Restaurant Reviews

Big Boner

Clams, our most popular item, is not even on our menu

--Bone Daddy's vestibule sign

The servers at Bone Daddy's House of Smoke wear a tightly regimented uniform. It consists of Mary Jane shoes, white socks with lace trim folded down and earrings. Stationed between these garments are black hot pants that surrender just after the junction between the pelvis and the femur. The hot pants are secured to the hips by wide belts with big buckles. They can be pink, white or black with sequins, studs or braided leather.

Then there is the shirt. Skimpy is a word too bland and denuded of meaning to do this top justice. Euclidean is a better term, as this piece of cloth is a mosaic of deliciously precise angles. A deep and sharp triangle, modulated by a zipper, begins at the collarbone and comes to a point at the breastbone. In the back, another triangle is modulated by a knot that is cinched upward to expose varying portions of the small of the back. In some instances this cinching forces the front of the top to a point, which settles somewhere just above the navel.

Between this point and the top edge of the thick belt you can enjoy a wide assortment of navel jewelry. Some are single studs, others are loops that pinch the flesh rimming the button and still others are chains that dangle just above the belt buckle suspending crosses or stars. Just two Bone Daddy's servers sported nude navels. A few had tattoos stamped on the small of their backs. These servers have good tans, well-sculpted abs and superb dental hygiene. The ancient Greeks loved geometry, and at Bone Daddy's, we're all Greek. The phone greeting from the Bone Daddy's staff is this: "Who's your daddy?"

Ribbed for your pleasure

--Another Bone Daddy's sign

Bone Daddy's ribs are slow smoked and have names like "Full Rack 'o Backs" and "Unkle Porky's babybacks." These are delicious slabs. Flesh melts from the bone. Meat is juicy and void of grease and gristle. It's tender, and the flavor has gentle billows of smoke followed by layers of sweetness offset by tangy richness.



Brisket flows along the same trail. Thinly sliced, the meat is edged with char. It is lush, with no gristle or globules of fat. Smoke seeps through, but it doesn't choke. On the smokehouse platter, which offers turkey breast, chicken, ham and hot link sausage in combinations of one, two or three meats, it's called "juke joint sliced brisket."

Men. All they think about is specks. Speckled trout.

--T-shirt spotted on a Bone Daddy's customer

There is not a speck of fish or seafood on the Bone Daddy's menu: no calamari, no shrimp, no smoked chubs. But you can get grilled or fried shrimp and salmon if you ask. Maybe you shouldn't. The fried shrimp is dry and tastes like crispy cardboard.



Bone Daddy's does serve steak: juicy T-bone; Vegas strip; smothered tenderloin (choked with grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and melted cheese); and "big bone-in rib eye." The rib eye is huge with a massive bone curving out of its anterior. The meat is reddish bronze from a light brushing of barbecue sauce deepened from a patchwork of grill marks across the surfaces. The meat is cooked to a perfect medium rare rainbow, radiating deep rose, to red, to pink, to gray before the orange barbecue stain eats away at the edges.

The meat is loose and riddled with long strips and portly globules of fat, and the flavor is hollow, without any depth or seductive richness on the finish. But juices flow.

Some of the sides compensate. Skillet head beans are hearty, cooking up a mean battle between tangy sting and its sweeter undergarments. Beans are the size of bullets, and they're cooked into firm pellets instead of pasty Gerber spit. Here's another surprise: roadhouse spuds. They arrive in a boat with chunks of potato with tiny sheets of skin still attached. They're bound with hot sticky cheese and topped with scallions and a blizzard of crispy bacon flecks. They're creamy and smooth despite the chunks and shed lots of flavor and warm richness.

Blonds, our other white meat

--More Bone Daddy's vestibule propaganda

It's disconcerting to see a whole chicken on a plate with an upended Schlitz beer can protruding from it. But this is how the beer-can chicken is assembled. An open can of suds is forced into the chicken body so that the brew bubbles over the can opening and seeps into the bird as it cooks. The menu calls this "violated" chicken, and it's hard to disagree. Couldn't they have used Bud?

The skin is crisp, and the meat near the surface is slightly dry. But plumb deeper into the body, near where the violation occurs, and the meat has ample moisture. In some places, juices flow. But despite a wisp of smoke on the palate, the meat has a narrow flavor profile. Perhaps if the bird had multiple violations, say with onion, garlic and a couple of lemon wedges along with the Schlitz, the abuse would have been more tasteful.

Messy grilled chicken wings were among the best wings we've tasted, at least in a hot-pants context. These wings are juicy; the barbecue sauce (slathered on them, according to the menu) throttles the sweet and revs up the tang before the spice slaps hard enough to sting the tongue and tear the eyes. They're juicy, and the wing tips are charred to a crisp, so you don't get any of that wing Jell-O that sometimes forms when the sauce melds with the slime from barely cooked chicken skin.

Bone Daddy's has décor that is almost too complicated to unravel. Telephone poles rise out of the center of the dining room with wires strung from arm to arm. Industrial blowers in wire cages dangle from the ceiling, serving as cafe fans. The liquor bottle rack above the bar is made of plumbing tubing. A private room is paneled in old doors. The look is swap meet meets utility company scrap yard. Blues bellows from the black speaker cabinets posted everywhere. Outside, fountains gush into clear pools through rusted and corroded oil well drilling heads.

Gushing happens inside, too. Bone Daddy's has a virile happy hour, and the lot fills quickly with pickups, Mustangs and Japanese rally cars. Patrons sip half-price frosted barrels of Bud, Miller or Shiner (beer-can chicken doesn't count as a happy-hour special). But we're morons. "We only have three kinds of wine: chardonnay, cabernet and white zinfandel," our server says, as she rubs my shoulder. Sometimes a server sits down in the booth with you to discuss Big Daddy's menu nuances. (This is how we discovered the off-menu seafood options.) Psychological studies show that servers and salespeople who touch their customers get bigger tips and close more sales.

You can't beat our meat

--Yet another Bone Daddy's vestibule slogan

But you can violate their birds. Keep this in mind. 8856 Spring Valley Road, 214-575-3050. Open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-midnight Friday & Saturday. $-$$

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz