For every gourmet $20 cheeseburger, there must be a McDonalds. For every independent Mexican restaurant that cooks fresh to order, there must be a Taco Bell. For every $40 steak, there must be ... a really cheap steak. You get the idea. So, barbecue food is popular round these parts. By what I am going to call "Gavin's Law," there must be a fast-food version of barbecue, mass-produced for the meat fiend on the go. And so there is.
Enter Dickey's. They're everywhere. The first one I went to was shut because of a power outage, so I drove three miles down the road to the next one (on Valwood Parkway in Carrollton) and then passed another one on the way home. In that case, they must be popular. In fact, one guy I met last weekend, who I was talking about barbecue to, said, "I didn't realize they had high-end barbecue places. I only ever go to Dickey's or Spring Creek."
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They're all decked out, Texas-style, with all the things you think an authentic barbecue place should look like. They smell of smoke and meat. You can order beef by the pound. It's all wrong, though. It's like a tribute act to a proper barbecue place. The smoke smells wrong, there's a fast-food element underlying the wooden fixtures and fittings, and, most important, the beef is god damn awful.
I got three meats and four sides. It came to $26. We'll get to the price later. Firstly, as we have established, I like meat. This is a given. I was apprehensive before starting, but as it turns out the sausage and ribs aren't that bad really. I mean, I'm being generous, but it was all right. Smoked sausage is kind of difficult to mess up, as long as you cook it properly (read: it doesn't need actual barbecuing if you get the right sausage in). The ribs were a good texture, if a bit dry, but largely flavorless until dipped in the sauce, which is over-sweet but pleasingly smoky. The beef though, Jesus. It was like eating sand. It was drier than eating a packet of cheese crackers, minus the cheese, on a summer's day in Texas. It didn't even taste of anything. There was no reward for the endless chewing, just disappointment, shame and regret. I've eaten more appetizing floor tiles.
Then we get to the price. The brisket is $15 a pound! It's the same cost as going to Lockhart's! Let's refer to Gavin's Law. In all those other examples, the point of the low-end option is that it's one-quarter of the cost. If a beautifully prepared, fresh-ingredient beefburger was the same price as McDonalds, why the hell would you ever go to McDonalds? And so my problem with Dickey's. It's fine as far as a pile of meat goes. If I had to get fast-food takeaway, I'd get this over Panda Express, Burger King and so forth every time. But if I can get brisket which, two months on, I still have dreams about in which I am caressing the brisket and it whispers to me "Gavin, I love you and I only want for you to be happy," why oh why oh why would I get a fast-food version that is the SAME COST?! I don't understand. Barbecue lovers, we need some sort of boycott group. Either Dickey's cuts their prices 75 percent or we make sure Lockhart's runs out of meat by 3 p.m. every day. Which isn't much of a stretch.