We're driving on a hot June afternoon through a modest neighborhood in west Fort Worth that looks much like any other, except parking seems to be something of an issue. Almost every foot of curb within the span of a half dozen houses has a car or truck parked in front of it, and it's a mild challenge to find a place to park that doesn't block someone's driveway.
Most of the vehicles seem to radiate from the sixth house from the corner, and the dozen or so people we see milling about in the driveway are the first hint that we're at the right place. The other hint is the smoker set up in the grass next to the curb under a small canopy, which marks the spot of the underground barbecue cookout we've been looking for.
At the top of the driveway, the shade of the open garage provides a modicum of relief from the afternoon sun. However, there's no escaping the fact that temperatures are pushing past the century mark, and Dayne Weaver wears the sweat-soaked shirt to prove it. Weaver is the owner, pitmaster and, this afternoon, primary meat cutter of his namesake venture, Dayne's Craft BBQ. It was Weaver's Instagram account (@daynetxbbq) that lured us to Fort Worth with the promise of fine smoked meats, which are sold on a more or less monthly basis via pop-ups advertised to his nearly 3,000 followers.
Weaver's barbecue popularity appears to grow with each event. On this day, as Weaver slices brisket and ribs, his girlfriend, Ashley Hays, serves sides and collects payments while Weaver's friend and fellow barbecue entrepreneur Trevor Sales fills orders for sausage, pulled pork and burnt ends. In fact, it's Sales' trailer-smoker that's parked on the lawn, which Weaver borrowed to smoke more meat than he had ever prepared at once.
"I got to the point where I was upset every time because people would come out, and then I'd be sold out so quick," Weaver explains. "So Trevor and I worked out a deal where he'd let me use his smoker until I can get something bigger."
Sales, who has his own small barbecue business in Fort Worth, Big T's Blues & BBQ, doesn't seem to mind helping out his friend.
"We've been pairing up a lot over the past couple weeks," including most recently when they served barbecue tacos in Fort Worth's Foundry District on June 21, Sales says. "I feel like we're at the same stage in our barbecue ventures, so it's a good tag team."
Weaver definitely agrees.
"Trevor is awesome," Weaver says. "I think we can mutually trust each other to make good food and serve it the right way."
The "right way" for Dayne's Craft BBQ means serving up quality brisket, pulled pork, ribs and sausage rooted in the Central Texas style of barbecue. Weaver had been impressing his family and friends with his barbecue prowess for a while, but the idea for an underground barbecue came from some similar concepts he heard about going on in California. Finally, the urge to try his own underground barbecue in Texas became too great to resist.
"I think it got to the point where I just thought about it so much that if I didn't do it, I would just always wish I had," Weaver said.
In January, he publicized his first cook via Instagram.
"When I started, I'd do two briskets and two racks of ribs and just see what happens," he says. "We've been learning as we go."
We ordered a half-pound each of Dayne's prime brisket ($8) and pulled pork ($5), along with one of the jalapeño-cheddar sausage links ($3). Many of Dayne's customers had their orders wrapped up to go, but we found a shady spot at the edge of the driveway to dive into our tray.
There's nary a complaint to be found with any of Dayne's meats. The brisket didn't suffer from excess smoke that often plagues new pitmasters, and every bite was well cooked, tender and moist. Pulled pork never seems as popular as brisket in Texas, but Dayne's will make you a convert. With just a drizzle of sauce, the mound of pork shreds had lots of juicy flavor. And the jalapeño and cheese sausage reminded us a little bit of the excellent sausage being smoked over at Panther City, and for good reason.
"Chris [Magallanes] and Ernie [Morales] hooked me up with some of their sausage," Weaver said of Panther City's co-owners, who source their links from a butcher in Ponder. Weaver's sausage doesn't sport the shriveled casings of Panther City's, but the flavor is still a winner.
It's no stretch to say that the meats from Dayne's Craft BBQ could stand on their own next to any of the well known spots in Fort Worth. While Weaver would love nothing more than to quit his day job and cook barbecue full time, his customers tell him they like the pop-up business model.
So for now, Weaver plans to continue Dayne's Craft BBQ as an underground pop-up, but with a few more public appearances in the works. Weaver and Sales plan to team up for more events at the Foundry, and Dayne's Craft BBQ will be featured at Lola's Rock N Roll Rummage Sale, the monthly swap meet at Lola's Saloon in Fort Worth.
As for selling barbecue out of a driveway in a residential neighborhood, Weaver sees it as a necessary risk.
"A lot of people are like, 'You're gonna get in trouble,'" he says. "I'm like, 'Yeah, well, you get in trouble for a lot of things.'"
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A little more than two hours after we arrived, all that remains of Weaver's latest cook were a little bit of pulled pork and some mac and cheese. Weaver has been up all night manning the smoker, but there's still clean-up to do before he can rest.
"It was a lot of work. I'm a little whooped," Weaver says with a tired smile. But the growing number of people who come to try his barbecue keeps him motivated.
"It's a good feeling when everyone is lining up," he says. "It's just awesome."
Dayne's Craft BBQ on Instagram: @daynetxbbq