Here Are the Upcoming North Texas Barbecue Competitions Where You Can Actually Eat

Categories: Barbecue

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Catherine Downes
Choose wisely, eat quickly.
Have you ever been to a community or town festival, smelled wood, smoke and meat, gotten hyped, then suffered the ultimate disappointment when told you couldn't have any of what was cookin'? Sadly, this is the experience of many attendees of barbecue cook-offs around the great state of Texas.

When sanctioned, cook-offs are really more about the competitors than the public. Winners earn points toward a Kansas City Barbecue Association (KCBA) championship, or an International Barbecue Cookers' Association (IBCA) championship, and in Texas, of course we have the Lonestar Barbecue Society (LBS), which sanctions events in Texas and surrounding states. Rarely in events sanctioned by any of these bodies is there a "People's Choice" category. And it usually has something to do with liability related to giving the public food that has no opportunity to be officially inspected (boooooooo, liability).

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At Smokie's BBQ, Gas Station 'Cue and Pie Never Tasted So Good

Categories: Barbecue

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Chris Wolfgang
All this, and lottery tickets, too?
Think about the last time you stopped in a convenience store. Maybe you needed a pack of cigarettes (those things will kill you, you know), or bought a few Powerball tickets (those things never win, you know). Maybe you were hungry, and grabbed a questionable looking hot dog (those things will -- never mind, you'll figure it out). But what if a convenience store sold something like ... good barbecue? And pie?

Smokie's Bar-B-Q is just such an establishment, tucked in a generic-looking convenience store at the corner of Frankford Road and Hillcrest Road in North Dallas. In addition to smoked meats, their website advertises the shop as a "unique store with a humidor that sells fine cigars, South African groceries, breakfast tacos from 8:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Mon - Friday and the Texas lotto." Intrigued, I stopped in for dinner.

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AJ's on Main: Nice Meats, Nicer Treats in Downtown Grapevine

Matthew Martinez
I choo-choo-choose AJ's hickory fire. The smoker fits in with Grapevine's town history as one of the stops along the old Cotton Belt Railroad.

We are generally skeptical of menu items labeled "poppers." I mean, we're not doing any first looks at Chili's anytime soon.

But the chicken poppers at AJ's on Main in Grapevine have a way of making skeptical heads turn. Crunchy bacon encapsulates a longways jalapeno slice and a chunk of fried chicken breast for a rudimentary yet delightful starter fit for the fair. A little ranch? Why not? Even through all the layers of crunch and spice, the moist chickeny goodness is what you remember most.

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The Feedstore BBQ in Southlake Offers Tasty Barbecue in a Ritzy Neighborhood

Categories: Barbecue

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Chris Wolfgang
Fatty brisket and sausage; the 1-percenter of barbecue.
As you drive south on White Chapel Boulevard in Southlake, past the Methodist church that gives the road its name, you'll pass by exquisite looking houses situated on impossibly large expanses of lush green lawns. The home of some of the area's most expensive residential real estate seems like an odd place for a barbecue joint, but The Feedstore BBQ seems to be doing just fine tucked among its affluent neighbors.

On my recent visit to The Feedstore on a warm spring day for lunch, the parking lot was nearly full, threatening a long wait, or worse, a place that runs out of meat. Luckily, the line to order food wasn't obscenely long and moved quickly. The restaurant had plenty of room to sit, either in the main dining room or in a large room on the back of the restaurant with expansive glass windows and long picnic tables.

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Big Fatty's Spanking Shack is Coming for Denton's Balls

Categories: Barbecue

Big Fatty's
James Rambin
Emphasis on "shack."

Big Fatty's Spanking Shack: funny name, serious struggle.

"The food has never been the problem," says Gail Patterson, who originally founded Big Fatty's as a catering company specializing in spicy foods and barbecue out of her Valley View home in 1996. "It's always about something else."

She's not kidding. Gail and husband Ricky have reinvented their business model three times in the last 10 years, and they're just hoping this is the time they get it right. Big Fatty's Spanking Shack currently operates as a miniature bodega, selling goods like duck eggs, local honey and Gail's ever-changing catering creations to the people of Denton. The pair's sense of humor shines through in their food, which includes the signature spicy meatball dish dubbed "Spanked Balls." Even the store's building is having a laugh, advertising its presence next to an auto repair shop with an enormous mural of pork ribs.

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Travis Heim Learned Barbecue from the Best, and Now He's Serving it in Fort Worth

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Greg Cella
Meatopia displayed here.
Travis Heim's passion for meat can be traced to when an early ancestor sneaked into America by way of cattle boat in Galveston, to when Heim attended a barbecue event and chatted up Aaron Franklin, seeking advice on meat-smoking. Soon after, Heim and his wife, Emma, began their meatopian journey by way of backyard pop-ups at their Arlington home, before picking up and heading west to Fort Worth.

After a few weekend stints at Swiss Pastry Shop, a vacant food trailer parked outside of Republic Street Bar magically made itself available to this relative newcomer. For the last month, Heim Barbecue and Catering (201 East Hattie, Fort Worth) has been located here, not far from Rahr Brewery, to whom Heim provides barbecue for tours.

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The Competitive Smokers at Karma Que Use Texas Barbecue to Raise Money for Charity

Categories: Barbecue

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Karma Que via Facebook
The Karma Que Team
Tim Pregler is part backyard-barbecue-professor, part wood-fired charity coordinator. A 57-year old tech consultant from Fort Worth, he founded the Karma Que charitable barbecue collective in 2012 with help from his wife Kim. Three years later, Karma Que consists of three competitive barbecue teams that raise money at cook-offs and tailgates across the state.

Karma Que most recently cooked in February's World's Championship Bar-B-Que cook-off at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, raising money for an FFA charity called Ram's Club. One of Karma Que's four entrants, under head cook Steve Blount, took second runner-up (third place overall) in the Chicken category and second runner-up overall in the event that drew 419 barbecue entries this year.

And he did it with a borrowed grill, some $1.99 chicken and donated rubs and sauce.

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At Chasin' Tail in Lake Dallas, Too Few Puns, Too Chewy Brisket but Some Killer Sausage

Categories: Barbecue

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Chris Wolfgang
This is the plate you want.
Chasin' Tail's new location, just across the Lewisville Lake bridge in Lake Dallas, is easy to find, marked as it is by a large pink pig-shaped smoker out front. I visited recently, and the sophomore in me was disappointed at the missed opportunity with the menu: no "Meat Three Way" or "Nice Sausage Platter" on the menu at all. Other than an all-you-can-eat option called the "Tail Chaser," 23-year-old me was left wanting.

I was left wanting when it came to the brisket, too. It was dry and chewy, and even some sauce couldn't revive it. It's hard to say where it went wrong, but if I had to guess, the brisket could be cooked longer and allow the fat and collagen to break down.

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How Dallas-Area Pitmasters Choose Their Wood, and How It Impacts Flavor

Categories: Barbecue

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Robert Strickland
Pecan Lodge's smoker is piled with a blend of mesquite and oak.
Whether it's a 50-year tradition that leaves no choice in the matter, regional availability or a staunch preference for the specific taste derived from one wood or another, Dallas pitmasters have smoking-hot takes on which wood brings the wood in the great creosote debate.

A true post-oak disciple, Lockhart Smokehouse Plano pitmaster Will Fleishman says hickory's heavy smoke taste gets in the way of the actual protein.

"The object of the cooking process is to exalt the meat over trying to force smoke down people's throats," Fleishman says. "That's why it's part of our central Texas tradition to use exclusively post oak."

See also: Dallas' Five Best Barbecued Pork Ribs

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There Is a Sauce Station at Marshall's Bar-B-Q in Farmers Branch, and That's OK

Categories: Barbecue

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Chris Wolfgang
Marshalls' meat, BS. (Before sauce).
If you find yourself in a long line for barbecue at a central Texas joint, try this for entertainment. Tell the two guys in front of you that you overheard someone in back saying they were going to douse their brisket in sauce, and causally point behind you. Aspersions will be cast, pejoratives slung, and lineages will be questioned. You, quiet instigator, slip from the melee and load up on smoked meats while the two camps duke it out. A debate on using barbecue sauce in Texas ranks just below Ford/Chevy or Aggies/Longhorns for intensity.

If you're on the saucing side of the fence, Marshall's Bar-B-Q in Farmers Branch is on your side, too. Tucked in a strip mall near Josey and Valley View Lane, Marshall's has been smoking meats since 1965. There's a catering office to handle off-site events, and there is a second location in north Carrollton.

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