Ribs and slaw at Matt Dallman's 18th & Vine (©Kelsey Foster)
Matt Dallman grew up in the Kansas City, Kansas, area, where he learned the barbecue-competition style of cooking and smoking meat and also gained an appreciation for jazz. So when he and his Dallas-born wife, Kimi, opened their 18th & Vine barbecue joint—a nod to the famous intersection in Kansas City where jazz greats entertained in the 1930s—here a couple of years ago, it was with a bit of uncertainty.
Today, the Dallmans aren't sitting around and singing a lot of blues, because 18th & Vine, actually at 4100 Maple Ave. in the Oak Lawn district, is consistently rated among the top barbecue spots in the Dallas area. They teamed with chef Scott Gottlich, of Dallas’ Bijoux restaurant and the Second Floor Bistro & Bar, to deliver a fair share of Texas twists to the menu.
We recently talked to Matt Dallman about the success of 18th & Vine and what it's like to be a pit master. Here's what he had to say:
Did people think you were crazy for trying to open a K.C.-style barbecue restaurant in Texas? What did you tell them?
I think there were comments all across the board on that move, some you probably couldn't publish. But, to me, I knew Dallas is a city with a lot of transplants and a lot of people coming from all over. I think people appreciate different styles and different options—whether it's dining on barbecue or Mexican food, things that people come to Texas for—so I decided to present something a little different.
What sort of smoker or pit do you use at 18th & Vine, and what is your chief preference for wood?
We use a couple of different smokers. We use one that's called an Oyler smoker. It's made by J&R Manufacturing, local here in Mesquite. That's what we smoke our brisket and our pork and ribs and chicken on, and we use a base of oak and a little bit of hickory. That's our big heavy-duty pit that burns pretty much 24/7. And then I use the largest version of what I got started on; it's called "The Good One." It's a pit made up in Gallatin, Missouri. ... And it can use cherry chunks and maple chunks as well. That smoker lends a lot of flexibility, and I use that for our burnt ends, and we use it for our veggies and our fish and our sausages. It's a smoker that's really good if you're in and out of it a lot.
How long do you smoke your brisket, and what other cooking tips might you give to someone who's a novice at smoking brisket? What about cooking times or tips for someone who's a novice at smoking ribs and sausage links?
I recommend [smoking] brisket 12 to 15 hours. We'll put it in overnight and then come in in the morning and pull them off. I would say one of the biggest things is just to learn to be patient with it, because there's so many different variables in cooking a big piece of meat such as that. The times where I've gotten myself in trouble is when I didn't allow for enough time. It's kind of a marathon session, so you have to be in it for the long haul. I would say use a good rub—we use a mustard slather on our brisket, which is kind of more competition-style—and then we let the brisket sit in the rub at least six, up to 12 hours, if you can. You just kind of spend some time and extra labor steps to add a bunch of flavor. It doesn't hurt to be super patient.
Sausage takes 45 minutes to an hour. Ribs, we usually do a lot competition-style, so it takes about six hours. ... We'll cook them about three hours, but as with the brisket, we'll trim them, prep them and put them in a rub for about six to eight hours and then throw them in the smoker in the morning at about 5:30 or 6 a.m. to get them ready for lunch service.
Why do many customers crave burnt ends? Is that a Kansas City thing?
Yeah, it is a Kansas City thing—and definitely, that's kind of a trademark of Kansas City barbecue—but also, I think there's a growing popularity of burnt ends in Texas, especially as brisket-centric as the state is. Fifteen years ago, I had to explain to people what "burnt ends" were, but now it's kind of what everybody comes in for.
18th & Vine, 4100 Maple Ave., 214.443.8335, www.18thandvinebbq.com