Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bet the House BBQ in Denton gets high marks from the Posse and football guru Rick Gosselin

The Posse digs into a platter of smoked meats at Bet the House BBQ in Denton. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Rick Gosselin is one of the foremost football experts in the country. When he says the Dallas Cowboys offense is not yet ready for the regular season, as he did this past weekend, fans -- and the Cowboys -- should take serious notice.

The Dallas Morning News columnist also knows barbecue.

A couple weeks ago, he emailed us about a new place in Denton, Bet The House BBQ, where he had just eaten.

"Brisket was awesome," he wrote, encouraging us to visit the place.

Bet the House's fatty brisket. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
"You won't be disappointed."

As it happens, Bet The House was already on our barbecue radar. We had it slated as the first stop of a Denton County tour, which we made Saturday. We covered about 120 miles in 6 hours and ate at 4 places.

Gosselin was right. We weren't disappointed by Bet The House.

"That brisket is awesome," Posse member Jim Rossman said, sampling a fatty piece with nice crust.

Later, after the fatty morsels were gone, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins tasted one of the lean pieces.

"That's a test of a good brisket, man," he said. "That lean's been sliced for 15 minutes and it's still good."

Nine of us made this stop of the tour. We also sampled pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey, a beef rib and two kinds of sausage.

James Osborne, making his first trip with the Posse, especially liked the turkey and both sausages, regular and jalapeƱo cheddar. Posse veteran Ahna Hubnik singled out the beef rib. Several of us commented about the nice tangy taste of the pulled pork.

The one shortcoming: pork ribs. We thought they could have been cooked longer, have more smoke flavor and a more robust rub.

"Not a lot of flavor profile going on there," Rossman said of the ribs.

Bet  the House co-owners Cody Smithers, left, and Shawn Eagle. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

When we talked to co-owners Shawn Eagle and Cody Smithers, we discovered that we might have been lucky to be eating any barbecue at all from their joint, a store front in a small strip center a few blocks from the main square in Denton.

They had a fire the previous day in the detached smokehouse at the rear. So, instead of their normal pit, they had to cook at home on portable pits.

"Now, it's got a little character on it," Smithers said, pointing to exterior smoke and heat stains on the smokehouse. They hoped to have the regular pit back in action soon.

Eagle teaches at Ryan High School in Denton and Smithers works in marketing at The Morning News. (Full disclosure: Some Posse members had previously tasted their barbecue when they catered  at the newspaper.)

Bet the House is located south of the Denton town square on Elm St..
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins)
The Denton Record-Chronicle did a story about Bet The House in June, shortly after the place opened. After cooking together as friends, then doing some catering, Eagle and Smithers are pursuing their barbecue dream, with the help of a small KickStarter campaign to raise money for some basic supplies.

"We've sold out all but three days of the first two months we've been open," Eagle said.

In future posts, we'll write about the other stops of our tour.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website:

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website:

Bet the House has a small indoor dining room along with outdoor tables. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Posse member Michael Meadows shows off a newly-acquired beef rib. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

BBQ lovers wait to order Saturday lunch at Bet the House BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Smoked cheese a highlight at Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ in Little Elm

A waitress delivers our first course, a four-meat platter at Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

We called it our Denton County BBQ Tour, but it could have just as easily been named the Lake Country Tour.

As we traveled 120 miles in 6 hours to eat at 4 joints on a recent Saturday, we crossed 3 different bridges over Lake Lewisville and drove atop the Ray Roberts Lake Dam.

Seeing the water, the boats, the parks, and the nice shoreside homes was a pleasant respite from the heat, which approached 100 degrees.

And then we met Blake Merrell, owner and pitmaster of Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ in Little Elm, open just a week when we arrived.

Merrell said he once had a boat storage business and transported big motor yachts. Getting a 90-footer from the Gulf to North Texas would cost about $75,000, he said.

He retired a couple years ago, he said, but recently decided to get busy again with a barbecue joint.

Early indications are that he made a good decision. The food -- one week in -- is pretty good and crowds are showing up.

"Last weekend, we did $18,000 in business," he said. It was the first weekend Big Daddy's was open.

The joint is located in a building that was previously a convenience store and gas station.

The Posse sampled brisket, pork ribs, sausage, turkey, and, later, burnt ends and three kinds of smoked cheese. The smoked cheese was so good that two Posse members ordered extra to take home.

We tried three different smoked cheeses, which were amazing
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
"I don't know of anyone else doing that except the guy who taught me," Merrell said of the cheese.

He might be right. Posse member Bryan Gooding, the chicken and sausage king of Oak Cliff, smokes a delicious cheese. But we can't think of anyone else we've run into on our barbecue tours.

Generally, Posse members weren't impressed by Big Daddy's regular brisket, but the burnt ends made some of us reconsider.

"If you ate these every day, you'd be dead in 6 months," Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said. "They're that good."

Bruce Tomaso said the burnt ends raised the joint's overall brisket score to a "C."

"That rib was pretty tough but it had a really good rub on it," said Guy Reynolds.

We asked Merrell about the ingredients in the rub.

"Pepper," he said, with a smile, unwilling to divulge much else. He did say he cooks ribs with pecan wood and brisket with oak and hickory.

All in all, one week in, we liked Merrell's operation. It's definitely worth a visit if you're near Little Elm.

Our our way out of Lake Country back to Dallas, we made one more stop, Chasin' Tail BBQ in Hickory Creek. The turkey was excellent. Everything else was unremarkable.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website:

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website:

Big Daddy's is located in a former gas station on El Dorado Pkwy. in Little Elm. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ owner Blake Merrell holds court with the Posse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ten 50 BBQ in Richardson shows promise in first week, but Franklin, it's not...

Large pallets of wood wait their turn in the smoker  (Photos by Jim Rossman)

After an extensive remodel of a K&G Men's Wear on north Central Expressway in Richardson, Ten 50 BBQ, owned by Chili's founder Larry Lavine, finally opened this week to long lines and daily sellouts around 2:30p.m. each day.

I watched a few accounts of Monday's opening day, including a good writeup by Kellie Reynolds in the Dallas Observer. It was a quote in her story that caught my attention.

"Franklin's in Austin is the gold standard and we think we've matched that," Levine told Reynolds. "We've got a phenomenal product."

After reading the quote, I had to find out for myself, so I set out for Richardson after the lunch rush on their second day of operation. I also visited Thursday with Posse members Gary Jacobson and Phil Lamb and some of my other meat-loving friends.

I'm glad I waited to sample the meats twice before posting. Tuesday's visit was good, but Thursday's lunch was better.

Comparing yourself to the number one BBQ joint in the world is a lofty goal, and while the meat at Ten 50 shows promise, they're a ways from matching the quality of any of Aaron Franklin's offerings.

Lavine certainly built a nice place. Ten 50 has seating for 275 (don't worry about having to reserve a table for 10 or 12...they have plenty of very long tables). The layout will look familiar if you've ever been to a Hard 8 BBQ -- smokers outside, meat kept on outside warmers, cut to order and then taken indoors for sides and drinks.

Ten 50 uses oak to cook their briskets and there are pallets of wood all over the place (great sign). Two large red Oyler smokers are wood-fired and it looks like there's more than enough capacity to serve all day, even though it's lunch only for now. I hear dinner service is coming soon.
Ribs are cooked on hickory. I got these cooking facts from the Observer's story.

They offer grilled steaks, cooked over oak charcoal, which is burned from oak logs on-site. Ten 50 is built to handle large crowds and I found there to be ample staff who were very helpful.

The meats were promising, but all had room for improvement.

How was the meat?

The brisket was cooked perfectly and had a nice smoke ring, but I didn't detect much in the way of a rub on my first visit. The fat was well-rendered and tasted great with the meat, but I did wish it was a little saltier.
The second try was much better. I got more than one slice of beef and there was ample crust that was well-seasoned. The consensus at the table: brisket was the star today. Moist, good crust and very well-rendered fat made for great brisket. It's not Franklin good, but it's solidly in the top tier of DFW brisket.

Ribs on both visits were small. Almost "babyback small." They did have a sweetness to their crust and tasted pretty good. I just wish they were bigger, although this is a nitpick, as you pay by the pound here. We all wished there was some more flavor here. After the initial twinge of sweetness, the taste just faded away.

Sausage comes in two varieties, a traditional sausage from Elgin, TX and a jalapeno-cheddar from Tyler, TX. Both were cooked well. The Elgin sausage was the better of the two. The jalapeno cheddar might have too much of a cheese flavor going on. Neither was especially greasy.

Turkey looked great in the warmer, but the piece cut for me came off the bottom (no skin) and it was a bit dry and lacked flavor. I also tried the Jalapeno Torpedoes which is chicken and cheese, stuffed in a jalapeno wrapped in bacon and grilled. They were pretty good, but needed a hit of sauce to make them sing. They were plenty spicy though.

Speaking of sauce, I tried their traditional sauce and it was good. Very strong molasses taste, but a good balance. I didn't get to try the vinegar-based Carolina sauce.

Two oak-fired Oyler smokers handle the briskets.

One thing struck me when I was looking for a table -- on the fist visit it was really cold inside the restaurant.

I'll certainly say Ten 50 has a fantastic air conditioner, but looking out across the room, most of the rolls of paper towels were blowing like flags in a stiff breeze (no joke).

Besides the ample A/C, there are very large ceiling fans helping move the air. This is great when it's hot, but when you're holding an open tray of sliced meat, it tends to cool it off and dry out in a hurry. I switched tables three times before I found a spot not in a noticeable breeze and my meat was still cold before I finished lunch. I never thought I say this, but I wish it was a bit warmer and less windy at Ten 50.
The second visit was much better. The ceiling fan was spinning much slower. No stiff breezes.

Overall I'm glad we've got a new joint open north of LBJ. I can tell the people at Ten 50 are serious about what they do and I can see the potential. All the pieces are in place, now they just need to dial it in a bit.
This is a great place to bring guests. Nice and large, soon to be open for dinner, full bar with plenty of local beers on tap and above average to excellent meats.

Ten50 Barbecue, 1050 N Central Expy, Richardson, 972-234-1050. Open 7 days a week 10:50am-9pm.

Oak logs were burning to make charcoal.