Picking a Bone With Pecan Lodge

Want access to some of the best barbecue in Texas? Get in line.

Picking a Bone With Pecan Lodge
Catherine Downes

Barbecued brisket is a finicky son of a bitch. Cook it too fast and you'll be left with a dry, rubbery hunk of beef the size of your grandmother's purse. Cook it too long and you can end up with a pile of loose, stringy meat. Smoke a perfect brisket on a cool spring morning and you'll get one result. Precisely follow the same steps with a bit more moisture in the air on another day and you'll end up with a bomb.

The variability can make evaluating a barbecue restaurant difficult. On one visit a slice of brisket can present an absolutely transcendent network of muscle fiber and fat held together only by a wish. A few days later a comparatively dry hunk of meat will make you wonder if your slowly fading brisket memories were nothing but a dream. What separates the great barbecue pits from the mediocre and terrible ones is hitting the mark far more often than not.

SEE ALSO: Burning Questions for Pecan Lodge's Husband and Wife Duo, Justin and Diane Fourton

Pecan Lodge has produced various qualities of barbecued meats since Diane and Justin Fourton opened the restaurant at the Dallas Farmers Market in 2010. What's constant — in addition to the improved consistency they've honed over three years of smoking — is the ever-increasing procession that's stepped up to devour it.

If it's barbecue you're craving while waiting in line, Justin Fourton carrying this sign is the last thing you want to see.
Catherine Downes
If it's barbecue you're craving while waiting in line, Justin Fourton carrying this sign is the last thing you want to see.
Catherine Downes

Location Info

Map

Pecan Lodge

2702 Main St.
Dallas, TX 75226

Category: Restaurant > Barbecue

Region: Downtown & Deep Ellum

Details

Pecan Lodge

1010 South Pearl Expressway, 214-748-8900, pecanlodge.com. 11 a.m.-the meat runs out, Thursday-Sunday. $$

Half-pound mesquite-smoked barbecue $8

Country sausage $4.50

Barbecue sandwich $8

Sides $2.50

The Trough (not suitable for children) $65

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Last spring, the line was modest. On busy days, 30 people might have stood in a queue while they waited for smoked brisket, sausages, ribs and the occasional order of fried chicken. Then a chance appearance on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives catapulted the count to more than 100. What used to stretch from the front counter toward the front door of Shed 2 had to be rerouted so other businesses could get to their customers.

While an appearance from Guy Fieri always produces a surge in business, the extra attention is often a flash of flint. Yet more than a year after the Food Network feature ran, the line at Pecan Lodge is still epic, and as other publications have given attention to the Fourtons' barbecue, it has grown even longer. What's happening at Pecan Lodge is more than just the Fieri factor — the line is a testament to the exceptional food that's served here.

Franklin Barbecue, Snow's, Louie Mueller: The best Texas barbecue joints are known as much for their lines as their smoked meat. The wait at Franklin in Austin can cross three hours on the weekends, and people happily pass the time drinking beer. The line is an event and attraction as much as it is the admission price to barbecue fit for deities. The line is also as close as one gets to a genuine barometer of appeal. Yelp stars can be rigged, but every person on his or her feet (or sitting on a portable stool) is a legitimate fan.

There are no beer drinkers queued up in Shed 2. Instead, coffee cups and strollers dot the stream of people as it grows. Arrive a little after 10 a.m. and you take your place some 50 patrons back. By 10:30 the line easily tops 100. At 11, when the cowboy call of a triangle sings the opening from the front counter, the line stretches the entire length of the building — about 200 people.

After sitting in a bath of 250-degree smoke for up to 12 hours, the brisket is already cooked, but slicing meat to order and handling special requests for hundreds of people takes time. You can wait up to two hours for your chance at the counter at Pecan Lodge, bringing a new meaning to the term slow food. But ask anyone who's dragging a napkin across a grinning, greasy mouth (provided it's not already occupied by another hunk of brisket) if the wait was worth it and you'll hear a resounding yes. While barbecue joints dot the state like pizzerias pepper New York, they seldom serve good food. To sample the best of the best in Texas barbecue, a wait is often mandatory.

The brisket is good, but you'd be a fool to stop there, especially after standing on your feet for half a Saturday morning. A smoked sausage dipped in a sweet and slightly tangy barbecue sauce is a perfect marriage. Ground and cased on-site, these links will ruin hot dogs forever. Pork ribs soak up smoke in a way that beef does not. The meat sports a pink kiss of mesquite and pulls from the bone gently without falling apart.

If you like the carnal act of tearing meat from the bone, perhaps you'd like something a little bit larger. Order a single beef rib on your own and you'll be set for the day. The quivering brick of meat perched on a protruding bone is at once intimidating and intoxicating, but the flavor of this cut rivals even the brisket. Whether tackling the rib alone or with a friend, you've made a good decision — provided you got in line early enough to secure one. The beef ribs are the first cut to sell out every day.


Justin Fourton stands at a lumbering 6-6, but it's not his height that intimidates his customers as he walks the line about an hour after opening. Fourton weighs each morning's bounty and carefully tracks the cuts as they're tossed on paper-lined trays and shuttled to the counter. When the brisket runs low he counts customers as they stand, doling out fate like a towering meat god.

Somewhere down that snaking leviathan of the hungry, a single customer holds a sign that strikes fear and disappointment into the hearts of everyone behind it. "Slim pickings," it reads, notifying everyone to the front they've made today's cut. For each pitiful soul to the rear, the message is that the brisket's nearly done. As a consolation for being the bearer of terrible news, the sign-holder gets to eat for free.

Arriving early not only assures a shorter wait, but also increases your chances that you'll get the cuts you want. Attrition is high after the pink sign makes an appearance, and spirits are low behind it. Don't feel too glum, though. Tomorrow's another day. The line will be there waiting for you.
 
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22 comments
samcuefan
samcuefan

We need 3 or 4 more places this good so these guys have some competition and improve their service.  The brisket and sausage are outstanding.  The attitudes of the people at the counter are sometimes a bit off.

James_the_P3
James_the_P3

I really like Pecan Lodge.  I've been going there since the days when you could just walk up and order your brisket.  But it's gotten completely ridiculous.  They need to have more than one guy tending a cash register.  And if you are going to have just one cash register open, then it needs to be manned by that guy who works at the Wendy's at the Texas Union at UT--that guy would move the line.

robynfolmar
robynfolmar

The line at Franklin definitely more fun. It's a true tailgating party, with 55% of people one and a half sheets to the wind when they finally enter. I've not seen many kids in the Franklin line. Pecan Lodge line is pretty boring (at least it's inside) with plenty of screaming kids, but ya, it's so worth it and is a very deft competitor with Franklin greatness. I don't know, maybe some old fashioned busking would liven the line up.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I judge brisket.  The Texas variety.  I have for many, many years.  From Terlingua to San Marcos, I have had the opportunity to eat some educated brisket. 

I just consumed the best smoked brisket I ever had. 

I know all the tricks – using rib eye, spiking it with sugar, injections, exotic wood.  And of course, cooking it ‘till its fork-cuttable.  Weh-hell little Billy . . . the best brisket I have ever eaten was an hour ago at a place called Woᴙk.  It’s in Deep Ellum, Texas in the old Sambuca space.  They did good. 

I’ve paid $50 for a Prime cut rib eye A cappella at Papas Bros and it can’t come close. 

Now, admittedly I requested the fat side (known in some quarters as the heart attack side) with some burnt ends however, for the faint of heart who must do lean, he’ll produce it in spades. 

But I defy anyone to call me a liar! 

They don’t call it BBQ there but it’s the best BBQ that dare not speak its name in Texas.

doofUSA
doofUSA

The brisket is great, but I thought everything else was just alright.  I think the line is more a relection of the lack of quality bbq in the area than it is the quality of this particular bbq, as it is good but certainly not worth waiting that long for.

Greg820
Greg820

A very well-written piece.  Definately getting me in the mood for a wait in line.  Thanks Scott!

EllumLiving
EllumLiving

So I tried Pecan Lodge for the first time at Brew-B-Q (we got there early before they ran out of food) and we all found the BBQ super salty.  Maybe the quality wasn't the same since it was brought in later in the day... I just don't want to wait in line if the actual bbq at the restaurant is super salty like we received and most of us could barely eat.  Did anyone else go to the Brew-B-Q and agree (this was not later in the event when they brought in Dickey's).  Thanks!

mann2c55
mann2c55

Hozabout hiring a homeless person to stand in line for you and when the joint opens at 11:00 you just trade places? Give your standin $5.00 and a brisket sandwich? would that work?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

so a question on line rules/etiquette at Pecan Lodge,  Is there spot holding, lets say I arrive and am 40th in line, can the people up in front allow others who show up later to line up with them, or can I allow other to join me at my spot?  

cbauertx
cbauertx

@samcuefan Yes, and the attitude from the one person at the counter creating that giant line is a direct reflection of the arrogant owners who think they're the only game in town.  Those two pretentious assholes don't deserve one red cent from me.  Fuck 'em!  

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

@robynfolmar I wonder if all that booze has something to do with Franklin's perceived success.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Thx for the tip. Kudos for the Cyrillic R.

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

@mann2c55 While the rules about holding the spot for a friend or two may be squishy, I think that move would definitely cross the line.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@mann2c55 reading the story you need the homeless man in line by like 10

scott.reitz
scott.reitz moderator

@ScottsMerkin Honestly, that's what I did... At least for the first half hour while my friends dragged themselves from bed. It would be hard to enforce otherwise. What's the difference between one person ordering a trough for their friends (five pounds of meat in one shot) or ordering a single brisket sandwich. Granted I think you have to practice restraint. Holding the line for a school bus full of meat-hungry football players who just finished a juice cleanse would be just plain wrong.

mann2c55
mann2c55

Why? The only law I'd be breaking would be feeding the homeless without a license.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Back in the day, there was a shortage of new computers and aircraft. A market developed for spots on the waiting list. What do you think the going rate would be for a spot in the first 10?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@scott.reitz Ok, I had a buddy in line and he invited me down, but I felt just plain bad that he had been there  an hour and I didnt want to stroll in and pass 100 people to join my buddy up front, but if that is ok, well Im in.  And I guess I never thought to tell him just order 5 pounds of meat to share...damn.  And as you said, sometimes the wait in line makes the experience even better, all the anticipation of the most delicious brisket you may ever taste

 
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