A few dozen Oak Cliff residents and barbecue addicts braved the frozen streets and frigid temperatures to enjoy opening day this morning at Lockhart Smokehouse, the highly awaited new 'cue joint in the Bishop Arts District. As of 1 p.m., the place was out of meat, but luckily Dude Food got there early enough to sample a few different cuts.
The set-up is mostly true to the "Lockhart" name -- the line forms in the back near the smoker, and after you get your meat, you chow down at one of the tables in the large front room. There's also a bar, which should be fully operational once the ice melts and deliveries resume on schedule. We asked about getting a beer, but apparently the cans of Shiner, Miller Light and Coors Light on the shelves were display models only.
Beef was listed at $7.50 per half-pound, pork chops and ribs at $6.25 per half-pound, sausage $5 for original and $5.25 for jalapeño, and chickens were $10 whole, $5.50 for half. Barbecue beans, slaw, potato salad and deviled eggs were $2 for small, $4 for large, while sliced cheddar in Ziploc bags were $1 or $2.
A sample of shoulder clod was offered to those of us waiting in line, and the tiny morsel we scarfed was some of the finest barbecue we've had in North Texas -- equal parts smoke, crust and succulent, fatty moisture. Unfortunately, it was mostly downhill from there. The moral of the tale -- don't get carried away and buy $30 worth of BBQ based on one bite. We'll definitely be back though. Our individual observations were as follows:
Noah: The sample we got in line was so good, I ordered a half pound of both shoulder clod and brisket, planning to take some home to the old lady. Unfortunately the shoulder clod I paid for was completely devoid of crust. In its place, gobs of un-rendered fat. I'll try it again but it definitely needed some more time in the smoker today.
Jesse: I, too, was taken with the sample, and had a noticeable difference between the juicy, warm nugget of smoke and the cool slab of dry beef with chunks of fat that I paid for. Noah's portion had easily the largest piece of solid fat that I've ever seen served in a restaurant -- I think it was about the size of a baby's fist. Mine looked to have a bit better texture and rendering, but not much.
Noah: Thankfully, my half pound of brisket had plenty of smoky crust, but some pieces were so hard I didn't even attempt to eat them. I think some quality control between the slicing table and the scale is in order.
Jesse: The seasoning and smoke flavor were right, but mine was much dryer than I expected. I was not impressed with the tough texture after having such high hopes. But surely they'll get it right -- Central Texas 'cue is based around brisket, after all. Or maybe 11:45 a.m. was too late, and they'd given the best cuts to the earliest customers. It's a point of pride for a brisket joint to serve their meat without sauce. Unfortunately, this brisket could have used it.
Noah: This was the only meat I really enjoyed today. Not the best sausage I've ever had, but certainly better than many local sausage offerings, with plenty of spice to boot.
Jesse: I would have actually liked mine a tad spicier, but this was still great and also my favorite part of the meal (aside from that clod sample). Juicy enough without being greasy, with good smoke and seasoning and just the right amount of filler to keep it from crumbling apart. I also had some potato salad, which tasted kind of odd -- unusually spicy and with a weird texture like soggy bread. But who cares about the sides?
Like Daniel Vaughn over at Full Custom (who must have gotten a much better piece of clod, judging by his pics), we've got high hopes for this place but think it's too early to judge.
P.S. Please turn off the god-awful pop-country satellite radio station (Willie's Place is just down the dial). If we wanted to hear the Dixie Chicks, we'd just go to Dickies. Thanks--Dude Food