Best New DFW Barbecue Joints 2018 | Dallas Observer


The Best New Dallas Barbecue of 2018 Was, For the Most Part, Not Actually In Dallas

We took the time to slice Zavala's beef rib. If you tear into it like a T. rex, though, we totally understand.
We took the time to slice Zavala's beef rib. If you tear into it like a T. rex, though, we totally understand. Chris Wolfgang
Perhaps you've noticed that Dallas is growing. When it comes to living, working and dining in DFW, we no longer feel confined inside the 635 loop. Sure, we still have our food and drink favorites in Dallas proper, but our suburban friends are no longer forced to drive into the city in search of equally laudable dining options.

When it comes to smoked meats, we're more than willing to gas up the car and go exploring to the edges of DFW. Our pick for the best barbecue of 2018 landed us in DeSoto at Top5 BBQ. We ventured to far west Fort Worth to check out an up-and-coming pit master's popups and ate barbecue served from a shipping container in Plano. And our list of barbecue joints to check out in 2019 includes more than a few outliers.

That's not to say that every adventure turns up gems. We found the reboot of Frisco's 3 Stacks Smokehouse too lackluster for what we paid (diners seemed to agree, and 3 Stacks closed in July). We also learned that Chili's served brisket — and kind of wished that they didn't. And we uncovered a still-yet-unnamed barbecue restaurant trying to poach the area's best barbecue talent for their own.

But enough of the negatives. Let's take a look at the best new barbecue we uncovered in 2018.

Zavala's Barbecue

421 W. Main St., Grand Prairie

Zavala's in Grand Prairie churns out solid Central Texas-style barbecue but with a locally sourced tortilla and chimichurri twist. Count us as fans of the nontraditional spin that Joe Zavala has put on his smoked meats, from the excellent brisket, pork ribs and sausage to the beef rib that borders on heavenly. When we visited, Zavala's was strictly a to-go operation, but Zavala's is soon opening a new brick-and-mortar location in Grand Prairie. We can't wait.

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Oh, brisket, Tender be thy name.
Chris Wolfgang

Tender Smokehouse

224 W. Pecan St., Celina

It's a 40-mile trek from the Observer offices in Oak Lawn to the tiny town of Celina in northern Collin County. But the big Texas barbecue flavor served up at Tender Smokehouse makes it worth the trip every time. This barbecue joint serves up prime brisket and locally sourced sausage plus some stellar sides. Regardless of whether you see a sleepy Texas town like Celina being woven into the fabric of the DFW area as a good thing, there should be no disagreement that gems like Tender Smokehouse belong on our radar.

At $16, the three-meat tray from Panther City Barbecue is an absolute bargain.
Chris Wolfgang

Panther City Barbecue

201 E. Hattie St., Fort Worth

It's still a mystery to us how we walked up to the food truck that is Panther City Barbecue and ordered a tray full of stellar brisket, ribs, sausage and some killer beans and mac-n-cheese, all with nary another customer in sight. Not only was the barbecue exceptional, that tray of goodness set us back just $16. We were so impressed that we named Panther City the area's best BBQ Food Truck. Panther City won't be able to repeat that win next year — a new permanent building is in the works for 2019.

Louie King BBQ in Dallas promises a "redneck barbecue experience." So do like we did and order a tallboy.
Chris Wolfgang

Louie King BBQ

1916 Greenville Ave. (Lowest Greenville)

OK, in fairness, it took us a bit to get over Louie King's name — which is weirdly reminiscent of major Texas barbecue kingpin Louie Mueller Barbecue. We also found some hiccups when we visited the first week after they opened, but Louie King shows a willingness to experiment with their "redneck barbecue," from the excellent smoked shaved pork loin to the top-notch sides. Louie King also has an ace up their sleeve in the form of pit master Will Fleischman, whose time at Lockhart Smokehouse made that spot one of our favorites. We're sure Fleischman's guidance will iron out the kinks at Louie King as well.

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Local Yocal's barbecue game is solid, but come during lunch for the best experience.
Chris Wolfgang

Local Yocal BBQ and Grill

350 E. Louisiana St., McKinney

It seems like such a natural fit that one of our favorite butcher shops in North Texas would open a restaurant, but we're still impressed at the early brilliance of Local Yocal BBQ and Grill in McKinney. Naturally, knowing where to get quality beef helps Local Yocal's game, but the smoky execution is spot-on. Better yet, Local Yocal stretches beyond just barbecue, with a well-conceived menu full of comfort food favorites like the wagyu chicken-fried steak we're still dreaming about weeks later.
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Chris Wolfgang started writing about barbecue for the Dallas Observer in 2015, and became the Observer’s restaurant critic in October 2021. In his free time, he’s a dog owner, plays a mediocre guitar and is likely recovering from his latest rec-league sports injury.
Contact: Chris Wolfgang

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