Friday, June 28, 2013

First Look: Work Bar & Grill in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Brisket plate with sides of cole slaw and tortellini mac & cheese at Work Bar & Grill. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

A philosophical question: Can a place that has more salads on its menu than smoked meats be called a barbecue joint?

After sampling the brisket, pulled pork and chicken at Work Bar and Grill in Deep Ellum, the Posse answers "Yes."

We also are better able to answer a couple of other pressing Dallas barbecue questions.

Where's a good place to have a sit-down barbecue dinner with drinks?

Lockhart Smokehouse used to be our only recommendation. Now, we can add Work. Both have great bars.

And, if the lunch line at Pecan Lodge is way too long, where's a good nearby alternative?

Work is only a few blocks away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yes, we're all riding the wave of this Texas barbecue phenomenon


Lockhart Smokehouse pitmaster Will Fleischman. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

A while back, after the lunch rush and long before dinner, I was sipping a beer and talking to Will Fleischman, the pitmaster-philosopher at Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas.

Is the Texas barbecue bubble going to burst? I asked. Will the culinary accolades from around the country and the long lines of customers here eventually go away?

Fleischman acknowledged that the frenzy for Texas barbecue might someday cool. But, he said, he was going to ride the wave of popularity as far as it goes. He had been employed at Lockhart since it opened in 2011. From his point of view, he said, he hadn't worked a day the whole time. It was fun.

There's no argument that Texas barbecue is hot. We have VIP tastings, $150-a-head custom bus tours of top Texas joints, and long lines of regular barbecue lovers happily queuing up for hours just to get served.

I know all that. You could argue that the Posse is just a byproduct of the Texas barbecue resurgence.

But the true extent of this phenomenon didn't become entirely clear to me until this past week.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mac's Bar-B-Que of Dallas makes a surprise visit on Men's Journal Top 10 Texas BBQ list

Brisket Frito Pie at Mac's Bar-B-Que in Dallas. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Another day, another Top 10 Texas BBQ list.

It's gotten to the point where every publication, whether they've ever actually ever stepped foot in the state, is coming out with their own top 10 Texas BBQ list.

Outside of Texas Monthly and the Posse's recent Best of Texas BBQ rankings, I pretty much ignore all the often silly lists coming out these days.

However, I couldn't resist the temptation to open a link this weekend from Men's Journal, trumpeting "EXPERT ADVICE: Daniel Vaughn's Top 10 BBQ Joints in Texas."

When Daniel speaks, barbecue fans listen. Thus is the power of the pulpit when you are Texas Monthy's BBQ ambassador.

Friday, June 21, 2013

From the Posse's view, Pecan Lodge holds all the cards in negotiations with Dallas Farmers Market

Meats on the smoker at Pecan Lodge in the Dallas Farmers Market. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Posse member and Dallas Morning News assistant metro editor Bruce Tomaso gives us more details on the sweeping changes at the Dallas Farmers Market and how that might affect Pecan Lodge's decision on moving to a new location.

OK, let’s be honest:

In the $64 million makeover of the Dallas Farmers Market, there’s only one thing that barbecue aficionados care about:

What’s gonna happen to Pecan Lodge?

That’s the $64,000 question.

Our two-cent answer: No one knows.

Owners Diane and Justin Fourton have made it clear for months that they’re weighing their options. Justin told Texas Monthly’s Daniel Vaughn that he and Diane have been scouting other potential locations as “part of a contingency plan depending on what happens at the market.”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Updated: Some thoughts on Pecan Lodge and a potential new location

The lunch line queues up at Pecan Lodge in the Dallas Farmers Market. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

UPDATE: we received a Tweet from Pecan Lodge: @texasbbqposse @jimrossman: Thx for your thoughts. Adding 2nd cash register in next few wks. Already hv 2 cutters in kitchen. Doing our best.


So the BBQ blogosphere seems to be full up on stories about Pecan Lodge and whether or not it'll remain at the Dallas Farmer's Market.

The City of Dallas sold the property and there are plans to redo Shed 2, which apparently include tearing it up while a new sewer line is installed. Not exactly the right environment for any restaurant.

Nancy Nichols over at D Magazine's SideDish blog talked to owners Justin and Diane Fourton:

“They are going to gut Shed 2 and put in a new sewer line,” said Diane. “I just wish somebody would say ‘here is how we will help you run your businesses while we’re under construction.’ I don’t see how we, or any of us, can operate under those conditions. It’s crazy.”

So the thinking is Pecan Lodge may just move to a more hospitable location.

Why I love and hate -- at the same time -- Tim Byres' new cookbook, Smoke

Filets with Tim Byres' BBQ Beef Coffee Cure (Photo by Gary Jacobson)

My friend, Martha Gooding, says if you get one good recipe out of a cookbook, the book is worth the price.

By that measure, Tim Byres' new cookbook, Smoke, is a tremendous bargain.

I got two great recipes, and if you stay to the end of this post you'll get one of them: Byres' BBQ Beef Coffee Cure. So far I've used it twice, on New York strip steaks and filets. It's wonderful. Hope to try it soon on brisket.

The other great recipe is for homemade sour cream. What an unexpected treat!

So, why am I also down on this new offering from the celebrated chef at Dallas' Smoke restaurant?

It wasn't written for cooks like me. It was written to bolster the culinary cred of Byres.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Posse winner talks about growing up with Aaron Franklin and the future of barbecue in Texas

Aaron Franklin, right, and his bandmates in Those Peabodys.
(Photo courtesy of Post-Parlo Records)

Please pardon our tardiness, we're a bit late with this post.

Neil Gallagher of Bryan won last month's Texas barbecue giveaway offered by FoodyDirect in partnership with the Posse. FoodyDirect, an online food marketplace, randomly selected his name from among more than 200 entries.

When I contacted Gallagher, 35, to congratulate him, the conversation ranged widely, from his win to even pondering the future of barbecue in Texas.

He said he grew up in Bryan with Aaron Franklin, now the reigning barbecue baron of the state. Franklin runs Franklin Barbecue in Austin.

Gallagher is an accountant at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He said his wife, Jenny, lived next door to the Franklin family in Bryan, where Aaron's father ran a barbecue place.

"I would have never guessed that he was going to be a barbecue mogul," Gallagher said of Franklin. "I always figured that if he was ever going to make it in something, it would be in the music industry. I guess he found something else he loved."

Before barbecue, Franklin played drums for a band called Those Peabodys.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lots of gorilla dust in the Texas barbecue world…Why?

Customers wait in line at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

I don't know if Ross Perot likes barbecue. He's Texan, so probably. But it doesn't really matter.

He had the perfect term for what's happening now in some parts of the Texas barbecue world.

Gorilla dust.

Whenever Ross saw sideshows obscure real issues, whenever he saw posturing and anemic attempts at intimidation, he called it "gorilla dust."

For him, cutting through b.s. was the only way to do business. That approach helped make him a business legend.

During the past week or so, as I've thought about the reaction to Mike Leggett's recent column in the Austin American-Statesman, I keep thinking of Ross' term, gorilla dust.

Leggett, if you recall, is the outdoors columnist who wrote about his unpleasant experience at Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor when he was in line at the same time a tour group from Texas Monthly arrived.

In Leggett's opinion, the tour group caused him to have to wait an inordinate amount of time to be served. That's the main issue, sideshows aside.

"Call me an old goat," Leggett wrote at the top of his column. "Call me a grouch and an ungrateful snake. Call me just plain shortsighted because I haven’t recognized the smoked meat worship that’s swept over our state."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

6 things the Posse learned from its DFW Top 7 BBQ Tour

Lockhart Smokehouse, Dallas, Texas. (Photo ©Daniel Gonclaves/Fotobia.com)

1. Pecan Lodge, without a doubt, is the best joint in DFW. We already knew this, but it was reinforced as we toured the 7 area places that made Texas Monthly's new Top 50 list. There isn't a weak spot in pitmaster Justin Fourton's smoked meat lineup.

2. Bartley's BBQ in Grapevine and Cousin's Barbecue in Fort Worth don't belong among the Top 50, for food or atmosphere.

3. Call ahead to Meshack's to make sure it's open. We didn't and we paid the price when the place was closed. We wound up eating bad barbecue at a place we wish we had never tried.

4. Tim Hutchins of Hutchins BBQ in McKinney is the state's next hot pitmaster. He regularly benchmarks his food against the best joints and wants to constantly improve. "I'm trying to bring the level up across the board," he told us during our visit.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Longoria's definitely belongs on Texas Monthly's new Top 50 list; not so Cousin's

Meats sit on the smoker at Longoria's BBQ in Everman. (Photo©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Longoria's BBQ in Everman turns out some pretty stout ribs, but the star of the menu is the brisket sausage, no doubt about it.

"Brisket sausage, I don't think life gets better than that," Posse member Magda Michna Goncalves said during the final day of our "DFW Top 7 BBQ Tour" after she tasted Longoria's specialty.

To be proper, we should probably refer to Magda as Dr. Michna Goncalves.

Among its members, the Posse numbers several JDs, and we just picked up a reverend, but Magda is the only PhD. A vision scientist, she earned her degree with a thesis titled: "Novel Imaging Techniques using the Transport of Intensity Equation."

Kinda humbling for the English and journalism majors among us.

Monday, June 10, 2013

'Bikes, Blues, and Barbecues,' about a father and son bicycle tour through Texas, now available as an e-book

Robby Landauer rides between Lockhart and Bastrop, on the way to Giddings. This was the longest day of their tour.

You may remember the father and son -- Tim and Robby Landauer -- who made the bicycle barbecue tour through the Central Texas heartland.

We published an item about them in March after Robby sent us a copy of an unpublished manuscript he had written about the trip titled "Bikes, Blues, and Barbecues: Me, my dad and our three favorite things."

Now, Robby Landauer has turned his manuscript into an e-book, available both through Amazon and Google Play.

"You don't need a Kindle to read the Amazon copy," proud father Tim informed us in an email. "Amazon has free apps for reading it on any computer, smartphone, or tablet.  With Google Play, I think it's just a PDF, so even easier."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

First Look at Jambo's BBQ: Great start for the new place from pit builder and competition pro Jamie Geer

Dining room at the newly-opened Jambo's BBQ Shack in Rendon. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Jamie Geer of Burleson is a big-time barbecue competitor and has been called the da Vinci of barbecue pit builders with his sleek-looking and good-cooking line of Jambo smokers.

Now, he is trying his hand at running a barbecue joint, called Jambo's BBQ Shack and Catering, located in Rendon, not far from his home.

We visited Saturday, the end of Jambo's first week in business.

"It's been crazy," Geer said as he cut orders for a steady line of lunch customers.

We sampled his brisket, pork ribs, sausage and a giant pork chop. All were moist and very tender. Posse member Jim Rossman easily cut the 3-inch-thick chop with a plastic knife and fork and handed samples to Posse members and friends, a dozen strong.

"That's cooked perfectly," Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said of the chop. "I know what I'll be ordering the next time I come."

Photo essay of Hutchins BBQ in McKinney, by the Posse's Daniel Goncalves

Hutchins BBQ in McKinney, newcomer on the Texas Monthly Top 50 list. (Photos ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

Here's another great set of images from Dallas-based editorial and commercial photographer Daniel Goncalves, who joined up with the Posse early this year after moving to Dallas with wife Magda in late 2012. Daniel is helping us document the current DFW 7 BBQ Tour, where we are hitting all seven area BBQ joints from the Texas Monthly Top 50 list, each during lunch time on consecutive days.

We've previously published several series of his classic pitmaster portraits, which is an ongoing project for Daniel. Click here and here to see these projects. You can see more of his work at www.fotobia.com.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bartley's BBQ popular with the locals, not so much with the Posse.

Bartley's BBQ is located in a strip mall on E. Northwest Hwy. in Grapevine. (Photo©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse) 

Friday brought the Texas BBQ Posse to Grapevine to eat at Bartley’s BBQ, a joint that none of us had heard of before it made the 2013 Texas Monthly Top 50 list. After one visit, we’re wondering how they made the list.

It was crowded and the line remained a steady 15-20 during the lunch hour. Service is cafeteria line-style with self-serve sides that were mostly very good.

As for the meat, we sampled the brisket, pork loin, pork ribs, turkey, hot links and the smoked bologna. The meat was dry – all of it.

Honestly, if that meat was cooked for the lunch service today, the staff at Bartley’s needs to figure out a new way to store the meat before serving.

A bell-ringer of a meal at Pecan Lodge during Day 4 of the Posse's Dallas-Fort Worth barbecue tour

In return for being first in line at Pecan Lodge, Chris Wilkins rings the bell as lunch service begins. (Photo ©Jim Rossman)

Where to begin to tell the story of Day 4 of the Posse's week long-tour of the best joints in Dallas-Fort Worth?

How about with Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins getting to ring the dinner bell for the start of service at Pecan Lodge.

Wilkins earned the honor by arriving at Shed 2 at the Dallas Farmers Market at 9:15 a.m., a full hour and 45 minutes before Pecan Lodge opened, and 45 minutes before the shed itself opened.

"I sat in the car and read the paper," Wilkins said.

When the doors to Shed 2 were unlocked, he was first in line at Pecan Lodge, and as is the custom, got to ring the bell at 11 a.m. By then, the line had grown to more than 110 people.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lockhart Smokehouse renews our faith in DFWs Top 7 Tour

Assistant pitmaster Damien Avila takes lunch orders at Lockhart Smokehouse (Photo©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

After Tuesday's debacle in Garland we set our sights on Lockhart Smokehouse for lunch Wednesday and we're proud to say the meat did not disappoint (save for one spare rib that was a bit tough).

The Posse rolled into Oak Cliff on the third of seven stops on our weeklong tour of Texas Monthly's 7 DFW joints that made the 2013 Top 50 list.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A short meditation on baseball and barbecue disappointment, serious barbecue disappointment

The sad sight of an empty parking lot at MeShack's Bar-B-Que on a Tuesday at 11:30am. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)

As any baseball fan knows, life is all about hitting curve balls. Constant curve balls.

And so it goes with barbecue, too.

The Posse re-discovered that important lesson Tuesday, the second day of its week-long "DFW Top 7 BBQ Tour," our plan to hit all of the area joints that made Texas Monthly's new Top 50 list.

What started so grandly at Hutchins BBQ in McKinney on Monday, however, derailed badly in Garland.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hutchins BBQ in McKinney sets the bar high for the Posse's DFW Top 7 Tour

Hutchins BBQ in McKinney has some of the best prices in the DFW area. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

We kicked off the Posse's "DFW Top 7 BBQ Tour" Monday at Hutchins BBQ in McKinney and we came away agreeing unanimously that the smoked meat bar had been set very high for the rest of the week.

"If I lived up here I'd probably eat here once a week," Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said of Hutchins. "I can't believe how this place has stayed under the radar."

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Posse visits Texas Monthly's "DFW 7" top BBQ joints this week


After Texas Monthly announced their Top 50 BBQ list in mid-May, we thought one of the biggest surprises was the inclusion of seven DFW-area barbecue restaurants on the list.

The last Texas Monthly list in 2008 had three places in DFW: Baker's Ribs in Dallas, Cousin's Barbecue in Ft. Worth and Big Daddy's Roadhouse BBQ in Lavon. Cousin's is the only holdover on the new list.

As a group, we have been numerous times to Pecan Lodge, Lockhart Smokehouse, Longoria's BBQ and Meshack's Bar-B-Que Shack. However, we've never visited Bartley's BBQ, Cousin's Barbecue or Hutchins BBQ on a BBQ tour.

Thus planning for a tour of the newly-named "DFW 7" was set in motion.