Friday, March 7, 2014
Baby Back Shak (Dallas, TX)
Baby Back Shak has been on my radar for quite a while, but something always seems to come up at the last minute to prevent me from going. Today was an easier day at work, so I took some personal time and finally made it happen.
You'll find Baby Back Shak down in the Cedars neighborhood of South Dallas. Apparently both the Shak's interior and exterior recently got a complete overhaul (courtesy of the show "Hungry Investors"), which should play nicely in the Big D. It has a hoppin' jazzy atmosphere. The dining room is clean and open and slightly trendy, which is par for the course in Dallas, but not necessarily for barbecue joints in general. This all seems to fit with their stated slogan: "Taste the sound of Memphis BBQ."
I noticed a plaque on the wall referencing Baby Back Shak's inclusion in the June 2008 issue of Texas Monthly, in which they issued their half-decade list of the Top 50 BBQ Joints. I'm pretty familiar with the Texas Monthly lists, but didn't remember seeing Baby Back Shak on any of them. As it turns out, they're actually an honorable mention BBQ Joint from 2008 rather than a part of the list itself. The plaque didn't specifically claim that Baby Back Shak made the Top 50, so I suppose there's no reason to cry foul.
It's hard to resist their namesake Shak's Platter, which comes with sausage, ribs, brisket, chicken, and boudain. You also get two sides, for which I picked potato salad and Shak's beans. There was a long line of customers, but my to-go order came out in no time. When I unboxed my order at home, I found a massive pile of meat, which was quite the bargain considering the $15.00 price tag. This order was too unwieldy to leave in the severely undersized styrofoam container, so I transferred things to a dinner plate and dug in.
The potato salad had a nice creamy texture, coupled with a good crunch from the veggies. It was pleasantly sweet, and had a good mild mustard flavor that wasn't the least bit overpowering. The beans were packed with flavor. They were sweet and spicy at the same time. I enjoyed how the flavors lingered in my mouth.
I wasn't quite sure how to begin this meaty smorgasbord, so I picked the sausage links at random. They were nice and crisp, with a good snap to the casings. These links definitely had some kick to them, though not as much as traditional hot links. I found a good garlic flavor too. I really like barbecue sausage, but generally detest hot links. This was a nice middle-ground.
The chicken breast was decently tender and moist, which can be quite a challenge to accomplish on the pit. I liked the seasoning blend, but didn't find as much smoke as I'd hoped for. That being said, the overall flavor was very good.
Next came the brisket, which had a beautiful black crust and a pronounced smoke ring. It was melt-in-your-mouth tender, even the leaner slices. There was just the right amount of salt, though not enough to mask the other seasonings. There was also plenty of smoke to go around. I found it hard to stop eating the brisket once I got started.
The boudain (or, more commonly, boudin) came in the form of a giant link. Its filling was perfectly creamy and rich with flavor, with a good amount of heat in each bite. The rice wasn't the least bit al dente. It also didn't have that sticky texture that far too often plagues boudin sausage. I haven't had boudin in a long time, and this was really tasty, even if it's not made in-house.
Last but not least, the ribs. Despite this joint's name, spare ribs are the only kind you'll find here. These had some good bark and a nice smoky red hue. They were cooked perfectly, with each bite coming away clean. No "falling-off-the-bone" nonsense, even though their website makes such a claim. There was good smoke flavor in each bite. These weren't quite the Memphis-style ribs I was anticipating, which is a good thing. Actually, the ribs were more like a Memphis-Texas hybrid, with really delicious results.
I'm glad I finally got the opportunity to try out Baby Back Shak. They may have been snubbed by Texas Monthly, but rest assured, they've got some damn fine barbecue. I made sure to grab a t-shirt on my way out to commemorate the meal:
Baby Back Shak
1800 S. Akard St
Dallas, TX 75215