An Indulgent Barbecue Delicacy: A Guide to Burnt Ends in DFW

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18th and Vine
4100 Maple Ave.
Get your burn on
: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday

For a taste of the textbook Kansas City-style burnt end, 18th and Vine is the place to go. The point is chopped into chunks, tossed in sauce and brown sugar and tossed back onto the smoker where the fat continues to render, yielding a delightful caramelization on the bark. 

"People love 'em," Dallman said. They love them so much that Dallman had to take burnt ends off the main meat menu and serve a smaller, appetizer-sized portion instead. In the short time he's been running 18th and Vine, he said he's seen more and more burnt ends around DFW.

"When I first moved here, I was telling people what burnt ends are all the time," he said. "Now people just are coming and looking for 'em on the menu." 

The burnt ends have proven to be one of the more popular dishes at 18th and Vine, a spot that's more barbecue restaurant than barbecue joint — the white cloth napkins, live jazz and books lining the walls give it a more upscale feel. But it's still all about the meat. Until hiring a new pitmaster recently, Dallman was showing up at 5 a.m. daily to work the pit. For him, it's all worth it to have a taste of his hometown in Dallas — and to spread the gospel of burnt ends.

Heim Barbecue
Currently: 201 E Hattie St., Fort Worth
New location opening soon: 1109 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth
Get your burn on: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday 

To get anything from this Fort Worth food truck, be prepared to make a little effort: Aside from the 40-minute drive west, diners will probably be waiting in line for awhile. On my visit, I arrived 10 minutes before the truck opened only to find that dozens of others had arrived far earlier. After a 90-minute wait, I got what I came for: Heim's infamous bacon burnt ends.

Heim takes a slab of pork belly, cures and smokes it, and cools it down. Then it gets a generous coat of Heim's pork rub, is cubed and smoked hot to create these glorious fatty cubes with a sweet caramelized exterior that packs plenty of peppery bite. It's basically meat candy — which is why 1/4-lb. of these bad boys is plenty, just enough to appreciate the effort that went into making them.

"In all it's a three- to four-day process for one day's bacon burnt ends," said owner Travis Heim. The dish came into existence after a bacon-themed pop-up dinner where these gluttonous morsels stole the show. 

"I smoked a bunch of our homemade bacon and our first course was the bacon burnt ends — everyone couldn't stop eating them, though, and we ended up having a ton of everything else left over," Heim said. "So back then we thought if we were ever able to open a restaurant, we would have to put those on the menu."

Brisket is a top-seller for Heim, of course, but the burnt ends usually sell out first. 

"We're cooking between 40 to 50 pounds of bacon burnt ends a day, but we'll still have people that will take 2 pounds or more to go," Heim said. "It's crazy." 

Crazy, yes — crazy delicious. Get in line early. Heim is currently parked at Republic Street Bar, which is happy to supply beer and bloody marys to help those in line pass the time until Heim moves into its new brick-and-mortar location on Magnolia. 

"We're hoping the restaurant will be open first or second week of April, but until then we'll be in the food truck," Heim said. 
Cattleack Barbeque
13628 Gamma Road

Get your burn on: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday & Friday
Much like Heim's barbecue truck, Cattleack makes you work for it. This beloved barbecue spot, curiously nestled in a street filled with nondescript office buildings, opens for lunch only two days a week, and there's a line. Don't despair, for the line moves quickly and free beer is in a cooler by the cash register. Plus, as Cattleack's been posting on social media, the line tends to run down by 1 p.m., while there's still plenty of meat to be had.

Burnt ends aren't on the standard menu here, so keep an eye on the specials — on my last visit, pastrami burnt ends stole the show. Appropriately salty but still gloriously rich, these burnt ends were the perfect intersection of classic pastrami and fatty burnt ends. Also on the menu that day: burnt end beans, a classic barbecue side which made for a rich, smoky side dish that was anything but an afterthought. 

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Beth Rankin is an Ohio native and Cicerone-certified beer server who specializes in social media, food and drink, travel and news reporting. Her belief system revolves around the significance of Topo Chico, the refusal to eat crawfish out of season and the importance of local and regional foodways.
Contact: Beth Rankin