Dude Food: Dr. Bell's BBQ

Dr. Bell's BBQ

1404 Main St

Dude Factor: 9, or Dr. House, on a scale of 1 (Dr. Phil) to 10 (Hawkeye)

If you're looking for a meal of substance in the middle of the workday around Main and Akard Streets, your options are pretty limited.

There are plenty of places to find a forgettable sandwich, or safe spots (lookin' at you, Jason's Deli) that your weak-stomached cubicle bro won't complain about.

Somehow, in the middle of that office lunch compromise circuit, there's Dr. Bell's. The vibe is pretty much summed up by the window display: a plastic reindeer wearing one black loafer. If I remember right, there were two reindeer when this place opened last year. Evidently one of the reindeer got lost somehow, and then later someone left behind a shoe.

In a still new-looking space in a downtown neighborhood where the weekday foot traffic mostly strolls in wearing suits, Dr. Bell's seems to have the right attitude--no contrived folksy air with sawdust and a jukebox, just a bunch of little things that a white-collar downtowner might use to deck out his own urban man cave: barbecue sauce in old Dr Pepper bottles, and crushed up potato chips on the barbecue sliders.

Even in Dallas, there's no shortage of barbecue purists who'd gladly spend six years getting a doctorate in barbecue appreciation if anyone let them--so anyone opening a new barbecue place had better be ready for people to talk serious shit about the way they cook.

Moving into a neighborhood that's a ghost town two days a week can't help either (the doc's short-lived experiment with Sunday brunch was put on hiatus until the weather warms up). On prior visits, Bell occupied the right kind of mellow space to handle all this stress--looking like McConaughey in a white V-neck undershirt. This is a guy who doesn't mind telling a reporter about his unpaid parking tickets and the warrant out for his arrest.

Anyway, I can't vouch for Dr. Bell's medical or culinary credentials, but I say you don't go to school to learn barbecue--and from the looks of things, Dr. Bell took the Colonel Sanders approach and self-applied his title. His Web site has a story about "Grandpa Joe" in the backyard with a half-barrel smoker, and how "Uncle John taught me how different meats should taste." (Cue the musical montage.)

His is an inclusive menu, not the kind of thing assembled by someone who stresses over whether brisket or sausage is the one true meat. Along with those two, options include pulled pork, turkey, ribs (beef or pork) and chicken. If you're still hanging onto your New Year's diet, think of it this way: that's an entire food pyramid made of meat.

On a tip from original Dude Food scribe Noah, I'd heard about the sliders that came topped with crushed potato chips. That's what prompted my most recent visit to Dr. Bell's, even though I'd been there a time or two before.

The bummer, I was told, was that the sliders are off the menu now, in the interests of "streamlining" things. For some reason, though, there was still a package of mini-buns sitting by the grill, and the guy taking my order was happy to oblige. The best part: I got my pick of meats on each burgerito, going with two pulled pork and one brisket.

Of the two, I liked the pulled pork best, and the added crunch of the potato chips gave the sliders a long-forgotten complexity. It probably would've reminded me more of a long-ago summer family picnics when I first invented the potato chip sandwich (you heard me), if I weren't halfway frozen to my cold metal chair. (The guy at the counter said their heater broke.)

The barbecue beans more than earned their place on my paper lunch plate, a little spicy but also sweet, with scraps of bacon generously interspersed. The potato salad is of the neon-yellow mustard-laced ilk, and the sweet potato pie sitting beside the cash register looked pretty tempting too.

The cucumber and tomato salad seemed a little out of place in the middle of all these barbecue staples, but it's a small concession to the kind of crowd that's going to come here on a weekday lunch--smart thinking to reach beyond the jalapeños and onions, in case the office vegetarian invites himself along.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Patrick Michels
Contact: Patrick Michels