The sizzling love affair between Texas and BBQ is well documented, and that passion burns particularly brightly in Dallas. Here in the Big D, there are scores of outstanding options if you’re looking to schedule a big meating, from melt-in-your-mouth pulled pork to butter-soft brisket, via spicy homemade sausages and the best smoked-chicken you’ll taste this side of Kansas City. From high-end to hole-in-the-wall, read on and ready your appetite for the ultimate Dallas barbecue bucket list.
This beloved Deep Ellum hotspot has an entire wall crammed with local and national awards, and few would dispute that it’s one of the best BBQ joints in the land. The pit-smoked food here is simply out of this world–particularly the brisket with southwestern seasoning, which is cooked for up to 18 hours to give it a ridiculously rich flavor. The handmade jalapeño sausages are also insanely good and Dallasites swear by the succulent beef ribs here too. Just be sure to leave a little room for the legendary peach cobbler afterward. The Trough is the best thing to order here, delivering a serving of every meat, with a selection of three sides. Because when the options are this good, why not treat yourself to a little bit of everything?
Baby Back Shack
“If you’re looking for BBQ that makes you want to call up your friends…you’ve come to the right place,” claims the Baby Back Shack advertising. And to be fair, praise for this beloved spot has been spreading by word of mouth in Dallas for over 20 years. The succulent pork ribs from which the restaurant derives its name are still on the menu—served in the famous spicy house rub. But this is more than just a rib spot. For starters, it’s one of the few places in town that serves boudin blanc (a delicious Cajun-style sausage), and its smoked drumsticks are another major off-radar hit. The folks here specialize in thinking outside the BBQ box—and it clearly works. They’ve won countless awards over the years, and the spicy ribs here remain lip-smackingly awesome. A full Rib Slab is a meal in itself.
Just getting into this cult-favorite destination can feel like a cause for celebration. After all, it's ranked the third-best barbecue joint in the entire state (according to Texas Monthly), and it’s only open on Thursday and Friday lunchtimes, plus the first Saturday of every month. But once you’re in, you’re in for a treat. The pork ribs are humongous, the pastrami burnt ends are perfection, and the intensely-marbled Akaushi beef brisket is the stuff that barbecue dreams are made of. Order the Pitboss for a sandwich built on a hefty trio of brisket, ribs, and sausage, piled on a bun with jalapeño and pickled red onion.
Well-positioned on the corner as you enter Dallas’ fashionable Bishop Arts District, Lockhart has a large and loyal following of ravenous smokeheads. The food is served from an old-school butcher-style counter at the rear and is consistently excellent with standout stars including the perfectly charred burnt ends, outstanding pork chops, and a special, juicy cut of beef known as shoulder clod. Lockhart is the only place in Dallas where you can get Kreuz Market's legendary sausage. If you know, you know and if you don’t, you need to try some ASAP.
Heim began life in early 2015 as a humble Fort Worth BBQ truck—and swiftly became one of the most popular restaurants in town. Now they’ve expanded to the big city next door, with their first brick-and-mortar location in Dallas. Revered for their bacon burnt ends (which are as delicious as they sound), their menu boasts a multitude of stand-out stars, including corn dogs made with smoked jalapeño-cheddar sausages, and a wide range of tasty vegetarian options. They’ve even mastered the nemesis of lesser BBQ joints—the art of perfectly smoked turkey.
18th & Vine
The only place in Dallas to get authentic Kansas City-style BBQ, 18th & Vine is also pleasingly upscale. It’s the kind of spot you could bring a date for Friday dinner, as well as your ravenous appetite for Monday lunch. The menu is equally enlightened, from the mustard-slathered beef tenderloin to the burnt ends shepherd’s pie. Meanwhile, there’s a cauliflower “steak” for vegetarians, and a feisty selection of craft cocktails to accompany your meal. The decor itself is a treat too: picture a sophisticated 1930s-style speakeasy, complete with a jazz club upstairs. Ask about the off-menu Sandwiches, which offer an adventurous selection, including a wonderful Burnt End Grilled Cheese.
The Slow Bone
The name of this Design District favorite is somewhat misleading, as they frequently sell out of their delicious meats at great speed–and when they do, the doors slam shut. But if you get here early enough (before noon), you’ll be able to bask in an epic cafeteria-style experience, adding gems like cilantro sausage, stuffed pork loin, and chunky brisket chili to your plate, as well as the best selection of sides in Dallas. Don’t miss the horseradish cream potato salad or leave without trying the brisket. Pure, simple, and exquisite, the juicy brisket here needs no sauce—nor an introduction.
One90 Smoked Meats
Named for the ideal internal temperature of a perfectly smoked brisket, this boutique East Dallas spot offers some of the finest small-batch craft smoked meats in town. With only a handful of stools lining a single counter, this has always been primarily about takeout orders, but the menu is a delight. In particular, look out for the spicy brisket and the selection of smoked meat tacos on warm corn tortillas. Order the DLT, a sliced smoked duck breast with vine-ripened tomatoes and lettuce on rustic toast with cherry jalapeño sauce.
Terry Black’s Barbecue
The first Black’s Barbecue opened in the tiny Texan town of Lockhart way back in 1932, and the family is still smoking with the best of them today. Their Dallas flagship restaurant is a sprawling 11,000 square foot space (including a great bar and two enormous outdoor patios), where the emphasis is on old-school quality and straightforward smoking techniques. The meat is served by the pound or in sandwiches, with traditional sides including baked potato salad, cream corn, and Mexican rice. Black’s gargantuan beef ribs are unfailingly juicy and pair beautifully with sides like mac and cheese
A family-run smoked meat mecca, Hutchins serves up a bounty of brisket, ribs, baked beans, and so much more. Securing a table here can take patience, but it’s all worth it when your food arrives. When you dine in you also score free peach cobbler or banana pudding. The brisket marinated in the traditional sauce is by far the best seller, but don’t sleep on the epic stuffed baked potatoes or the Texas twinkies, which are brisket and cream cheese stuffed jalapeño poppers, wrapped in thick-cut bacon.
Based in Dallas, he is an award-winning writer and a regular contributor to publications on both side of the Atlantic like the Wall Street Journal, GQ, and The Sunday Times.
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