It's been a busy year for barbecue aficionados in the Dallas area. The "barbecue boom" of the last several years seems to show no signs of tapering off, which is a good thing for those always on the hunt for the next great spot for smoked meats. Here at the Observer, the popularity of barbecue in DFW has given us plenty to talk about in between piquant bites of smoky brisket.
Sprinkled among our coverage of local joints this year, we pontificated on why we stand in line for good barbecue and tried to calm the angry hordes who think barbecue is ruined when you add sauce. We also highlighted our favorite spots for barbecue north of Dallas, provided a guide to the area's best burnt ends, and shared the story of how a Dallas mom made barbecue a key to her son's homeschooling curriculum. All the while, we do our best to keep you informed of the latest and greatest in barbecue openings, because let's face it, these ribs aren't going to eat themselves. While we wipe the sauce from our hands and try to get the smoke out of our clothes, we leave you with our favorite new (or improved) barbecue establishments from the year that was.
Intrinsic Smokehouse & Brewery
509 W. State St., Garland
It was just one year ago that Intrinsic Smokehouse opened their doors in downtown Garland, combining their own craft beer and barbecue into a single location that's still unlike any other establishment in DFW. Perhaps the best feature of Intrinsic is their constant innovation; the beer list is always changing, and on the food front, they find new takes on barbecue classics (can you say "meat sundae"?) to keep patrons coming back for more.
1901 Abrams Road
Owners Jason Hall (who owns 3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House in Frisco), John Patenburg and Mike Mullen recognized a dearth of barbecue available in East Dallas and brought Lakewood Smokehouse to the rescue. The smoked proteins (brisket, turkey, pulled pork or a sausage sourced from Deep Ellum's Rudolph Meats) are available in any number of combinations — by the pound, on a combo plate, stuffed in an Empire Bakery bun or on a pizza. Show up early and partake of the excellent appetizers and a smoky cocktail, too.
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3200 14th St., Plano
It took us some effort to find it, but we're glad we did, because Winners BBQ is serving up arguably some of the best barbecue in Plano. We found the brisket to be perfectly rendered and moist but felt the ribs were the stars of the show; they came heavily seasoned with a dry rub of spices and were cooked flawlessly. The restaurant itself may not be much to look at, but it's what's inside that counts, and the food definitely makes Winners worth the visit.
18th & Vine
4100 Maple Ave.
As much coverage as we seem to give to 18th & Vine, you'd think they had us on the payroll. We promise that we're not (and the fact that they're located just down the street from the Observer offices is a happy coincidence). Simply put, the press that 18th & Vine gets is well deserved. What started as an upscale expression of Kansas City style barbecue continues to wow us with a smoky take on brunch and a number of secret off-menu sandwiches. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention their textbook burnt ends.
Heim BBQ and Catering
1109 W. Magnolia Ave., Fort Worth
We love a good success story, and when discussing the area's best from-the-ground-up barbecue joints, Travis and Emma Heim may have the best story of all with Heim BBQ and Catering. What started with a few backyard pop-ups at their Arlington home evolved into a wildly successful food truck in Fort Worth, which led to the first brick-and-mortar location opening in August of this year on Magnolia Avenue. Riding on the waves of success that come with introducing the area to bacon burnt ends, Heim will open a second location in Fort Worth in 2017. We can hardly wait.
3628 Gamma Road
As one of the area's best spots for barbecue, Cattleack has always played a little hard-to-get. Between their small location in a warehouse district in North Dallas and their two-day-a-week lunch-only hours, Cattleack was a place many knew of, but fewer were able to enjoy. That changed for the better this year, as Cattleack closed up shop for a few weeks to expand the operation. Still in the same location, the new space easily seats three times as many customers, who can now wait inside instead of lining up out the door. Out back, space for new smokers allows Cattleack to serve more of their killer meats, and they're opening one additional day a month for specials like whole-hog.
Post Oak Smokehouse
411 E. Royal Lane, Irving
Imagine our surprise when a flier on the windshield tipped us off to some stellar barbecue being served in Las Colinas. Post Oak Smokehouse opened in late July and is churning out quality brisket, poultry, burnt ends and sides from their spot in a strip mall on Royal Lane. All of the meats are smoked (with post oak, natch) on-site, and on a visit just last week, owner and pitmaster Eliodoro Aguilar told us that they can smoke almost any whole meat you'd like with just a few days notice. Post Oak Smokehouse is a great addition to the dining choices in Las Colinas.