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