Monday, January 30, 2012

Without a doubt, Fargo's is one of the best BBQ joints in Texas

When you hit the Texas BBQ trail, there are often more disappointments than pleasant surprises. How can a place that looks so cool from the outside have such tasteless meat inside? How can a perennial BBQ people's choice winner be so bad? We've seen and learned a lot over the past two and a half years as we travel around the state searching for the best smoked meats.

Our recent Speedtrap BBQ Tour is a perfect example. Snow's BBQ and City Meat Market in Giddings were off-the-charts good, just like they've always been when we go there. The next couple of stops looked really intriguing from the outside but didn't rise to the top of our evolving list of favorite joints.

However, our last stop of the day was the game changer. We first heard of Fargo's Pit BBQ in Bryan when BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn gave it five stars after his first visit in 2010, one of only 17 five-stars Daniel had recognized in the country. We had high hopes but are accustomed to disappointment on the BBQ trail.

We drove north up Hwy. 6 from Navasota and headed west at the MLK St. exit in Bryan, then north on Texas Ave. until we saw the blue facade of Fargo's on the left. We applied our criteria for a great joint: Cool looking building - check. Handmade signs - check. You smell smoke as you approach the driveway - check. Cash-only sign - extra points. Fargo's was looking good indeed.

Owner Alan Caldwell greeted us at the counter, working the joint with his wife and son. We told him this was our last of five stops that day. He said Fargo's should have been our first stop and he was right. The meats, priced at $10 a pound, were displayed in a glass-enclosed warmer and looked amazing. And they tasted as good as they looked.
Just as he had done with the BBQ Snob, Alan declined to show us the pit or tell us what kind of wood he uses. I guess it's a trade secret and he understands how good his product is. Just a hunch, but I suspect when the Texas Monthly Top BBQ 50 list comes out in 2013, this place will be a busier than ever.

We headed north toward Dallas after eating every last morsel of meat we ordered from Fargo's. One of the Posse members, who will remain unnamed, even ate a small chunk of brisket that had fallen on the bumper after we had eaten on the tailgate of Marshall Cooper's Tahoe. Since Fargo's doesn't have seating, you have to get creative if you want to eat onsite. Like Meshack's BBQ in Garland, another Posse favorite.

We must have debated for the next hour about what we had just experienced at Fargo's. We've learned to be cautious in our assessments, but someone declared Fargo's to be the best stop of the day. A day that included Snow's and Giddings.

I'm not prepared to make such a bold statement yet, after only one visit. However, we'll be back there in March at the top of our Houston BBQ Tour. The first stop of the day. Daniel Vaughn has seen enough though. Late last week, he named Fargo's as his second six-star joint ever. Franklin BBQ was the first he named in September 2011. That's pretty lofty territory the little blue BBQ joint on Texas Ave. in Bryan.

Fargo’s Pit BBQ, 1220 N. Texas Ave., Bryan TX 77803. Phone: 979-778-3662. Hours: Tue-Sat, 11 am-7 pm.
Photos by Bruce Tomaso, Jim Rossman & Chris Wilkins

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy anniversary to our friends at Lockhart Smokehouse

Texas BBQ royalty were on hand as friends and family of Lockhart Smokehouse joined together on Sunday evening to celebrate their first anniversary. We were all there to congratulate Jill Bergus, husband Jeff and pitmaster Tim McLaughlin on their success.

Lockhart Smokehouse has played a major role in the renaissance of Dallas barbecue, along with Pecan Lodge in the Dallas Farmer's Market. It's only fitting that a group of Jill's family came up from Lockhart to help them celebrate, including Kreuz Market owner Keith Schmidt and her grandmother Alma Schmidt.

Jill grew up surrounded by the legacy of great BBQ. Her grandfather, Edgar "Papa" Schmidt ran the legendary Kreuz Market from the time he purchased it from the Kreuz family in 1948 until he passed it onto his sons in the 1980's. Jill joked we could talk to grandmother Schmidt about how BBQ keeps her 101 years young.

The Lone Star beer was flowing and the Texas BBQ appetizers, followed by puled pork, Kreuz sausage and Shiner platters. No one left the party hungry.

Jill sums up the last year and looks to the future, "What a year it has been! From our icy first day, we have weathered the year. We look forward to sharing the next year of our fantastic adventure with you."

Lockhart Smokehouse, 400 W. Davis, Dallas, 214-944-5521. Open every day from 11am till they're done.
Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Barbecue Chronicles: Tales from the Speedtrap BBQ Tour

Here's Posse member Bruce Tomaso's take on our recent Speedtrap BBQ Tour. Bruce joined Marshall Cooper, Jim Rossman and me on a 500-plus mile trek that began at Snow's BBQ, our favorite place to start every tour in central Texas. Here are some stories from one of our best BBQ journeys yet.....

Last Friday night, a friend and I went to see Tool. My friend, a student at Texas Christian University, doesn’t have a car, so I picked him up.

I got off work and headed west on Interstate 30 from downtown Dallas to the TCU campus in Fort Worth. Then we got back on I-30 and drove east, to the concert arena in Grand Prairie. After the show, it was west on I-30 again to drop off my friend.

Then I drove home.

To Plano.

All in all, between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m. I drove 150 miles.

If that seems nutty to you, then A) you’re probably not a Tool fan; and B) wait till you hear what the Texas BBQ Posse did on Saturday.

We met before sunrise and hit the road to take in five joints in five Central Texas towns – a trip that covered 527 miles in just over 12 hours.

On the tour, we discovered one new gem.

And we learned what the speed limit is on the road into Lexington.

Meeting Officer Wooldridge

Our rendezvous point was the North Dallas home of Marshall Cooper, the Posse’s pitmaster. There were four of us. Marshall, a commercial real estate broker, agreed to drive.

Marshall’s home is exactly 191 miles from our first stop, Snow’s BBQ in Lexington.

At Mile 190, we met Officer Wooldridge.

Officer Wooldridge, one of Lexington’s finest, was of the opinion that 67 mph in a 55-mph zone was excessive. He should know. He seemed to spend most of his time parked by the side of the road with a radar gun, no doubt collecting data to test his hypothesis.

After receiving a written invitation from Officer Wooldridge to appear in Lexington Municipal Court at a future date, Marshall slowly drove that one last mile to Snow’s.

Snow’s is the reigning champion on Texas Monthly’s list of the Top 50 barbecue joints in the state. (The select list is published every five years; the next one comes out in 2013.) It’s only open on Saturdays, there’s always a line out the door, and we usually make it our “breakfast stop” when we’re in the Austin area.

It’s never disappointed.
Knowing that this was the first of five planned stops, we placed a modest order: Four ribs, four slices of brisket, and five slices of pork butt. (To many aficionados, the pork is the real star at Snow’s.)

The bill came to $30. “I can spend almost that much eating barbecue by myself in Dallas,” said Jim Rossman, a tech specialist at The Dallas Morning News.

Everything was cooked to perfection. The only criticism came from Marshall, who thought the meats didn’t present enough smoky flavor.

“It’s tender. It’s juicy. It’s delicious. There’s just no smoke,” he said.

Marshall cooks brisket with the best of them. He’s been doing it for almost 30 years. His palate is well-trained, and when he talks, the Posse listens (unlike Officer Wooldridge, who ignored Marshall’s polite apologies and perfectly legitimate defense: “We’re on our way to eat barbecue.”)

So we took his observations to heart.

As we devoured every last morsel on the tray.

Heading south to Giddings

Next was a return visit to a place that we knew deserved one: City Meat Market in Giddings.

The Posse had been there in November 2010, on a tour that took in eight Central Texas joints in just over 24 hours. The last stop on that trip was City Meat Market. We got there late in the afternoon, owner Gerald Birkelbach had sold out of everything but sausage and pork, and by that time, we were about as close to barbecued-out as any of us get.

And it was still darned good.

This time, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins, the News photo editor who plans our trips, made sure he scheduled City Meat Market on the front end.

As we had at Snow’s, we ordered brisket, ribs and pork. We found a table and dug in, surrounded by regular customers: Lots of Wranglers and work boots, not a designer logo anywhere (unless you count “Dickies”).

Barbecue lovers can argue endlessly about whether this joint is better than that joint. The arguments rarely settle anything -- that’s one reason they’re fun. With its Top 50 list, Texas Monthly sets itself up as a sort of authoritative arbiter, but c’mon. Can they really know that Buzzie’s is a 4.5 (out of 5), while Bubba’s is a 4?
The Posse’s consensus was that on this day, Snow’s was slightly better than City Meat Market. But we knew that the next four guys who came through the door might come to the opposite conclusion.

And neither would be wrong.

I thought City Meat Market’s brisket was too dry, which was puzzling, since Birkelbach stores his meats in pans of broth between servings.

Chris, sampling the very same brisket, said: “The flavor of this is just tremendous.”

He liked the pork butt even better.

“I don’t want to sound like my kid brother who’s always saying, ‘Man, this is the best thing ever,’ ” he said.

“But the taste of this pork may be the best ever.”

Meeting Mary Vrazel

We hoped for an under-the-radar find with the next spot on our itinerary, Gil’s Bar-B-Que Shack in Ellinger. It certainly looked promising. It’s in a tiny, reddish wooden building that really is a shack. It’s festooned with faded plastic American flags. The sign out front is hand-painted.

Inside, three small tables share the crowded space with haphazard stacks of foam cups, empty cardboard crates, and 12-packs of Dr Pepper.

Mary Vrazel has been running Gil’s, named for her husband, for 36 years. She smokes the meats, cooks all the side dishes, runs the cash register and makes sure she has a cheerful word for everyone who comes in. She also bakes a heavenly lemon cake – moist and airy, sweet and buttery, with a delightful citrus tang.

The barbecue was, to be kind, passable. The brisket fought back against a plastic knife. The first ribs that Mary served us had spent way too long in the pit, or in a warmer afterward. There wasn’t much to them but bone and a stiffly caramelized outer layer. Later, she brought us a bigger, juicier sample, one that hadn’t been overcooked, and the difference was night and day.

If I’m ever that way again, I’ll stop in for a slice of lemon cake.

Desperately seeking Ruthie's

From Ellinger, we headed northeast to Navasota. We were looking for Ruthie’s Pit Bar-B-Q. We only sort of found it.

Ruthie’s had been closed for several weeks, re-emerging recently as Rattlers Pit Soul Food House. (The yellow-and-red sign out front, however, still says Ruthie’s Pit Bar-B-Q.)

They still serve barbecue – and pretty good barbecue, at that – on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Sunday is soul food day, with oxtails, smothered pork chops, and the like. There’s also a standing menu of quick, inexpensive fare: burgers, fried wing baskets, stuffed potatoes.

The brisket had a dark, flavorful bark and a pronounced pinkish smoke ring – signs of attentive cooking by a skilled pitmaster.

Our favorite, though, was the peppery sausage. Its dark red casing had a snap when you bit into it, and the inside was tender and juicy.

“It’d be great with an ice-cold beer on a warm day,” Marshall said.

There was one off-note: On some of the brisket, we thought we detected the faintest whiff of charcoal starter. It wasn’t everywhere on the platter, and it wasn’t strong enough to ruin the meal. Still, there’s a reason many top pitmasters stay away from lighter fluid when building their wood fires. You ever taste that stuff?

Saving the best for last?

It was mid-afternoon by the time we pulled up to Fargo’s Pit BBQ, on a forlorn stretch of North Texas Avenue in Bryan.

We told owner Alan Caldwell about our day’s tour. We told him that his place was our last stop.

Caldwell smiled knowingly and said in a quiet voice, “You should have started here.”

Once we tasted his barbecue, we could see his point.

“Fargo’s,” as Chris put it, “can hunt with the big boys.”

It deserves to be on anyone’s list of the best barbecue joints in Texas. In the annals of Posse tours, it could be a Top 10.

Caldwell declined to give us a tour of his pit, which is housed in a metal shed out back, behind a six-foot fence topped with strands of barbed wire.

We don’t know his secrets for turning out briskets and sausage links and slabs of ribs with a flawless, aromatic crust of deep reddish brown.

What we do know is that his food looked good enough to grace a magazine cover – and it tasted even better.

There’s no seating inside, so we opened the back of Marshall’s SUV and tailgated as we watched a steady steam of customers drop by for bags of take-out.
We had no difficulty making our way through our fifth barbecue meal in less than six hours.

Marshall was particularly fond of the ribs. At last, he said, he’d found a plate that packed the wallop of wood flavor he’d been craving.

“They’ve got a great balance of rub and smoke,” he said. “Juicy. Tender.”

Jim concurred. As we were packing up to head contentedly home, he said: “It took us all day, finally, to get our smoke.”

Fellas, if it’s smoke you wanted, you should have been at the Tool concert.

The Speedtrap BBQ Tour itinerary

6:30 am: Leave Dallas.
9:30 am: Unscheduled stop on the outskirts of Lexington for a visit with Officer Wooldridge.
9:45 am: Snow’s BBQ, 516 Main Street, Lexington TX 78947. Phone: 979-773-4640. Hours: Sat, 8 am until the meat runs out.
11 am: City Meat Market‎, 101 W. Austin Street, Giddings TX 78942. Phone: 979-542-2740. Hours: Mon-Fri, 7:30 am-5:30 pm; Sat, 7:30 am-4 pm.
12:15 pm: Gil’s Bar-B-Que Shack, 399 E. State Highway 71, Ellinger TX 78938. Phone: 979-378-2366. Hours: Sat-Sun, from when the meat is ready (usually around 9:30 am) until it runs out.
1:30 pm: Rattlers Pit Soul Food House (formerly Ruthie’s Pit Bar-B-Q)‎, 1106 W. Washington Ave., Navasota TX 77868. Phone: ‪936-825-7770. Hours: ‬Tue-Thur, 11 am-4 pm; Fri, 11 am-8 pm; Sat, 11 am-4 pm; Sun, noon-4 pm.
3:15 pm: Fargo’s Pit BBQ, 1220 N. Texas Ave., Bryan TX 77803. Phone: 979-778-3662. Hours: Tue-Sat, 11 am-7 pm.
7 pm: Back in Dallas.
Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Speedtrap BBQ Tour - an early look

Wheels up this morning at 6:30 a.m. from Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper's driveway in north Dallas. Our first destination was breakfast at Snow's BBQ in Lexington, which has become a ritual for us when starting a tour in central Texas. To be followed by four more joints and 500-plus miles on the Texas BBQ Trail.

Anticipation was building as we approached the Lexington city limits. The speed limit dropped from 65 to 55mph, but no one noticed. We were talking Snow's and what we would order for breakfast. No one except one of Lexington's finest, running radar less than a mile from the BBQ Mecca known as Snow's. Welcome to The Speedtrap BBQ Tour.

Posse members Bruce Tomaso and Jim Rossman joined Marshall and me for the previously named Giddings Gateway BBQ Tour. This was one of the more amazing days we've had on a BBQ tour. Snow's BBQ, City Meat Market in Giddings and Fargo's in Bryan were all world class in their meat offerings, definitely in the top ten joints we've ever visited and maybe the top five.

We also had a great time at Gil's Bar-B-Que Shack in Ellinger and Rattler's Pit Soul Food House (formerly Ruthie's Bar-B-Q) in Navasota. While not on the same lofty plateau as Snow's, Giddings and Fargo's, they produced solid meats and good hospitality.

Bruce is writing a narrative of our trip, but here are a few early photos and a look at our itinerary.

The Speedtrap BBQ Tour itinerary

6:30 am: Leave from Dallas
9:30 am: Breakfast at Snow's BBQ, 516 Main St, Lexington, 979-773-4640. Open Sat. 8 am- till the meat runs out.
11:00 am: City Meat Market‎, 101 West Austin Street, Giddings, 979-542-2740. Open: Mon.-Fri. 7:30 am-5:30 pm, Sat. 7:30am-4 pm.
12:15 pm Gil's Bar-B-Que Shack, 399 E. Hwy 71, Ellinger, 979-378-2366. Open Sat. & Sun. only, from when the meat is ready (usually around 9:30 am) til the meat runs out.
1:30 pm: Rattler's Pit Soul Food House (formerly Ruthie's Bar-B-Q)‎, 1106 West Washington Ave., Navasota, ‪936-825-7770. Open:  ‬Tue.-Fri. 11 am-8 pm, Sat. 11 am-4 pm, Sun. noon-4 pm.
3:15 pm: Fargo's Pit BBQ, 1220 N Texas Ave Ste A, Bryan, 979-778-3662. Open Tues.-Sat. 11 am-7 pm.
7:00 pm: Back in Dallas

Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Friday, January 20, 2012

Do Texans need some Q-schoolin? It's your turn to tell us what you think

Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper is a man of conviction, especially when it comes to smoked meat.

After mulling our recent Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour for several days, he was still stunned by the lack of smoke taste we found on the barbecue at the original Sonny Bryan's, Odom's, Dickey's and Peggy Sue's.

Why don't some of the most popular Dallas BBQ joints, some with real wood pits, put more smoke flavor on their meat?

Is it because of the cost of wood? Do customers really prefer smokeless BBQ? Or, don't they know the difference?

"I would like to know just what people are thinking on this issue," Marshall says.

Posse member Libby Jacobson, who didn't make the Roots tour, was quick to comment on the original Tour post, specifically about Sonny Bryan's recipe for ribs, but more generally pondering the same questions as Marshall.

"The thought of eating a precooked, slathered, refrigerated, reheated rib is downright icky!" she wrote. "Part of me thinks Sonny must have known what he was doing to create such a dynasty...but the other part thinks Texans need some Q-schoolin!"

So, Posse blog readers, what do you think?

Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Where's the smoke? the Posse asks after visiting historic Dallas joints

The wooden sign on the wall at the original Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse on Inwood Road says "Real Texas Bar-B-Que."

It's next to a large black and white photo of Sonny himself. The late Dallas BBQ patriarch, dressed in a white shirt, white apron and white chef's hat, has a gentle smile on his face and a big carving knife in his hand.

Once upon a time, that sign might have been accurate. Not anymore.

The same goes for all four of the joints the Posse visited on a recent Saturday during its Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour, which included the original location of Dickey's Barbecue Pit as well as Sonny Bryan's. Both are now part of big chains.

When Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News, developed the tour itinerary, he picked places that were must-see for anyone who cared about the history of Dallas BBQ. He didn't have high hopes for the food. He was mostly right.

All day long, we kept asking ourselves, where's the smoke? We've been to Franklin in Austin. We've been to the Central Texas BBQ heartland. We've been to Meshack's in Garland and the Pecan Lodge at the Dallas Farmers Market. For us, you can't have real Texas BBQ without smoke.
On this tour, the only place that served what we would call barbecue brisket was Peggy Sue BBQ at Snider Plaza, and that needed some assistance from a very nice mustard-vinegar sauce. All the rest served roast beef. No smoke. No rub. No taste. Very bland.

The joints burned wood in their pits, but they just didn't lay much of that taste on their meats. On purpose for at least one place.

Dave Rummel, the general manager at Sonny's, admitted he wasn't a big fan of smoke, particularly hickory.

"I get more smoke on my clothes than I do on the meat," said Rummel, whose name tag said "Baron of Beef."

Before we get too carried away about the lack of smoke, it should be noted that each of the joints we visited had many customers. So, people like what these places produce, even without much smoke.

We started our tour, eleven Posse members strong, about 10:45 a.m. at Sonny's, across the street from UT Southwestern Medical Center.
An attraction of the original location is its decor. The joint still has the old wooden school desks where customers eat and the original pit, built into the wall when the place opened in 1958.

"Uh-oh, that's a bad sign," Bryan Gooding said as we walked in the door. The Quad/Photo producer pointed to the cooked pork ribs already cut and stacked on a grill in the kitchen.

Later, Rummel explained the recipe. Cooked for several hours on the pit without rub or seasoning, the racks are then dipped in barbecue sauce and stored in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, before serving, they are cut into individual ribs and grilled, carmelizing the sauce.

"That's the way Sonny did it," Rummel said.

While some of us cringed at the technique, the ribs themselves had some fans.

"I'll defend that rib," said Mac Hargrove. "I won't defend the brisket." Hargrove, a financial advisor making his second tour with the Posse, brought along his nephew, Brantley Hargrove, a writer for the Dallas Observer. They and other Posse members loved Sonny's giant onion rings.

We headed south on Inwood, under I-35, over the bridge with its sweeping view of downtown Dallas, to where the street changes its name to Hampton Road. We turned left on Singleton and, after a couple blocks, pulled into Odom's Bar-B-Que, which traces its roots to the 1930s and the Hardeman family. Posse member Michael Hamtil, a photo editor at The News joined us there.

When we arrived before noon, the pit master was just finishing loading four cases (more than 40 racks) of pork spareribs on the smoker with a long-handled pitchfork. That's a lot of ribs. Like Sonny's, Odom's smoker opens out of a wall into the kitchen area.
Our order of brisket, ribs and sausage came smothered in sauce, which overwhelmed the taste of the meat.

Jim Rossman, a tech specialist at The News, was smarter. He said hold the sauce.

"This was all right," Rossman said of his food. "But I don't know if I'd make the trek over here for lunch or anything."

We drove East on Singleton and worked our way around a couple detours to cross the Continental Avenue Bridge, with its nice view of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. We crossed downtown on Woodall Rogers Freeway to Central Expressway.

The original Dickey's, which opened in 1941, is located at Central and Henderson. There's a painting in the dining room of the building when it was a country cottage, then on the outskirts of Dallas, before it became Big D.

"You know what you do with brisket like this," Wilkins said as he settled in the dining room and tasted his order. "Chop it up and sauce it." Translation: It was dry and had no taste.

Hamtil, a photo editor at The News, said his pulled pork sandwich was "really juicy" but his peach cobbler tasted like "whatever they coated the baking pan with." He left it half-eaten.

Dickey's has earned raves from Barbecue Snob Daniel Vaughn for its jalapeno cheese sausage, but on our visit, the sausage fell short. Gooding said the cheese tasted "Velveety."

"I just don't think it was cooked enough to melt the cheese," Rossman said.

The free soft-serve ice cream, though, was a treat.
We took Central Expressway one exit north to Mockingbird and drove West, past SMU, to Hillcrest. Snider Plaza on Saturdays is a zoo. Good luck parking. We finally found a space about three blocks away in a residential area.

Barbecue has been served at Peggy Sue's location since about the 1940s, first as Howard and Peggy's, later as Peggy's Beef Bar. We walked in the door, past the salad bar, to the Corner Club, a nice place to have a beer and finish the tour.

"This is the best brisket we've had today," Mac Hargrove said. "Anyplace with a Buck Owens album cover on the wall, you know you're in good company."

Hamtil ordered the fried chocolate pie with ice cream and forks for everyone. It was delicious.

From first stop to last, the tour covered 16 miles and took about four hours. Along the way, we traveled through West Dallas and the Park Cities, certainly a study in contrasts.

While the food was largely uninspiring, we did have some favorites, though the grading curve was low.

"The best rib I had was Odom's unsauced," said Marshall Cooper, a commercial real estate broker.

All in all, R.J. Hinkle, a photographer at Quad/Photo, probably summed up the day best.

"Once you know good brisket, then at most places you go it's a disappointment," he said.
Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour itinerary

10:45 am: Meet at Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse BBQ, 202 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX 75235, (214) 357-7120. Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 am-8:00 pm.
noon: Odom’s Bar-B-Que, 1971 Singleton Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75212, (214) 631-3538. Hours: Open M-Thur 10:30-1:45am, F-Sat 10:30-2:45am, Sun 10:30-11:45pm.
1:15 pm: Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 4610 North Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75206, (214) 370-4550. Open: 10:30 am-9:00 pm.
2:00 pm: Peggy Sue BBQ, 6600 Snider Plz, Dallas, TX 75205, (214) 987-9188, Open: Mon-Thu, Sun 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10pm.
Photos ©R.J. Hinkle & ©Chris Wilkins

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour

For our first BBQ tour of new year, a dozen Posse members met this morning to retrace some Dallas BBQ history. We started at the original Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse BBQ on Inwood, followed by stops at Odom’s Bar-B-Que, the original Dickey's Barbecue Pit and ending at Peggy Sue BBQ in Snider Plaza. Our past tours have averaged anywhere from 200 to 600 miles of driving. This one was 16 miles from the first stop to the last.

None of the places came close to the elite BBQ in the area or the state, but it was fun to get together and soak in some of the history of these long-time joints. Since 1958, the Original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse has served patrons on Inwood Road, located across from UT Southwestern Medical Center. The inside is classic, with hickory smoke from the original smoker hanging in the air and vintage school desks lining the small seating area. Above is a portrait of founder Sonny Bryan that hangs on the wall there. This place has a loyal following, often winning reader's choice in local BBQ polls.

Our second stop was Odom’s Bar-B-Que in west Dallas. This is one of the original locations of Hardeman’s Bar-B-Que Restaurant, which was founded in the 1930s by Chester Field Hardeman. This location was sold to in-laws in 1990 and the family now operates three locations around the Dallas area. Most of the founder’s six children and many of his more than 16 grandchildren have worked at his restaurants.

The third stop was the first Dickey’s Barbecue Pit location, which opened in 1941. The photo below shows founder Travis Dickey standing in front of the original restaurant with children Elizabeth and T. D. Dickey, Jr. Dickey’s Barbecue is still owned and operated by the Dickey family and began franchising in 1994. Today they are the largest quick serve barbecue chain in the country with locations coast to coast.

Our last stop was Peggy Sue BBQ located next to the SMU campus. This has been a longtime barbecue location, first as Howard & Peggy’s for over 40 years, then operated as Peggy’s Beef Bar until closing in the 1980s. The current incarnation was started in 1989, but many reminders of the past remain in the dining room. Best news here is the ice cold beer awaiting you at their bar, the finish line of our Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour. Stay tuned, we'll have more to come on the blog about our short tour today.

Roots of Dallas BBQ Tour itinerary

10:45 am: Meet at Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse BBQ, 202 Inwood Road, Dallas, TX 75235, (214) 357-7120. Hours: Mon-Sun 10:00 am-8:00 pm.
noon: Odom’s Bar-B-Que, 1971 Singleton Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75212, (214) 631-3538. Hours: Open M-Thur 10:30-1:45am, F-Sat 10:30-2:45am, Sun 10:30-11:45pm.
1:15 pm: Dickey's Barbecue Pit, 4610 North Central Expy, Dallas, TX 75206, (214) 370-4550. Open: 10:30 am-9:00 pm.
2:00 pm: Peggy Sue BBQ, 6600 Snider Plz, Dallas, TX 75205, (214) 987-9188, Open: Mon-Thu, Sun 11am-9pm; Fri-Sat 11am-10pm.
Top photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse