Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I had an absolutely horrid day at work today, so I decided to take the rest of the afternoon off and treat myself to some barbecue. I drive past Big Al's Smokehouse on my way home 2-3 times a week, but somehow I've never made it inside. Well, there's no time like the present...
When I pulled up, I saw a large pile of wood outside to fuel Big Al's smokers. This was a good sign. I walked in, and was immediately overcome by a delicious smoky aroma. The interior is much nicer and has much more ambiance than the exterior would lead you to believe. It's by no means a five star restaurant, but it's not a hole-in-the-wall either. I headed for the cafeteria-style counter to order up some meaty goodness. I got my order to go, which may have been a mistake because I had the smell of rib meat taunting me the whole drive home.
Big Al's has daily specials, and Tuesday's special is a $9.99 Pork Rib Basket with two sides. Who could say no to that? I ordered the special, complete with barbecue beans and potato salad.
The barbecue beans came with big chunks of diced ham mixed in, so this was definitely not a vegetarian option. They were a little sweet, which paired well with the savory ham. The beans were good, but would have been great with a little more pepper. My potato salad was both creamy and crunchy, and there was a good amount of seasoning to it, too. I also appreciated the uniform size of the diced potatoes, which speaks highly for their cooks' knife skills.
I could tell these ribs would be delicious just by looking at them. The rib basket came with six big, meaty ribs, and the charred crust was beckoning me to inhale them. They were tender and moist, but the meat stayed intact with each bite, so they weren't at all overcooked. Just as I suspected, the ribs had a great crust that was slightly caramelized and also had a little kick to it. Big Al's must use a fair amount of sugar in their rub, but the ribs weren't sticky like you might expect. Although the ribs didn't need any sauce, I decided to sample it anyway just for the sake of completeness. Vinegar seemed to be the primary focus of the barbecue sauce, though not overpowering. The taste was pleasant, but I preferred the ribs sauceless.
As far as ribs go, Big Al's Smokehouse has some of the best I've had in Dallas. I'll definitely be going back, and next time I'll have to dine in so I can try their peach cobbler for dessert.
Big Al's Smokehouse Barbecue
3317 Inwood Rd.
Dallas, TX 75235
Sunday, January 27, 2013
My wife and I were in need of a post-movie meal. There are a few new restaurants around Mockingbird Station that we haven't been to yet, so we thought we'd give Mockingbird Taproom a try.
I liked the atmosphere here a lot more than the Italian restaurant (Vapiano's, I think) that preceded it. It's a little darker inside, which I think helps the ambiance tremendously. The Taproom is an interesting mix of bar and restaurant. There are also a lot of flat screen TVs, so we were able to catch a little of the Pro Bowl while we ate.
Apparently we came during happy hour, so they were out of my first two drink selections, but I was happy with the one I finally ended up with. My wife's drink came complete with lipstick on the glass. We flagged down the waitress, and this error was quickly remedied. Overall, their beer and wine selection seemed a little overpriced. Who wants to pay $6.00 a glass for Polka Dot riesling when you can get a full bottle at Kroger for the same price?
In addition to drink specials, happy hour also meant that their starters were half price. They had a couple of barbecue-ish options on the menu, so I thought I'd give them a try. I settled on the Pulled Pork Sliders and an order of Suicide Fries.
The Suicide Fries come with queso, giardiniera, chopped brisket, green onions, and a fried egg piled on top. I found the combined flavor of all these ingredients to be really amazing, but this dish is kind of a big hot mess. The texture and taste of the chopped brisket was off, more stewed or steamed rather than smoked. It seemed more like roast beef or stew meat. This may have been brisket, but it definitely wasn't barbecue. I let my wife try the Suicide Fries to see what she thought: "Well, I liked the cheese..."
Next I moved to the Pulled Pork Sliders. Besides the obvious, the sliders come topped with a green apple slaw and bourbon-molasses sauce, complete with a side of fried shoestring onions. These had a really nice sweetness to them, both from the sauce and the pretzel bread bun. The green apple slaw added a great crunch without unnecessarily adding more sugar. Sadly, the pulled pork was a little dry when eaten by itself, but the complete package was top notch.
Apparently Mockingbird Taproom has half price burgers on Mondays. I would go back to try out their burgers, especially if those come with pretzel bread buns like my sliders did. Our dinner wasn't a complete bust, but it certainly could have been better. As my wife said, "Oh well, it was half price."
5319 E. Mockingbird Ln.
Dallas, TX 75206
Friday, January 25, 2013
My office is very near Ridgmar Mall in Fort Worth, and as it just so happens, so is Woody Creek Bar-B-Q. I've driven past it several times, but today was my first time inside.
When you walk in to Woody Creek, there is a short maze to get from the door to the counter for no apparent reason. Here, you'll find several American flags and other patriotic wall hangings, as well as painted cow skulls and neon beer signs. There is a full bar, assuming you need that sort of thing with your lunch. Oddly enough, they had 90's alternative rock blasting through the speakers. Although I enjoyed eating lunch to Collective Soul, it seemed a bit out of place here. They also have a small stage in one corner, so there must be live music from time to time.
I ordered up a 2 Meat Plate of hot links and bologna, with potato salad and baked beans on the side.
The baked beans were sweet and a little spicy at the same time. They might have come from a can, but still tasted good nonetheless. I found a decent amount of pepper and spices, so maybe they just use the can for a base. I do wish there had been some bacon though. The potato salad looked like a big scoop of ice cream. It definitely needed some crunch to break up the creaminess of it all, and maybe a little paprika too. It was ok, but certainly nothing to write home about.
Side dishes thoroughly sampled, I moved on to the meat. The hot links had bright red casings that could have used more snap. The meat itself had a great flavor. There was definitely some heat here, but a few slices were much hotter than others. One slice even made my eyes water a little, so there is some issue with consistency. The sweetness of their barbecue sauce helped cool things down some, but it was still really spicy.
I had never had barbecue bologna before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. To my surprise and delight, the bologna was really tasty. It came in nice thick slices - no deli meat here. There was a great crispy char from the pit, and a decent level of smoke too. Unlike the hot links, I preferred the bologna without sauce.
Woody Creek isn't a place you should go out of your way to eat at, but it's probably a far better alternative to the mall food court if you're doing some shopping nearby.
UPDATE (March 30, 2013): If you browse the comments below, you'll see the unnecessary battle between myself and a reader over something as trivial as paprika and its use in cooking. I recently received a picture from one of my friends depicting not one, but two different varieties of Hungarian hot paprika sitting on the grocery store shelves. I enjoy being validated, so I'm sharing that picture here.
Woody Creek Bar-B-Q
6986 Green Oaks Rd.
Fort Worth, TX 76116
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Bone Daddy's has been on my to-do list for a while now. It wasn't until today, however, that I discovered it's basically the Hooters of barbecue.
Based on other reviews I've read, I was expecting a long wait at dinner. That might be true for bigger groups, but since I was solo, I was able to climb right up onto a barstool with no wait at all. Looking around, there wasn't a single female customer in sight, which wasn't entirely surprising. I do in fact possess a Y chromosome, so I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I didn't enjoy the scandalous, half-naked waitresses. That being said, the bartender's massive thigh and torso tattoos and partially-visible birth control patch were a little unappealing and also slightly unappetizing. But I came here for the meat candy, not the eye candy, so on we go.
I started with an order of the Smokin' Tailpipes, which are listed as "smoked brisket, onion, jalapenos, corn, and peppers all wrapped up and deep fried."
Visibly, the Smokin' Tailpipes looked a lot like Chili's Southwest Eggrolls. The batter was nice and crisp, and the flavor was amazing! I could definitely pinpoint the brisket, but the other ingredients held their own just fine too. Given the menu description, I was a little disappointed with the lack of heat. You might expect something called a "smokin' tailpipe" to have some serious spiciness to it, but they had none at all. They tasted great nonetheless, and I guess I should be grateful that I made it out with my tailpipe unscathed.
Next, I ordered up a Flying Pig sandwich: pulled pork, link sausage, maple-glazed ham, and bacon on all one bun. They were slated to come with beans and fries on the side, but I decided to just double up on the fries.
I had to take a few minutes just to marvel at the pork-tastic masterpiece that sat before me. The sandwich was a little hard to eat, with various pork products spilling out left and right. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though, since then I could sample each of the meats individually too. They were all great on their own, but the collective was phenomenal! There was a little kick to the sandwich too. Upon closer inspection, I think the heat emanated from the sausage. The Flying Pig also had just the right amount of barbecue sauce on it, which had a sweet and smoky flavor that enhanced the meat quite nicely.
The food was terrific, but the *cough* scenery could have been better. If Bone Daddy's wants to hire sexy jailbait waitresses, far be it from me to tell them no. Just make sure that they don't look like they're dancing at some trashy strip club after their shift is over. I do applaud their ability to wait tables in six-inch heels though.
I would probably go back to Bone Daddy's, either on my own or with a group of guys, but this definitely isn't a place my wife and I will be dining at for our upcoming wedding anniversary.
Bone Daddy's House of Smoke
8856 Spring Valley
Dallas, TX 75240
I only had a short time for lunch today between court hearings, so I headed out on foot. Armed with my trusty Texas Monthly "BBQ Finder" iPhone app, I located Colter's Texas Bar-B-Q just a few short blocks from the courthouse.
This place is down in the retail section underneath the One Main Place building. I could smell the aroma of barbecue sauce throughout the corridor as I approached the restaurant's main entrance. When I arrived, I found "Colt's Texas Bar-B-Q" instead of the "Colter's" I was looking for. By the look of the mangled signage inside and out, I think they had recently undergone a rebranding for some reason. New management perhaps? There isn't much in terms of indoor seating, but the restaurant opens up onto a courtyard with lots of seating outside.
After a quick perusal of the wall-mounted menu, I settled on a Link Sausage Platter, which came with two sides. I picked potato salad and peach cobbler. It was nice that I could pick dessert for one of my sides.
As you can see in the picture above, my order came out with the fork embedded in the sauce-heavy sausage. The potato salad was full of big chunks of diced potatoes. There was plenty of mustard and a good crunch from the veggies, although it didn't really have much flavor beyond the mustard and onions.
The sausage came pre-sliced and covered in a massive helping of barbecue sauce. There was a good snap to the casings, enough that the plastic fork had a hard time pushing through. My first bite was definitely a little spicy, and the spice kept creeping up on me too. I sampled a little of the sauce to see if the source of heat was the sausage or the sauce. There wasn't much kick to the sauce, so it must be the meat itself. The sauce was a little thick for my liking and didn't add much in terms of overall taste, and to be honest, it reminded me of the bbq dipping sauce that came with my McNuggets last week.
I finished off my lunch with the peach cobbler, which seemed more like a deconstructed pie with all the pie crust that was mixed in. I wouldn't really describe it as gooey, more sticky, like it was being held together by a sugary glue that hadn't completely hardened yet. The flavor was decent, but there was definitely more sugar than peaches here. I feel like they missed the mark a little on the dessert, which in my opinion suffers from an obvious identity crisis - it's supposed to be peach cobbler, not diabetes pie.
All things considered, Colt's Texas Bar-B-Q was a good value for a quick walking-distance lunch. If I go back, I'll be picking different sides and asking for my barbecue sans the sauce.
Colt's Texas Bar-B-Q
1201 Main St.
Dallas, TX 75202
Monday, January 21, 2013
Riscky's Bar-B-Q is just down the street from my office, so I decided to stop by for a late lunch before I headed home for the day. I've eaten at Riscky's several times before, but not since I started this blog, so I thought I should give it another go.
I was eating lunch alone, so as usual, I took a seat at the bar. The interior of Riscky's is a large open wooden structure, set up to feel more like you're outside than in. There are deer and cow heads mounted overhead, alongside other rustic country decor like old motorcycles, wagon wheel chandeliers, cowboy hats, and lassos. The staff was also exceptionally friendly and welcoming.
For lunch, I ordered Riscky's Famous Combo Full Smoker with three meats: bbq shrimp, brisket, and smoked sausage. Even though it wasn't officially on the list of available meats for the combo, I wanted to try their bbq bologna as my third meat, but I was told this wasn't an option. I was kind of disappointed and confused at the same time, since I'm sure bologna isn't any more expensive or difficult to put on a plate than sausage, but oh well. Rules are rules. My combo also came with red beans, coleslaw, and french fries. I had the option for potato salad or fries, but today I wanted my potatoes hot and crispy.
As always, I began my meal by sampling the sides. The menu said my combo was supposed to come with "red beans," but these definitely looked and tasted like run-of-the-mill pinto beans. Whatever they were, they had a decent flavor nonetheless. The coleslaw had a good crunch to it and wasn't overly creamy or drowning in dressing. It could have used a little more pepper though. My french fries were standard frozen fries. They had a nice seasoning, but were nothing special by any means.
The smoked sausage was exceptionally lean and ground very fine, with almost no evidence of fat. I only found one or two specks of black pepper inside, which just seemed like an afterthought. The casings were nice and crisp. The sausage wasn't completely terrible, but it reminded me of Hormel or some other grocery store sausage. I added a little of their barbecue sauce to see if that would help things, but it just turned it into sweet Hormel sausage. The sausage was cooked very well, they just picked a really bad sausage to cook with. I definitely wish I could have gotten the bbq bologna instead.
My brisket was scrumptious and tender, and had a thick black crust on the edges. There was a decent amount of smoke to each bite. It wasn't overly fatty, but also wasn't lean enough to be too dry - a happy medium. I didn't even need a knife to cut through the brisket, which is good because all they gave me was a fork.
The bbq shrimp were an enjoyable change of pace. There was a great flavor from the pit. The shrimp were slightly smoky and had just the right amount of sauce seared onto them. I was a little weary of ordering shrimp from a barbecue joint out of fear that they might be rubbery or overcooked, but these were done perfectly. Kudos!
Disappointing sausage aside, Riscky's Bar-B-Q is certainly worth a visit. They also advertise all-you-can-eat beef ribs and $1.00 Jello shots if you're so inclined.
6701 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76116
Sunday, January 20, 2013
My mom was in town for the weekend, and for some reason she wanted to go to Texas Land & Cattle for dinner. I hadn't been there in a long time, so we saddled up and drove on over.
It was a little chilly outside, so I appreciated that the hostess seated us next to the crackling fireplace. The longhorn head mounted on the wall above us added to the ambiance. Their Sunday night dinner hour wasn't exceptionally busy, which made it all the more frustrating when our waitress took almost 10 minutes to bring out my soda. Sigh.
I wasn't really in the mood for steak (which is a weird thing for me to even say), so I thought this might be a good opportunity to see how their ribs matched up to the rest of Dallas. I ordered a half-rack of Baby Back Ribs and substituted steak fries for the usual shoestring fries. My entree also came with a wedge salad to start.
There isn't really much to say about the wedge salad except...it's a wedge salad. I don't know if the blue cheese dressing was made in house or not, but it tasted good regardless. I was also glad to find plenty of actual blue cheese crumbles in the dressing. But I didn't come here for salad, so I quickly cast it aside in favor of my ribs.
I don't usually expect too much from restaurant barbecue, but the ribs actually had much more of a charred crust than I was anticipating. The meat was nice and tender, and it was very easy to cut it clean off the bone. I could taste a slight hint of smokiness, which was also surprising. The barbecue sauce was pleasantly sweet, but could certainly benefit from some more spice and maybe a little heat too. The steak fries were decent, but I'm sure they started off frozen.
The baby back ribs at Texas Land & Cattle by no means qualify as five-star Texas barbecue, but they definitely rallied my taste buds much more than I initially expected. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they may have been some of the best ribs I've had in Dallas outside of an actual barbecue joint. They may be known for their steak more than anything else, but Texas Land & Cattle also offers up some surprisingly tasty ribs.
Texas Land & Cattle
3130 Lemmon Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204
Friday, January 18, 2013
My wife was working all night, which made this the perfect opportunity for some bachelor dinner time. The Nodding Donkey is just a short walk from my apartment, so I wandered over to score some grub.
The Nodding Donkey is by no means a "barbecue joint," but rather a sports bar and grill. Even so, their menu has a couple of barbecue options, so I thought it was worth a review. It has your typical bar atmosphere and sporty aesthetic, with large flat screens blasting all the major sporting events of the day. There is also a decent sized dining area in addition to the big wrap-around bar. I was dining alone, so I took a seat at the bar.
I started with an order of their Homemade Jalapeno Skins. For my entree, I selected the BBQ Brisket Grill Cheese that I had my eye on for some time now.
My Jalapeno Skins came out first, and I was actually kind of impressed with the plating. The bacon had a great crispiness to it. There wasn't just a ton of heat to this dish, which was a little disappointing. I dissected one and discovered that the entire jalapeno vein had been removed, so that's probably the reason for the missing spiciness. The accompanying dipping sauce added a nice creaminess and a little heat, but it was still pretty mild as far as jalapenos go. The chorizo and Oaxaca cheese they were stuffed with was a welcome change from the typical cream cheese jalapeno poppers.
After much anticipation, my BBQ Brisket Grill Cheese finally arrived. The homemade skin-on fries were nice and crispy and had just the right amount of salt. My sandwich was a slightly soggy on the bottom, which I just attributed to the barbecue sauce. I was pretty excited for the Texas Toast. It was a little hard to pinpoint the brisket flavor with all of the gooey, melty cheese, but the sandwich had a great taste to it nonetheless. The brisket was also fairly tender. Here again, there was very little kick from the pickled jalapenos inside. The barbecue sauce tasted pretty good and was a nice combination of sweet and tangy, but wasn't overly sugary. I also appreciated that the sandwich wasn't drowning in sauce, despite its soggy bottom.
The Nodding Donkey could really benefit from ensuring that their jalapeno-laced menu items actually have some spiciness to them. Overall though, I was pretty happy with my meal. If the game is on and you want to try something beyond the usual barbecue offerings of pulled pork and potato salad, The Nodding Donkey is worth a stop.
The Nodding Donkey
5600 SMU Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75206
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 cups ketchup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup steak sauce (e.g. A-1)
1/4 cup cup Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground celery seed
1-2 teaspoons liquid smoke
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is golden, 6 to 7 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, 1 cup water, the vinegar, brown sugar, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, mustard, celery seed, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the onion is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the liquid smoke. Strain the sauce, pressing on the solids to extract any liquid.
Courtesy Food Network Magazine
June 2012 - Volume 5, Issue 5
Photograph by Andrew Purcell
Monday, January 14, 2013
I've never really had any inclination to go to Dickey's Barbecue Pit. It seemed more like fast food than anything else. Lately, however, I've been seeing advertisements for Dickey's $2.00 barbecue chicken sandwich on Mondays, so I thought it was worth a try for that price.
At Dickey's, the meat seems to be sliced to order, but it's what the meat is sliced from that gave me pause. The orders were being sliced off of large slabs of meat sitting out under heat lamps. The side dishes are also set out buffet style under more heat lamps. This did not bode well.
I ordered the special Big Barbecue Chicken Sandwich, as well as a Big Barbecue Pulled Pork Sandwich and a side of their original potato salad (rather than the dill potato salad).
The potato salad was exceptionally creamy and whipped like mashed potatoes. In fact, I suspect they use the same potato base for both the potato salad and their baked potato casserole. Overall, the potato salad had a nice crunch from the pickles and other mix-ins. I wish the mustard flavor had been a little more prominent though.
Dickey's menu says that all of their barbecue sandwiches come "dressed with pickles, onions, and barbecue sauce," and all of the pictures on their website also show big pickles and onions on the sandwiches. I normally don't eat veggies on my sandwiches, but I was actually looking forward to the added crunch and acidity. When I unwrapped my order at home, I was disappointed to find only meat inside of a plain sesame seed bun. No pickles, no onions. The sauce was on the side, which was probably because I got my order to go.
I decided to start by trying each of the sandwiches without sauce. With the chicken, I could taste a nice char from the grill. The meat was sliced fairly thick, so it was a little dry. I think using pulled rather than sliced chicken might help this problem. The pulled pork sandwich didn't have much smoke to it at all, but had a decent flavor regardless. The meat was tender without being mushy, although it could certainly benefit from more spice.
The sauce itself was a slightly sweet tomato-based sauce, but really had no heat or flavor to it outside of the tomatoes. It helped alleviate some of the dryness of the chicken, so that was good. As for the pulled pork, the sauce added a little sugar to it, but otherwise didn't help the flavor at all. I guess I should have opted for the spicy barbecue sauce instead.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit is perfect if you only have $2.00 to spare for lunch, or if you're catering a child's birthday party. Other than that, there's really no reason to go here.
UPDATE (February 6, 2013): About two weeks ago, I received a message on Yelp.com from the manager at Dickey's. She apologized for my disappointing dining experience, and asked for my contact information so that she could "have [my] issues addressed." I replied back right away and gave her my mailing address. To date, I have yet to receive any further contact from Dickey's. It looks like they weren't that concerned after all.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit
4610 N. Central Expressway
Dallas, TX 75206