An Englishman Reviews the BBQ of Smoke

bigrib_gavincleaver.jpg
Gavin Cleaver
The Big Ol' Rib
I feel like I'm not the novice I used to be with these reviews. When I started out I didn't know what brisket was, what heavenly planet barbecue sauce had descended from, why I could just suddenly order meat by the pound now (and why I'd never been able to do this before) and basically where on earth I was, 5,000 miles from home in what appears to be some sort of tropical concrete structure full of people who drive huge cars and live only to kill me.

The latter part of that still confuses me, as I have never seen so little consideration for one's fellow man as my morning commute down Interstate 35. It may as well be Mario Kart's Rainbow Road for all the car safety others are practicing, although this time there will be no little creature on a cloud to pick the mangled remains of my vehicle up and replace them on the freeway. The former part, though, I'm getting there, and that worries me a little in reference to this blog.

Obviously I am no Daniel Vaughn, and I'm not ready to start handing out ratings yet, but after the considerable peaks of Lockhart's and Pecan Lodge, I definitely know what good brisket is. Pecan Lodge's, compared with Soulman's, doesn't even taste like the same food. I think the key for me not getting dishonorably fired from this job, then, is that I will just point-blank refuse to develop any technical descriptive vocabulary whatsoever, and in that way I will remain charmingly naive. I might start stammering like Hugh Grant. Meat is delicious. End of story.

smokebrisket_gavincleaver.jpg
Along those lines (and yes, that was leading somewhere), it's nice to see a barbecue place throw me a sort of curve ball and make me feel like a stranger adrift in some meat-filled wilderness, replicating the confusion and wonder I felt when I thought pulled pork was what you got at a Texan barbecue, and when my stepson thought ketchup was a legitimate condiment.

I knew something was up when there was a valet. I was absolutely not dressed for any sort of restaurant encounter (seriously, I haven't worn actual shoes since about April and it's impossible to go anywhere in my car without stepping out smelling like a farm animal), and alarm bells immediately started ringing. Given that the valet wasn't at his desk, I made the brave, some might say rude, decision, to just park myself. Unfortunately, by the time we got out and walked to the restaurant the valet had returned, and his look was one of disdain and confusion. Disliking confrontation, as an Englishman, I just slipped quietly past him, pretending to be enthralled by Family Dollar over the road. We got in and there were menus, waiters and an attractive restaurant set-up with tablecloths and neatly folded cutlery holders. The alarm bells had fallen off the wall at this point. Where was I? Was this Texas barbecue? Was I even in Texas any more?

porkrinds_gavincleaver.jpg
Pork cracklin's with dips.
I sat down and the waiter at great length explained to me all the options and how to combine things. I was longing for a meat counter and a man with a knife and weighing scales. I decided, because fuck it, to order some sort of bloody mary/Lone Star beer/barbecue sauce mash-up drink, which was an odd choice, but I wanted to see if barbecue sauce could be involved in any sort of passable drink. Answer: No, no it cannot. We ordered pork cracklin' with dips ($5) which was delicious, but did not sate my intense meat craving.

Did I mention the whole restaurant smells delicious? Apparently they smoke all their meat for between eight hours and two days, and that comes at the "cost" of making everything in a mile radius smell of lovely smoke. Anyway, we got the Big Rib ($25), mainly because web editor Nick seems completely entranced by a rib of such size and "big rib" constitutes at least half the emails he sends me, and the brisket ($18), because obviously heavily smoked brisket is going to be good. When the Big Rib came out, it was abundantly clear I was still in Texas. It was the size of a very small house (I'm no good at comparisons). Richard described it as "a shoehorn for a giant." Nick described it best, as resembling the rib that gets put on the Flintstones' car in the title sequence, which makes it topple over. I was very pleased. The meat came well presented, with specially selected sides AS PART OF THE OVERALL DISH, which again is confusing and scary to me.

It was delicious, and extremely smoky. The rib, especially, is like eating some kind of liquidy smoke sauce. There is no point at which the smoky flavor stops and the meat untouched by smoking begins. It's smoke all the way down, and it is all the better for it. The brisket, also, has a delicious taste all the way through it. You can really taste the barbecuing -- so much time and care goes into these meats, and it pays off. Even the sides were really well done and a worthy distraction from the beefy tusk that dominated my plate. It was all so delicious, and went together so well, that there were several moments when I had to lean back from the plate and ponder at the glory of smoked meat. The rib was so huge that eventually it turns into a slog, something I had rarely experienced, and I'm not proud to say it but the rib eventually defeated me.

Smoke is very much the restaurant experience, not the meat counter and brisket-by-the-pound sort of joint I have come to associate with Texas barbecue. The price reflects that, but the quality is so good that it deserves to go down as another great Texas barbecue adventure in a city that is crammed with them.

Location Info

Smoke

901 Fort Worth Ave., Dallas, TX

Category: Restaurant


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42 comments
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

How about getting some smoked fish articles?  Whitefish, salmon, you know.  There are more than cows and pigs out there to smoke.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Your horrible driving experiences in this area are the result of 50% of drivers not having licences to drive, and their never having learned to drive in the first place.

Mervis
Mervis

"another great Texas barbecue adventure in a city that is crammed with them"

 

Let's see how the commenters do with this one. Not a view generally agreed with around these parts.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

Dear Gavin "the smoked meat" Cleaver,

     When are you going to review the world renowned BBQ of Dickey's?  It's really going to surprise you after what you've tasted so far!  Seriously, I know you probably reside in a condo downtown, and would never dare leave the cozy confines of Dallas City; but you should try out Big Daddy's, hard by Lake Lavon. 

ChrisYu
ChrisYu

pork rinds served with dips. and a valet. pork rinds should be served with a 16oz beer can at a convenience store.

J_A_
J_A_

I had to google slog. That big rib looks wonderful!

nick.rallo
nick.rallo moderator

The Big Rib should arrive at your table to the theme from The Natural

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Make mine tuna, or the GREATNESS of trout-what could be better? Although smoked salmon and smoked clams are worth dying for!  When in doubt smoke the following :

 

-squash

-bbq sauce

-pasta

-red sauce

_____

 

don't smoke:

-cigs...."they nasty"

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @Mervis Weeeell... I've had some good adventures and good times. And never been anywhere outside DFW except Salt Lick. Remember, I don't know what I'm talking about.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @Mervis 

 

I thought that was a pretty weird line; I chock it down to not being from the area. Dallas is one of the worst BBQ cities in the south. 

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @kergo1spaceship Haha I actually live up in Carrollton. I went to Dickey's. It was really bad. I mean, I'll review it if it's what you guys want.

mavery1
mavery1

 @ChrisYu Or a Big Red.  However, if pork rinds are fresh, really, really fresh, they become a totally different food.

Twinwillow
Twinwillow

 @nick.rallo So should the bill. When Smoke first opened, the "Big Rib" was $19.00. Within 10 days it zoomed to $24.00! Still worth it, though!

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

 @Scruffygeist For admitting you go to brunch, surrender your man card for one week.

 

For recommending it, surrender it for an additional 4 days.

Mervis
Mervis

 @Twinwillow

 Joshin about what? Usually after a DO BBQ story (not Gavin's) that extols the greatness of the Dallas BBQ scene the commentators usually rip in with the old "Dallas BBQ sucks except for PL, Lockhart and Smoke".

J_A_
J_A_

 @GavinCleaver I think you make it abundantly clear where your coming from with these BBQ reviews. Keep 'em comin'! Maybe one day you can branch out and diversify to other types of cuisine? C'mon Nick! Make it happen!

mavery1
mavery1

 @GavinCleaver Oh yes, definitely!  And try not to be as coy as you were with the Sonny Bryan's review.  It's OK to say a place is bad if it's bad.  I think it's important to put the also ran's into perspective.

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

 @GavinCleaver In Carrollton, I reccomend Babe's (just the fried chicken and biscuts. The sides suck, and skip the salad), Pho Pastuer II, International Bakery for the best Cuban Sandwich in Dallas. Also Amici is recognizable Italian cooked by an Albanian ( I think, but he's a sweet guy), and Agave Azul.

 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @GavinCleaver 

PLEASE!

 

ps-Never would have figured you to be a denizen of a stale middle class burb! BTW, we should make Garland, Carrollton, Little Elm and and Mesquite Superconductor Sites (note: see Texas circa 1985)

 

Daniel
Daniel

Only the word is sissy. Nothing sissy about a good brunch. It's just a large breakfast with alcohol.

 

Smoke's brunch is killer, and their Bloody Marys are one-of-a-kind.

J_A_
J_A_

 @GavinCleaver Ugh I spelled "you're" wrong and it's glaring back at me.

bigjondaniel
bigjondaniel

 @mavery1  @GavinCleaverI spent 4 years looking out my the window of my office at Babe's back door. I know exatly what gets delivered there. The biscuts are  good. the chicken is pretty damn good (though it is grabage chcken), everything else is crap

 

mavery1
mavery1

 @bigjondaniel  @GavinCleaver Babe's?  Really?  The fried chicken is good, but I am convinced that everything else, including the biscuits, are fresh off the food service truck.  The Babe's in Sanger has smo0ked chicken that I think is better than their fried.  And the Sanger Babe's is trying to revive the chicken glory that was Youngbloods.  Lordy, I miss Youngbloods!

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @kergo1spaceship We're mainly up here for the school district. My British-accented stepson's landing into the middle of DISD when we first came here was not a pleasant one.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @cynicaloldbastard 

 

PLEASE!

 

ps-Never would have figured you to be a denizen of a stale middle class burb! BTW, we should make Garland, Carrollton, Little Elm and and Mesquite Superconductor Sites (note: see Texas circa 1985)

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