An Englishman Reviews the Lunchtime BBQ of Sonny Bryan's, Pecan Lodge and Soulman's

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Sarah Yu
Barbecue isn't just a dinner food.

Oh no. It's a round the clock affair (although my mooted chain of restaurants Brisket for Breakfast is yet to take off). Many lunch-only barbecue venues exist around Dallas, and what nicer midpoint to the working day is there than an injection of hot meat and sauce? No, I'm not even trying any more. Barbecue as a lunch food is so very popular that the queues at such establishments can be great in length and tiresome in nature. I like barbecue for lunch a lot. However, barbecue for dinner seems more socially acceptable, as it is nigh-on impossible to come away from any Texas barbecue joint without a gigantic plate of beef and that's a dinner sort of deal, right? Barbecue for lunch is like something out of the last days of the Roman Empire. Maybe, amidst all the vomitoriums and the orgies, they enjoyed tenderly cooking some meat over some wood smoke, and eating it relatively early in the day. Maybe not. I'm not a historian. All I can say for sure is we'll never know.

I'm not sure, really, that Texans see it this way. I think the train of thought going on there is, it's delicious, and I can obtain it for lunch, so why not just have it for lunch? This clear-thinking logic is commendable, and indeed quite dangerous. If I have barbecue for lunch I am pretty much set for the rest of the day, and can't eat much else. I obviously need to man up. Sorry, Dallas. I feel like lunch barbecue places are sort of different to dinner ones, and hopefully I will explain why as I go. Anyway, by way of my continuing adventures, here are some of the places you can get a good hearty authentic barbecue lunch.

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Gavin Cleaver
Sonny Bryan's

I actually reviewed this place for my first-ever blog post about barbecue, before the Observer noted the virtual circus act a foreigner reviewing BBQ could become and started throwing me peanuts to do tricks for them (tricks I am absolutely delighted to perform, it should be noted). I was more than happy to go back.

Sonny Bryan's is, aside from the meat, an absolutely awesome venue, as it is largely a shack which smells of wood smoke and sauce. The tables are freakin' school desks, people. School desks. The sauce at Sonny Bryan's is the whole reason I got into barbecue sauce. It comes warm in beer bottles, and it's amazing.

For me, it's the pinnacle of Dallas barbecue sauces so far. I would happily put it on anything and then eat that thing. I got the plate of chopped brisket and sausage ($12.99), with a side of onion rings bigger than your head, if you have quite a small head. That was a bad comparison. Richard got a pulled pork sandwich ($5.99). Anyway, the meat's really pretty good, as long as you're a fan of eating sideways, very carefully, so you don't knock anything on to your accomplice. On balance, I'd much rather they retained the desks and the atmosphere than went for a less dangerous dining experience. The thought I might get covered in sauce at any moment isn't particularly a drawback.

One thing about lunch places, is that the food tends to be kept warm out front under lamps rather than brought straight from a smoker, and so I reckon a lot of the time it gets a bit dried out by this. The brisket was pretty dry and chewy, although any sin can be disguised by that heavenly sauce. Richard's pulled pork sandwich is really a lot tastier than the brisket, and I reckon the pulled pork at SB's is better than the rest of the meat on offer. Plus, an actual sandwich, no matter the size, feels a lot more like lunch than the huge plate of meat I ordered.

Up next: Soulman's BBQ


Location Info

Venue

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Soulman's Barbeque

1125 Gross Road, Mesquite, TX

Category: Restaurant

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17 comments
gabe48
gabe48

Don't miss the Jalapeño sausage and ribs at Mac's BBQ in Dallas on Main St., only open for lunch  Mon. - Fri.  The homemade BBQ sauce is THE best in town, fries are hand cut, not frozen.

halldecker
halldecker

I'm not shilling for him,  I'm wondering if my taste buds have fallen apart the way the rest of my body has.

 

Is Mike Anderson near the top,  or did I eat there on a good day.

 

Campisi's and SB confirm,  passing down a legend is difficult to do.

 

 

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

Slow down killer......Sonny Bryan's is OK; It's C+/B rated BBQ.-it's had it's "best days" a long time ago. It is certainly serviceable for lunch, and pricing is very reasonable.  I like this specific locale because the owners generally stay away, and let Big Dave (the Barron of Beef) run his ship.  

 

This location gets an A

All other SB locations get a C

J_A_
J_A_

I've heard great things about Pecan Lodge and I definitely want to check it out after the crowds die down. If that ever happens. Another great read Gavin!

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Myrna remains quite revulsed at the prospect of elephantine Texans shoving monumental slabs of greasy animal flesh into their gullets.

rth3
rth3

btw, managers, mods, whomever. This new commenting system is whack.

- The number of comments displayed is incorrect with the actual number at times.

- My comments on Chrome don't post.

- they're using a 1.5 double spacing for a simple return in the form, making some these posts way too long.

 

to this article, more great stuff form Gavin. I'd like to see him review everything. Great writing, open mind. Tex-mex, mexican, steaks, pizza, CFS, get on it!

 

Sonny Bryan's freezes their meat and reheats most of it during the day or as you buy it. Such a shame that an institution went to hell like that.

halldecker
halldecker

SB's went to Hell not long after Mr. Sonny died.  The last couple times I took visitors over,  bbq addicts who had heard the legend,  the meat was gummy,  the 'mouth feel' was like it had been microwaved.   My impression was,  like Red Hot & Blues,  the meat came from a central kitchen,  just enough smoke on the grill to make it look good.

 

Mike Anderson's is the best I've found.   I've cooked brisket for about 50 years.  Mike's is as close to perfect as I've ever had. 

cynicaloldbastard
cynicaloldbastard

"By God, though, the meat doesn't need it at all."

 

Way to, Gavin!  You are really getting Texas Q.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @halldecker 

I swear by Mike Anderson's, but I get hell everytime I mention it here!  Places like Campisi's and SB get watered down once the expansion process begins; and then it's about cutting corners.  The offspring of these places will never be as great as the mother.......it will NEVER happen. 

t_s_
t_s_

 @kergo1spaceship 

 

Big Dave is an awesome guy and a decent bass player.  I know of what I speak.  Zup Dave is you're reading this.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

 @kergo1spaceship I like Big Dave. He saw I was wearing a Kyuss t-shirt and put on QOTSA for me, and he showed me pictures of his classic car. I would pretty much agree with your grade - this SB location is the place that persuaded me to write a blog in the first place. And the pulled pork is 100% delicious. I had never had beef there before - maybe I caught a bad day.

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

 @rth3 

 

Dave at the original SB does not freeze his meat; trust me, he doesn't have the space in that shack to do it. 

1dailyreader
1dailyreader

 @rth3 After the place got new owners it went downhill from there.

halldecker
halldecker

 @rth3

 

I hate to hear that,  but I'm glad to have my theory kinda confirmed.

 

I remember the glory days in the late 70's,  driving up and seeing Ross Perot and two of the Original Hunt Brothers standing in the parking lot,  eating bbq with the paper wrappers and drinks on top of the trunk of a car.  And Mr. Sonny inside,  seven days a week,  wearing his white paper hat,  chopping the hell out of a brisket.  And the waitresses calling everybody "Hon."

 

Dinner last night with a friend who manages a major Dallas restaurant,  we were at another place that's quickly gone to Hell,  "You can make a pizza so cheap,  nobody will eat it."  We'll never go back there.

 

 

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