A Battle of the Beef Ribs with Two Texas Stars: Pecan Lodge and Smoke
In honor of Sunday's sold-out Meat Fight, we're celebrating smoked animal flesh all week long in our inaugural Meat Week, in which we celebrate the procuring, cooking and face-stuffing of dead-animal flesh.
Pecan Lodge's Beef Rib
The beef rib is somewhat of an underdog in the barbecue arena. While pork ribs, with their easily-manageable size and earworm jingle, get a lot of the attention, the gargantuan beef rib sits back and bides its time. The perfect combination of brisket and bone, the beef rib will enjoy its day soon enough. Today, we take a look at two of Dallas' top purveyors of smoked meats to see how their ribs stack up.
Heavy on pepper, the sensation of the crust stays with you all day, like the lingering far-off aromas of a recently smoked cigar
Deep, rich smokiness cuts right into the meat, making the sauce an option, but nothing near a necessity
Spread in thin layers throughout the cut, the fat melds perfectly into the flesh of the meat, imparting a subtle moisture and ideal saltiness
Pickles, sliced onions and a sweet cup of sauce
Cost $9.00 per half pound, $15.59 as pictured above
The first of two stops on the Fred Flintstone Tour of Dallas was at Pecan Lodge. It had been a while since I'd been there, so I wanted to make sure get there early enough to beat the line. Arriving, like a true psychopath, at 9:15am on a Saturday (Pecan Lodge opens at 11:00, the doors to the Farmers Market open at 10:00am), I secured my spot at seventh in line.
After waiting the requisite amount of time and placing my understated order, the rib appeared on a cardboard Chinet plate at the pick-up counter. The dish beckoned with the meat clinging to the monstrous bone by the strength of a thin, crispy membrane. The first bite revealed a strong lean toward a peppery rub with a slim, magnificently rendered layer of fat hiding just underneath the crust.
Further exploration into the rib, which clocked it at a little over ¾ pound, gave way to a deep, beefy flavor aided by a well-tended core of fatty marbling. The entire rib had just the right amount of tug to keep it from falling apart. Depending upon where you land on the debate over sauce, you can indulge the accompanying plastic ramekin at your discretion. Taking a tiny dip in the sauce gives the peppered beef a subtly sweet note, making for a great complement. The meat is perfectly fine on its own, but adding that little extra dimension only deepens the experience.
Worth the wait? You bet.
Smoke's Beef Rib, flashlight optional
A symphony of seasonings, not nearly as bold with the pepper as Pecan Lodge, but deliciously crispy
With a rich, juicy texture, the smokiness isn't quite as authoritative, but it's presence is noticed and solid
A fattier cut than its adversary, globules of the salty stuff dance between sinewy strands of tender beef. If you're a fan of lean, you may need to trim a bit.
An herbal brush of chimichurri applied in a broad stroke across the top of the beast
Cost $25.00, includes a bed of stellar hominy casserole
Just across town from Pecan Lodge, with its eye trained towards our neon-emblazoned skyline, sits Smoke. With years of stacking up awards and accolades under its belt, Tim Byres' temple to the fiery arts has a reputation for consistent excellence.
Perched near the bottom of the dinner menu, with an unmistakable name, is "The Big Rib". Much like the sizzling plate of fajitas ordering at a Tex-Mex restaurant, the Big Rib elicits glances from neighboring tables, furtive whispers attempt to gauge the recipient's stomach capacity, as the rib nearly dwarfs the dinner plate.
Sitting atop a creamy hominy casserole, the first cut into the rib reveals several distinct layers. The first is the crusty outer layer, reminiscent of the skin of a perfect piece of fried chicken. Under that, you get to a robust layer of fatty tissue, which melds itself into a third layer of deliciously moist meat. Due to its higher fat content, the meat pulls apart far easier than at Pecan Lodge, not that that's necessarily a good or bad thing.
Running the knife through each layer and delicately sawing out a core sample gives the best bite, blending each flavor perfectly, especially when you can add in a bit of the herb-forward chimicurri that seeps its way into the top of the rib.
A tip to any ambitious diner that plans on finishing the rib in one sitting: Go ahead and book a room at the neighboring Belmont Hotel: You're going to need some time to sleep off the glorious meat haze.