An Englismn Goes Dwntwn fr Baby Back Shak
Requires a good rub.
I have tried to get to Baby Back Shak so many times. It keeps eccentric hours for someone who lives far away, and I've just never managed to sort it out. The other day though, I found myself in southern Dallas with an hour to kill, and hey presto. I still couldn't type the bloody thing into my GPS, though. It's willfully misspelled. They were so close. They spelled "back" correctly (possibly thanks to rib packaging) but in that last word, the "c" went missing. Shak. I thought he was a basketball player. That's right, I just made an American Sportsball joke. I am pretty much entirely assimilated by this point.
Anyway, the fact they so nearly spelled it right is no consolation for my GPS. If I owned a restaurant (God forbid) and I named it Hse O'Fsh rather than House of Fish, I wouldn't expect people to find it. I would have signed my own business death warrant. People would want to visit it, but instead I would just be accidentally divert all my business to the nearby House of Fish that a crafty Google-observing competitor had opened up. I'd get the blame for all their shoddy Yelp! reviews from their undercooked haddock, and none of the money from vending said undercooked haddock.
Even my GPS has predictive text these days. It spent an entire six months trying to tell me Bryan Street was Bryant Street in Palo Alto (Google it, I'm not insane, I'll wait here until you're done), and I blindly went with it until I noticed I was driving west out of Dallas and my GPS told me to stay on this road for a few hundred miles. I bludgeoned the phone with a nearby rock due to my somewhat suspect temperament. Then I couldn't find my way home. I'm still there now. Please mail me a phone.
Right. Where was I? Yes. I finally made it after yet another terrifying journey on Interstate 30 (what in the hell is up with people on that road braking suddenly?!), and the location of this place is somewhat suspect. I think I saw at least four police cars in the vicinity, and one man certainly looked at me funny. It's not in a bloody strip mall, put it that way. There were two policemen inside, for goodness' sakes. However, you can't blame them, because the ribs were freakin' delicious. More on that in a bit. First I have more pointless crap to type.
This place had something I'd never seen on a barbecue menu before, and what's more, it was British. My heart swelled with patriotic delight to see a Cornish game hen as an option. Our brave British bird, making it the whole way to Texas to be barbecued at a poorly spelled barbecue restaurant. It just makes you want to wave a Union Jack and hug the Queen. I had to order her (the hen). It's what she (the hen, possibly the Queen) would have wanted. One entire Cornish game hen (a fun and interesting new experience to try ordering in a British accent), half a pound of brisket and half a pound of ribs.
It's like a chicken! But smaller! And Cornish!
"Any sides?" enquire my family as I return to the table. Will they never learn? I adore them, but my stance on sides has not been understood yet. In fact, my wife doesn't even really like barbecue, which I think, by this point, makes her the most understanding and loving wife ever. I love her and her constant game commitment to pretending to like barbecue. Never anything less than a smile.
I am also pleased to report that the barbecue at this joint is of painfully high quality. Especially the ribs, which, I have learned from my journey to Memphis, are served "Memphis-style" (see, I can absorb information), which means the rub is ... spicier ... you know what, screw you. I don't need to learn things. They're delicious. Really, really good. Way above average for Dallas. I prefer rib rub to be tangier and give you a good mouth-punch, and these certainly do that, plus they're perfectly cooked. The brisket isn't quite smoky enough but is again perfectly prepared (again way above average), and the Cornish game hen, well, what on earth is going on there? It's delightful, I can tell you that much, but I have no frame of reference here. Eight months (!) of reviewing barbecue and pummeling this one joke into submission have given me the ability to tell good brisket from bad, but An Englishman in Cornish Game Hens? That would be an awful column. That would be like if someone gave me a column about cream teas.
So, Cornish game hen. I don't know. It tasted good to me. It was like a chicken but I could pick up the whole thing at once to eat it, which amused me no end. What should a good Cornish game hen taste like? Should it be gamier than chicken? Can I taste the Cornish? Does the hen want to secede from the mainland like Cornwall and like every other damn country or region associated with England? Is secession a taste? Scott? Anyone?
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.