The Texas flag is pinned up behind the nursed-for troughs of diced and round onions, dill pickles both chopped and crinkle-cut, jalapeños both whole and sliced and an evenly troweled, cold container of butter. A really good pickles, onions and peppers bar can save entire lives.
Back Country Bar-B-Q's oasis has a little sign above it that reads “Relish Bar” in cursive.
Filling your tray with plastic ramekins, each overflowing with pickles, is a splendorous thing that gives you the feeling of something like stepping into a child’s drawing of the perfect barbecue joint. It’s the feeling of having endless amounts of the thing that you love, no charge.
The barbecue sauce, tangy and peppery, steams like a dark soup in its electric cauldron. Scott Collard calls out an order of the burger special to his cook Earnest Griffith. Griffith has been in the kitchen, dusting down ribs and pulverizing potatoes for salad, for nearly 45 years. Collard’s working the line, thunking brisket apart with a knife.
Back Country's cafeteria line is flanked by moose heads. One’s got a motorcycle planted on its furry skull. It watches as you skate a tray of meat down the line. There’s no judgment from the moose, or really any other soul in the Back Country, if you want to grab a fried pie from the rack.
This is a barbecue joint that lives outside of it all. It’s pre-trend Dallas, despite being Grubhub-able, since 1975. It’s got taxidermy, deer and moose, and local high school pennants. In the late '80s, it moved from its original location on Ferndale Road in northeast Dallas, settling into the same place you’ll find it now on Upper Greenville.
He’s owned the joint for three years, working his way up year after year from being a dishwasher as a young man at another barbecue joint.
Reaching the end of the cafeteria line, pie in a bowl traveling with you, there’s that childlike joy again — it’s from reaching the register with the clattering-tray ready for food.
“It’ll be about eight minutes, if that’s OK?” the server says.
The burger’s getting lashed by the fire of the grill.
I say, “Sure!” without a consideration in the world because that’s what you say in a cafeteria line. Ride the rides and shut up at Back Country.
The cheeseburger is a pure thing, too: It’s simply salted and fire-grilled. American cheese, if you want, draped over the 20% fat beef patty. Iceberg lettuce and thinly-sliced tomatoes are on the side. Nothing else.
Pickles and onions or whatever are at the relish bar, and they toss a Kraft packet of mayonnaise, if you’re that kind of person. It’s a great backyard meal.
The chopped brisket is better, the juicy-oils soaking into the top layer of the bun. It’s best to dip in the tangy jus of the barbecue sauce while it’s piping hot.
“This trendy stuff?” Collard asks rhetorically, “I don’t know if it’ll last.”
Sitting in Back Country’s dining room, watching the cafeteria line filling up quickly with families and construction workers in the bright orange vests, hearing the gravely voice of the man chomping on a cigar in the table near the back, one can imagine a trend-free barbecue future is a refreshing Kool-Aid to drink.
Back Country Bar-B-Q, 6940 Greenville Ave. (Upper Greenville). 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday. backcountrybbq.com, 214-696-6940.