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Birthright BBQ Fest, which brings together the state's top pitmasters to cook whole animals in open pits, is back for another year.
Birthright BBQ Fest, which brings together the state's top pitmasters to cook whole animals in open pits, is back for another year.
Brian Maschino

The Open-Pit, Whole-Animal Birthright BBQ Fest Returns for a Second Year

"Barbecue is a Texan’s birthright," the organizers of Birthright BBQ Fest say. To celebrate that birthright, this year's Birthright BBQ Fest — a Father's Day meat bonanza held on June 16 at Dallas Heritage Village — will let barbecue fans eat meat the way our forefathers did.

Juan and Brent Reaves of Smokey John's BBQ will fire up Dallas Heritage Village's old smokehouse to smoke spicy garlic sausages. Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue and Evan LeRoy of LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue in Austin will cook an entire 44 Farms steer. Elliott Moss of Buxton Hall in Asheville, North Carolina, will cook up a whole hog with hog fat green beans. Patrick Feges and Erin Smith of Feges BBQ in Houston will be in charge of cooking whole goats, and Todd David of Cattleack BBQ will be responsible for the obligatory brisket.

Rest assured, this is not a typical Texas barbecue festival.

"I want people to see and taste the timeline of Texas barbecue cooking," says Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly's barbecue editor and the curator of the festival, now in its second year. "We'll have the smoked brisket that most folks associate with Texas barbecue, but the way it was done long before restaurants was whole animals cooking over a bed of coals, or in the ground in a barbacoa pit, and it was a lot more than just beef."

It's hard to find a barbecue outfit that does whole hog like Buxton Hall in Asheville.
It's hard to find a barbecue outfit that does whole hog like Buxton Hall in Asheville.
Brian Maschino

This attention to the history of barbecue is the essence of Birthright BBQ Fest, which we named Best Food Festival in last year's Best of Dallas awards. Rather than just buying brisket by the pound, the event wants guests to "Smell and taste barbecue cooking over an open pit, just like they did it in the nineteenth century when whole steers, goats and hogs were more common than ribs and brisket," according to Birthright BBQ Fest's website.

And if last year was any indication, Texans are into it.

"The event sold out in just a few days last year," Vaughn says. "I think people enjoyed the setting at Dallas Heritage Village and the unique cooking styles for each of the barbecue items. We heard from some attendees that we were missing something sweet, so we've asked Jeffrey Hobbs from Slow Bone in Dallas to bring dessert this year."

Also added this year: more tickets. Last year was capped at 750, but organizers will sell 1,000 tickets this year.

"That was basically so we could justify cooking an entire 44 Farms steer this year instead of a half one like last year," Vaughn says. "We've also added Miguel and Modesty Vidal of Valentina's in Austin and Michael Wyont of Flores BBQ, which just reopened in Fort Worth after a move from Whitney. We haven't settled on their menu items just yet, but it will be an animal and a cooking style we didn't have last year." There will also be VIP ticket options this year that enable attendees to come an hour early to get a head start.

Step into the saloon at Dallas Heritage Village for adult beverages and a touch of shade.
Step into the saloon at Dallas Heritage Village for adult beverages and a touch of shade.
Brian Maschino

Tickets for this year's fest go on sale today and will set you back $75 for general admission and $95 for VIP. The whole-animal, open-pit ethos isn't the only aspect of this food fest that's different; its location at Dallas Heritage Village makes for an interesting afternoon wandering the grounds and snacking in the shade.

"The historic buildings of Dallas Heritage Village get one in the right mindset to enjoy barbecue prepared in the same way it was done in the nineteenth century," Vaughn says. "The pitmasters and attendees both loved all the greenery and the shade trees. It definitely beats standing on an asphalt parking lot. It's a beautiful place to spend Father's Day."

Birthright BBQ Fest, 6 p.m.-dark Sunday, June 16 at Dallas Heritage Village, 1515 S. Harwood St.

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