It's impossible to think "Dallas" and not immediately think "barbecue." You're in cattle country now, and there are plenty of restaurants dedicated to smoking the tastiest, most tender meat.
In addition to the regular column by barbecue aficionado Jimmy Ho that appears in Where Dallas magazine, we asked the city's foremost experts—the hotel concierges—on where they love to send visitors, and where they chow down themselves. The responses were overwhelmingly eager, with lots of "you've got to try this place!" and "don't leave Texas without eating here!" Who are we to argue?
Pecan Lodge's story is almost as unbelievably good as its barbecue. Justin and Diane Fourton left corporate America to start a small catering company, acquired a smoker, rented a booth at the former Dallas Farmers Market and were catapulted to foodie stardom when people started waiting hours in line to try their food. Word spread, and Pecan Lodge was featured on the Food Network.
When the Farmers Market announced it would be restructuring in 2013, the Fourtons moved to Deep Ellum—and the crowds followed. People have been known to take a day off from work, or drive two hours or more, just to dig into the Hot Mess (a jumbo sweet potato topped with Southwestern-seasoned brisket and chipotle cream) or load up a platter with pulled pork and beef ribs.
Lockhart, the city, is known as "the barbecue capital of Texas." Lockhart, the restaurant, brings a bit of that fame to its locations in the Bishop Arts District and downtown Plano.
In true central Texas fashion, meat is pulled directly off the smoker as you order it at the counter (and if you're not sure what you want, just ask for a sample). Pickles, onions, bread and crackers come free with every order, but ask for the blue cheese and jalapeño slaw too—trust us.
Another Dallas staple with two locations, Smoke first garnered buzz for its brunch—it's never too early for brisket, after all—but the opening of a second restaurant in Plano cemented the idea that diners just can't get enough of Chef Tim Byres' meat (smoked onsite) and homemade jellies, jams and butter.
Ten 50 BBQ
A relative newcomer, Ten 50 BBQ only opened in the summer of 2014. But folks driving up and down Central Expressway had been sniffing in anticipation, and it's practically impossible not to exit and pull into the lot once you get a whiff of the smokers lined up outside the restaurant.
Speaking of those smokers: You order your meat directly off the smoker and are issued a barcode before heading inside to choose your sides and take a seat at the welcoming communal tables.
Technically Sonny Bryan's could be considered a chain, but that's only because its meals have proved so popular over the last 50 years that seven total restaurants have sprung up around DFW.
Name a food television show, and Sonny's has probably been featured on it. Same goes for celebrities (both local and national) and athletes—if you smoke it, they will come. The original location on Inwood Road still features the vintage school desks inside the restaurant, and don't forget to order the famous onion rings to go with your meat.
Spring Creek Barbeque
Another chain, but Spring Creek Barbeque's 20 locations in DFW alone are a testament to the restaurant's homey, welcoming atmosphere and finger-licking food. From the famous ribs to the barbecue plates rounded out by heaping sides, there's something for everyone—especially since the freshly baked dinner rolls are constantly circulated around the dining room by friendly servers.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit
It's one of the most recognizable (and cheapest) Texas souvenirs you can get: the giant yellow cup from Dickey's Barbecue Pit. After you've made the "everything's bigger in Texas" joke, you'll realize it's true when you see that the smoked meat at Dickey's is sold by the pound. And don't forget the free, soft-serve ice cream before you leave!
Baby Back Shak
A special Shak rub covers all the meat served at Baby Back Shak in South Dallas, but you might notice that people get just as excited about the Shak Beans as the ribs. Add in boudin (sausage, as a main or a side), and it's no wonder people have been frequenting this joint since 1995.