Dude Food: Baby Back Shak

Baby Back Shak
1800 South Akard

Dude Factor: 9, or "Bobby Patterson" on a scale of 1 (Cowboy Troy) to 10 (Freddie King)

Remember those Chili's commercials with the "I want my baby back, baby back" song? Of course you do. They're burned into the memory of anyone who's ever been within 100 feet of the 90s--and satirized for posterity in one of the Austin Powers movies in an extended Fat Bastard bit that has roughly the same shelf life as a jar of the corporate chain's rib marinade, give or take a decade.

Well, one of my lunch companions for a recent outing to Baby Back Shak jokingly wondered aloud whether Rhett Miller, who provided a variation on the "Baby Back" song, would sing the theme for Baby Back Shak. A bit of throwaway lunchtime riffing, but after my first meal at the barbecue place the idea strikes me as hysterically ironic. First, there are dozens of more appropriate singers for such a project--Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones, R.L. Griffin and the great Bobby Patterson come to mind. But also because the thought of the effete, pseudo-country, pretty boy setting foot south of I-30 to favor an authentic, unassuming little hole in the wall over the manufactured corporate kitsch of Chili's is so unlikely as to border on absurdity.

But enough about music. Texas barbecue restaurants are usually judged on the merits of their brisket, but the restaurant name--not to mention the joint-smoking pigs painted on the building exterior (the coolest bit of artistic expression since the velvet Elvis)--suggested that pork would be the Shak's specialty, so that's what I went with.

It came with two sides and a generous portion of individually sliced, juicy, meaty ribs served dry--with a small bucket of sweet and mildly tangy sauce on the side. While I'm not one to gripe about a messy platter of barbecue, it was good not to worry about heading back to work with a sauce-bloodied shirt. On the downside, onion rings, which I consider must-have with a barbecue lunch, were painfully absent from the menu...as was beer. Since the slaw and potato salad were both more than satisfactory, I can almost forgive the lack of fried food. But barbecue just ain't quite the same without a cold Shiner to wash it down.

Those shortcomings aside, Baby Back Shak kicked serious ass. A brocephus who also went with the ribs was just as happy with his. My Dude Food colleague called his chopped brisket sandwich "pretty good." Messy and chopped too finely, he had enough spillage to make a second, bonus sandwich. And the beans are meaty enough to qualify as chili somewhere outside of Texas.

But believe it or not, we were nearly out-duded by a girl.

First of all, she was wearing a "Meat Is Murder--tasty, tasty murder" T-shirt. And she ordered the "Shak Tater"-- a baked potato topped with meat, double-teamed by brisket and spicy sausage.

As we waddled out, we noted the promotional banner directing diners to the restaurant's web site with the entreaty "Attention Shakateers!"

You're telling me there's an army of pig-eatin' swordsmen? Sign me up.

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