Restaurant Reviews

Daddy, Help!



TO: Stent Industry Shareholders and Venture Capitalists

FROM: Stent Manufacturers Association of America President Arturo E. Bloc

RE: Meat

First let me congratulate you on our bold investments. Your significant funding has driven one of the most innovative medical devices ever devised: the stent, that expensive (yeah!) wire mesh tube used to prop open clogged arteries once they've been cleared of cholesterol-induced blockage. Focus. You've got it. Vision. It's yours. Look at the past couple of years we've had. Our (beef/pork) gravy train is haulin' cellulite ass down the rails. Atkins is America's new G spot. Steak is its new non-battery-operated marital aid (pre and post, too). I have in front of me an article from The Wall Street Journal. Headline: Latest Diet Fad Helps Put Hog Farmers in Fat City. Bottom line: Pork consumption is up; pork prices surged 31 percent over last year.

We're in the zone, people! Even non-food-related current events are swinging our way. Now far be it from us to make light or profit from another's personal tribulations, but do I need to remind you that this past Labor Day ex-President Clinton underwent quadruple bypass surgery? A week later, CNN reported that the country was swept by "Clinton Syndrome": spooked middle-aged men flooding doctor's offices and emergency rooms to get their tickers checked. How big was the resultant surge in stent sales? Our economic research department is still crunching the numbers.

But there is a dark side.

Fortitude. We need it now more than ever. Forces are conspiring to derail our progress. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine launched a heinous ad campaign earlier this year linking meat consumption with impotence. Just last month radio personality Howard Stern featured a trio of stunning women from a group called Vegan Vixens on his radio show. They go by names like Tanjareen and Sky. Sky claims to have had a one-night stand with John Stamos and admitted she once dated Charlie Sheen in a Trojan horse maneuver to get his brother Emilio Estevez. Saucy campaigns like this could devastate future sales by converting the core demographic of 18- to 35-year-old male meat-eaters to a diet of Tanjareens and tofu during the critical cholesterol-building years.

To counter these threats, we've developed a sophisticated three-pronged strategy. First, we've socked away funds to cherry-pick the assets of bankrupt Interstate Bakeries, makers of Wonder Bread and Hostess and Dolly Madison pastries. We plan to re-enter the market with breads, buns and Twinkies made exclusively from Atkins-friendly fried pork rinds. Second, in conjunction with U.S. beef and pork producers, we've signed on Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS, who claims to have bedded down more than 3,000 women, as national spokesman. Our campaign, "Meat, it's what's stretchin' my spandex," will launch during Super Bowl XXXIX this February.

Third is a little place in McKinney, Texas, called Big Daddy's Grill House.

Big Daddy's offers a compelling array of deep-fried and meat-centered meals. Sure, they offer dishes that could be considered "healthy." Chicken gumbo is delicious, with bright green scallion slices slipping in and out of celery hooks. But every now and again, flickers of deep red peek through the greenish pottage. Is it heart-healthy red cabbage? Shame on you. It's the casing from slices of smoky sausage strewn throughout. Chicken breast pieces come in ample supply but are a little dry.

There's a well-tailored house salad, an elegant piece of green fluff. Blemish-less greens are pummeled with toasted pecan fragments and blue cheese crumbles before they're splashed with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. But these are all delivered with a wink; a Sky-Emilio Trojan horse, if you will.

Granted, fried foods don't have the stent-friendly kick they once did when they were fried in blocks of melted lard (damn health nuts). But they still prime the appetite for a heavy dose of ribs, steaks and burgers.

Fried pickles are little blond coins with a flat-tasting coating. Yet maybe that doesn't matter. When you bite into the rippled hamburger dill, it floods your mouth with vinegary brine: instant seasoning as you bite. Not enough? Dip them into some spicy chipotle ranch--a dairy product, people! Your fingertips shine after just a few bites. Clean the basket down to the paper liner and a reflective shimmer of oil peers back at you.

Same with the onion rings. They're not those obnoxious thick loops that look like chokers on the other end of a dominatrix leash. They're thin and delicate, with the same blond coating.

Drama builds as you navigate the entrée menu. "Famous jalapeño steak" is a thin skirt-steak sprawl; a ruddy piece of meat pre-soaked in a jalapeño marinade. It's a little tough, but the jalapeño juice rounds the flavors with a tangy sting--a raffish way to round flavors, I admit, but it works. Plus, it's meat. The surface is scattered with grilled shrimp: crispy, moist, plump, with cholesterol out the vent. There is also a choice of sides. We experimented with rice pilaf: grains that were overcooked, sticky and pebbled with corn kernels. But who cares? Rice and corn are Atkins blasphemy. Tomato slices were mealy and tasteless--which proves all red foods should come from a steer or a hog flank.

Ribs were fall-off-the-bone cooked, dry and with little hint of seasoning or even smoke. They were accompanied by a sweetish sauce, a dip that added little to the meat. But it's meat dished out in all-you-can-eat quantities, so the sauce is a flea speck in the bigger picture.

Relax. The headliner will warm your return-on-investment cockles (and restrict the arteries thereof, heh). It is a work of art worthy of your attention, time and resources. It's called the Big Daddy burger, but the name doesn't come close to capturing the glory of the thing. This flywheel of a sandwich is a 1.5-pound beef patty covered with a quarter-pound of aged cheddar cheese. It's slipped between a huge un-toasted bun the size of a satellite dish. They manage to slip some shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato and pickle in there, but they're easy to dislodge without disturbing the quarter-pound cheddar wad.

A section of Big Daddy's is dedicated to the burgers and the people who eat them. Snapshots of customers posing with their Big Daddies litter the wall. Most look bewildered; more than a few possess an ample girth. Do any of these people actually finish the Big Daddy? Big Daddy's manager Tamara Siverson says about 200 people have completely snarfed it. A waitress informs us that one customer--with arms as thick as the waitress' head--routinely knocks off Big Daddy in seven minutes flat. (Note: Our marketing department is attempting to locate this gentleman to serve as spokesman for the Pac 10 Stent Bowl we're sponsoring with the Beef Jerky Producers of America.) Big Daddy's once had a roulette wheel for those who successfully finish the burger to spin for free desserts. Now Big Daddy's simply offers to "gladly wheel you out to your car if you eat the whole thing," which is what we do with stent patients. Do you see the priceless synergy here, people?

The Big Daddy is so important to our business it almost seems beside the point to talk about taste. But this elephantine mitt-full is delicious: juicy, rich and chewy.

My advice to you: Pool your resources and seriously consider a hostile takeover of Big Daddy's. This Grill House concept would be a bulwark against those forces that threaten to gnaw at your stent industry investments. Can you imagine the upside if we were able to open a Big Daddy's in every city with a population of 75,000 and a decent medical center? Of course you can. Heart. You've got it. 2020 N. Central Expressway, McKinney,

972-562-6617. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-midnight Friday,

11 a.m.-1 a.m. Saturday. $-$$

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Mark Stuertz
Contact: Mark Stuertz

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