four former locations. At Meshack’s you will enjoy a very good brisket, and excellent ribs. It is well worth the trip to discover how barbecue is made in this walk-up restaurant.
Off the Bone is located just across from the Southside of Lamar and boasts incredible hours on the weekends, staying open until 2am to service the hungry and slightly inebriated. The baby back ribs are the star of this show, with excellent sides and even better slices of pie that are house-made. Off the Bone also has an all-you-can-eat rib option for those so inclined.
Mike Anderson’s BBQ is located just across from Parkland Hospital on Harry Hines and is a throwback to earlier cafeteria-style barbecue joints prevailed. Slide your school tray across the line, ordering your cuts of meat which are usually sliced by Anderson himself. The brisket and ribs are top notch, but never leave without ordering a handful of his brisket stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos. These babies are smoked and enormous. Also on the extremely large side are the beef stuffed baked potatoes which challenge the casual diner to finish the entire plate. The serve-yourself sides are all made in house and excellent.