Thursday, October 31, 2013
There are several restaurants, etc. nearby my apartment that for some reason have eluded me for years. My wife and I have been making a concerted effort to try all of them out during our remaining time in Dallas. I recently discovered that the Parkit Market's deli serves a barbecue sandwich, and although I wasn't expecting much, I was determined to eat it.
By the look of things, the keg sales and convenience store aspects of the Parkit Market seem to comprise the vast majority of their business. The deli remains unstaffed until they have a customer waiting to order. According to the signage out front, the Parkit Market deli has been serving up sandwiches since 1962, and I hoped that much history would translate into halfway decent food. That being said, I approached the situation with only cautious optimism.
I know it's just a mom-and-pop operation here, but we were the only customers at the deli and the service was still excruciatingly slow. Rather than taking our whole order at once, "Pop" decided to make my wife's entire sandwich before even asking what I wanted. I ordered their Homemade B.B.Q. on a Bun, only to be told that he didn't have barbecue today. Sadly, I had to settle for a Ham, Salami, and Cheese Sub.
This was the tiniest little sandwich I've eaten in a while, even though it cost me $4.79 plus tax. FYI, my chips were extra. The sub bun was still cold, meaning that they most likely refrigerate their bread to extend its shelf-life instead of giving customers fresh food. If I'm going to pay five bucks for a sandwich, at least give me a fresh bun. Needless to say, the sandwich was nothing special and really isn't worth describing in detail.
My wife's Chicken Bacon Cheese sandwich was equally as bad. Hers was a "hot sandwich," which apparently meant using the microwave to heat the chicken, and then again to melt the cheese. It was incredible dry by the time all was said and done.
Things were not looking good for my barbecue sandwich.
My first go-round with the Parkit Market was at lunchtime on a Sunday, so I decided to see if a Thursday afternoon would produce more favorable results on the barbecue front. This time I ended up with the "Mom" in the mom-and-pop duo. She was much friendlier and dolled out much faster service than I'd received from Pop.
There was no need to peruse the menu. I once again ordered their Homemade B.B.Q. on a Bun, and I was in luck today, at least as far as availability goes. Mom asked if I wanted either relish or hot sauce on my sandwich, but I declined since neither option seemed appropriate for barbecue. Coleslaw yes, relish no.
I unwrapped my sandwich at home, and it looked absolutely disgusting. It was far from being chopped beef, but more like a glob of shredded beef (I hoped), akin to a Sloppy Joe or a Manwich. There was no sauce drizzled on top, so perhaps this was the "hot sauce" I was offered at the start. The meat, if you can even call it that, was greasy and extremely mushy with way too much salt. There was a hint of spiciness in the meat, though I'm not sure about the source. It reminded me of Old El Paso taco seasoning. I couldn't bring myself to eat more than a few bites before tossing it in the trash. Sad as it is to say, I actually wish they had been out of barbecue again today.
My entire ordeal with the Parkit Market ended up being a complete waste of time, energy, and money.
4724 Greenville Ave
Dallas, TX 75206
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Hutchins BBQ has been on my radar for a while now, especially given their recent inclusion in Texas Monthly's list of "Top 50 Barbecue Joints" for 2013. I don't travel north of Dallas too often (except to shop at Cabela's), so I decided to make the most of today's opportunity for some delicious Collin County barbecue.
I caught the scent of delicious smoke as soon as I opened the door to Hutchins BBQ, which is always a good sign. The short, winding line to order ended at the knife men, who slice everything to order right in front of you. No surprises here. I eagerly watched the customers ahead of me receiving plate after plate of amazing meats and tried not to drool.
The interior at Hutchins is almost entirely comprised of wood, from the booths and tables to the walls, floor, and ceiling. I hope they regularly treat for termites, otherwise the entire place might just collapse under its own weight. The rustic decor was very welcoming and put me in the perfect mood for barbecue.
Having skipped breakfast this morning, I was fairly hungry. I also wanted to sample as many of their meats as possible, so I ordered a Three Meat Plate of sliced brisket, sausage, and ribs (the Texas Trinity). My meats weighed in right at a pound; I certainly had my work cut out for me. Their combo plates come with two side dishes, which are all set out self-serve buffet style. I picked the Texas beans and potato salad.
I really wanted to dive into my meat trio, but I thought it better to start with the sides. The potato salad was both creamy and crunchy at the same time. It had just the right amount of salt, with a hint of dill too. The pickles gave it a nice flavor, and I'm glad that it wasn't overly mustardy. The Texas beans were also really tasty. I found big chunks of tender brisket mixed right in. The seasoning blend was perfect - not spicy, but definitely not bland either. They were also nice and warm, which was a good counter to the dreary weather outside.
With my side dishes out of the way, it was time for the main attraction. The brisket looked gorgeous and had a deep black crust, with a thick smoke ring beneath. The meat was extremely tender and juicy and had an almost silky texture to it. I also found just the right amount of fat, which was perfectly rendered. There was a good amount of smoke and a very tasty seasoning blend. I seriously considered getting back in line to order another five pounds of the brisket, not to share with anyone, but to eat on the drive home.
Next was the sausage, which was also delicious. There was a good snap to the casings, though the smoke seemed to have penetrated nicely. I liked the medium grind to the meat. There was plenty of black pepper mixed throughout and just a hint of garlic. No store-bought sausage here, that's for sure.
Last came the big, meaty St. Louis-style spare ribs, which happen to be my favorite kind. To put it mildly, they were amazing! Just like the brisket, these ribs had a great crust. The meat was very tender, but properly stayed put until each subsequent bite. There was a great seasoning and lots of smoky goodness throughout. No sauce was needed here at all, and I didn't dare add any. The only downside to the ribs was that my combo only came with two.
At Hutchins, dine-in customers are treated to complimentary desserts. I was fairly full by this point, but I certainly wasn't going to pass on their generous offer. That would just be rude. I tried both the banana pudding and the peach cobbler. Sorry diet, better luck next time.
The 'nana pudding seemed to be a 50/50 combination of whipped cream and pudding, with a few bananas and Nilla wafers tossed in for good measure. It was really light and airy compared to my past pudding experiences. Their peach cobbler is made in a shallow baking sheet, so there was a lot of crust to be had. The peaches were most likely canned, but still tasted good either way. The cobbler was really warm and gooey, and was a great end to a great meal.
I was sad to leave Hutchins, but I guess all good things must come to an end sooner or later. Daniel Vaughn and the rest of the Texas Monthly crew definitely made a good call including this place in their list of immaculate Texas barbecue.
1301 N. Tennessee St.
McKinney, TX 75069
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Every once in a while I just get this uncontrollable urge for barbacoa. I've driven past Taqueria la Paisanita more times than I can count, but today was the first time I decided to stop.
La Paisanita certainly doesn't look like much, though these kinds of places usually have the best street tacos. There are a few barstool seats inside this tiny shanty, but a to-go order seemed more appropriate. I mustered up all of the Spanglish available in my personal lexicon and prepared myself for difficulties in ordering. Luckily, the teen working the counter today spoke perfect English.
I asked about the source of their barbacoa and was assured that it was cachete (cheek meat). Far too often, you'll find shredded brisket masquerading as traditional barbacoa, so I was hopeful that I'd receive the beef cheeks they promised. I ordered a trio of tacos: barbacoa, lengua (tongue), and al pastor. Most taquerias only serve their tacos in corn tortillas. Here, I had the option for corn or flour tortillas, but I much prefer flour to corn, so that was a no-brainer. They also asked if I want my tacos "all the way." I didn't know exactly what that would entail, but I was pretty sure I wanted it.
I started my taco smorgasbord with the lengua. Tongue meat probably isn't something that most city folk care to eat, but I really enjoy it. The meat was tender and rich. It didn't have a lot of flavor on its own, but the fresh cilantro and onions fixed that nicely. That being said, I found a slightly unusual aftertaste, even for tongue.
Next came the al pastor taco. Unlike the lengua, this one had a lot of flavor. Al pastor meat is typically marinated over the course of 1-2 days, so you'd expect nothing less. The marinated pork was a real pleasure to eat, though lacked the spiciness I hoped for. It was a little greasier than I'd prefer, and just a tad too salty.
Finally, the piece de resistance: barbacoa. It was just as good as I'd hoped it would be. You'd never guess that it was cheek meat if you didn't know better. The crunch of the onions worked well with the tender meat. It had a very mild seasoning, which let the barbacoa's natural flavors really shine.
Taqueria la Paisanita wasn't the best barbacoa I've had in Dallas, but it was good enough for a $4.00 lunch.
Taqueria la Paisanita
2505 Inwood Rd.
Dallas, TX 75235
Friday, October 25, 2013
There is no backstory here. I was hungry, and Dixie House has ribs on their menu. It's also fairly close to my apartment. After the miserably long day at work I'd just had, those were the only qualifications that needed to be met tonight.
Although once an independent restaurant, Dixie House has been acquired by Black Eyed Pea. It's still a quaint little neighborhood spot, but I think the atmosphere here is actually better than the rest of the chain. Dated and homely, but better.
Eating dinner alone is always a bit awkward for me, so I took a seat at the bar. The delightful octogenarian sitting next to me kept smiling at me in a really uncomfortable and flirtatious way, but her perm just didn't rev my engine. The bartender was very friendly and welcoming. She wrote my order down on a drink napkin, so I just had to cross my fingers and see what the end result would be.
I decided to start with a Southern-style appetizer of Fried Green Tomatoes. For my entree, there was only one thing on my mind: a half-rack of Baby Back Ribs. The ribs come with two sides, and I picked Onion Rings and Mac and Cheese.
Serving food on a bed of lettuce is so old school that it should be illegal. That being said, the tomatoes came out piping hot and straight from the fryer. The batter was crisp and had a good seasoning blend. My order came with both ranch dressing and a "spicy remoulade." The remoulade tasted like a basic tartar sauce with some extra spice mixed in, but it was decent enough.
I hadn't spent more than 5 minutes with my appetizer before the ribs arrived. I wasn't expecting five-star food from Dixie House, but I also wasn't expecting it to look quite this unappetizing either.
The onion rings weren't nearly as hot as the fried green tomatoes had been, but at least the batter was decently crisp. There wasn't really much flavor from the onions. Worst of all, they tasted a little like old grease. The mac and cheese was nothing more than an amorphous, flavorless glob of elbow macaroni and Velveeta. My wife made herself some Kraft mac and cheese for dinner earlier, and I guess I should have just stayed home and eaten that instead.
As for the ribs, they looked brown and lifeless on the plate, and I was quite certain they'd taste as bad as they looked. The menu listed the ribs as "fall off the bone" pork ribs. As promised, the overcooked meat took virtually no effort to separate from the rack. I didn't even need the serrated knife I'd been provided. The meat near the edges was extremely dry. There was no crust, no seasoning, and no smoke. In fact, the only flavors I found were from the sauce, and even that was most likely store-bought. I could have made better ribs at home using nothing more than an oven, a grill pan, and some salt and pepper.
The fried green tomatoes were the only thing about this meal I enjoyed. Well, that and the free cornbread. At least checking in on Yelp scored me a coupon for 20% off my order. I think my grandma would really like Dixie House, and I mean that in the most sincere way possible.
6400 Gaston Ave.
Dallas, TX 75214
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I hadn't been able to eat lunch today, so I decided to make a quick pit stop in Lewisville on my way home from Denton. Fat Cow BBQ had some really great reviews online and seemed worth a try. I've been fooled by reviews before, but I went there with an open mind.
Fat Cow is located in a small shopping strip and is very much set up fast-casual style (think Chipotle). The interior has a very clean and open feel to it, but lacks that rustic, welcoming feel that you'll find at more traditional barbecue joints. It just didn't have any character to it.
I didn't want to ruin my impending dinner, but I did want to get a good sampling of what Fat Cow has to offer. There were several options that seemed to fit that bill, but I settled on a 1 Meat Plate of brisket, with potato salad and mac & cheese on the side. I also added on an order of their Fat Japs (the PC Police are sure to be all over that one soon) for good measure.
The Fat Japs are smoked jalapenos, stuffed with pulled pork and cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and served with ranch dressing. Yes, please!
My jalapenos had a nice char to them, but given the speed at which I received my plate, they clearly aren't cooked to order. I also somehow missed out on the creamy homemade ranch dressing that the menu advertised. Their decision not to de-stem the jalapenos was certainly a faux pas, but was easily correctable. The bacon was awesome and had a great flavor. I found a pretty powerful kick to these peppers, so be careful. The cream cheese helped temper the heat and added a good creaminess to the texture. My jalapenos didn't come with very much pulled pork inside, and, due to the level of heat, I couldn't really taste the pork either. I removed the meat from one pepper and found it to be rather bland actually. They might as well leave out the pulled pork and just drop the price a bit.
Once my mouth had cooled down a little, it was time to move on to the entree round.
The potato salad looked great and had lots of black pepper mixed in. It was a mayo-based potato salad, so there wasn't the potent mustard flavor that many cooks gravitate toward. There was a good crunch and bite from all of the onions, which added to the flavor profile. I also found a pleasant sweetness to the potato salad. As for the mac & cheese, it wasn't quite as flavorful. Like the potato salad, the mac also had plenty of black pepper, but it didn't add much in terms of flavor. The big spiral noodles were loaded with a creamy cheese sauce. It was better than Easy Mac, though not world class by any means.
I was expecting the usual sliced brisket, so you can imagine my disappointment at the pile of shredded beef that sat before me. There was no crust in sight due to this poor carving choice. I also couldn't see any smoke ring since they decided to confiscate all of the delicious bark. Meat like this is more conducive to sandwiches than to plates. At least the meat was tender and juicy, and I also found a decent amount of smoke. Actually, the only flavors I noticed were smoke and salt, so I decided to try their table-side duo of sauces. The "Original" sauce was nice and light with a slight sweetness to it. Surprisingly, the "Sweet" variety tasted exactly the same. I grabbed a bottle of "Original" from another table just in case someone mislabeled them. No such luck. I tried all three bottles again with exactly the same results, so who knows.
Despite the mediocre food, I couldn't resist snagging a Halloween-themed souvenir cup emblazoned with the phrase, "Our BBQ is so good, it's SCARY!"
The barbecue I found at Fat Cow was certainly scary, but probably not in the way they intended.
Fat Cow BBQ
850 Valley Ridge Blvd.
Lewisville, TX 75077
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Most of my Saturdays are spent in the office, so when I have the opportunity for some time off I try to make the most of things. Today I decided to take a short roadtrip to the Dallas-Duncanville border to try out Dave's Bar-B-Que.
Even though it was already 5:00pm, Dave's smoker was still working in full force in the parking lot. Given the retail location, I guess they didn't have many options for smoking. Putting the smoker front and center is usually a good sign, so I strolled inside to see if the food would match my expectations.
The dining room inside Dave's was tiny, much smaller than the Subway next door. The patrons in line ahead of me were all receiving their orders in styrofoam containers, which is probably a good thing given the 8 chairs available for dining in. Clearly this is more of a take-out and catering operation.
At first I considered eating light with just a barbecue sandwich, but the meat lover in me won out in the end. I ordered a Combo Dinner #2 of ribs and sausage with potato salad and mac n' cheese on the side. The menu offered either mild or spicy for the sausage, though no one asked which version I wanted. Rather than speaking up, I decided to just wait and see what the result would be. At least the server did manage to ask if I wanted my barbecue sauce on the meat or on the side, and of course I opted for sauceless 'que.
The potato salad was very heavy on the mustard. There seemed to be some black pepper sprinkled throughout, though I couldn't taste it. I also saw plenty of veggies mixed in, but couldn't find any crunch from them at all. The mac and cheese looked like run-of-the-mill Easy Mac, and it tasted like it too. It had almost no flavor aside from the Velveeta. Each of these sides had a lot of room for improvement.
My sausage came pre-sliced and looked store-bought. According to Full Custom Gospel BBQ's Daniel Vaughn, he was assured by the Dave's staff that they make their sausage in house, but I have my doubts about that. I found a decent snap to the casing when I bit in, as well as a fair amount of spice. I'm assuming I ended up with the spicy variety over the mild. There was a little heat to the sausage, but not enough to really label it "spicy" as far as I'm concerned. Despite the smoker churning out front, I couldn't taste much smoke. Overall, it tasted like a breakfast sausage patty. I ended up dunking the sausage in their sauce out of pure necessity. The sauce was an interesting mix of molasses and vinegar, but it wasn't enough to fix things.
Disappointed by the sausage, I moved on to the ribs. My combo came with three ribs which I couldn't really describe as either spare ribs or St. Louis ribs. The rib tips had been removed, but they were also included in my order, so it was more like a weird hybrid. The crust on the ribs looked decent enough, although it lacked any real seasoning. There was a moderate amount of smoke at least. The fat wasn't rendered nearly as much as it should have been, and the fat on the underside was thick, flimsy, and mushy. Another hour or so in the smoker would have done wonders for the ribs, as would a slightly higher cooking temperature. I called it quits after just one rib.
I feel bad giving Dave's Bar-B-Que such a low rating. The employees were all so nice that I really wanted to like their food, but it just wasn't happening.
4353 Gannon Ln.
Dallas, TX 75237
Thursday, October 17, 2013
It was Day 2 in St. Louis, and I was geared up for some more smoky goodness. I was torn between Pappy’s Smokehouse and the newer Bogart’s, which has supposedly knocked Pappy’s off the throne of St. Louis barbecue in recent years. The Pappy’s website had a quote from their owner front and center which read, “We've got nothing to hide so the sauce is on the side!” He seemed like a man after my own heart, so that was enough to solidify my choice.
3106 Olive St.
St. Louis, MO 63103