When I say to you "pop-up restaurant," you might envision such things as an experienced chef temporarily occupying an artful and attractive space in a prime location somewhere to try out a new concept or two. Perhaps you think of a fun new approach to dining testing out the commercial possibilities of such a venture. Definitely, there would at least be nice table linen, you know, and the establishment would have a roof and a door.
None of these particulars apply to the "pop-up restaurant" I discovered yesterday in a parking lot in North Carrollton. In fact, given the smoker attached to a truck full of wood, the awkward ordering of barbecue from a non-existent menu, and the word of mouth way I discovered this place, I would term it more "guerrilla barbecue" than anything else. Insurgent barbecue, entrenched in parking lots in North Texas, but way more delicious than civil wars or religious extremism.
After a tip from a fellow lover of barbecue, our very own Jaime-Paul Falcon, I hurriedly drove to an Aldi parking lot in Carrollton. We had heard rumor of these guys before and marveled at the idea of just setting up a smoker in a supermarket parking lot to sell meat, and were pretty pleased to discover that clearly they had evaded the attention of the law long enough to come back again. There has to be a law against selling parking lot meat, right? I absolutely would not want these guys to stop selling barbecue to the public. They're fantastic. I hope they invade parking lots around Dallas for years. I'm just worried the law is onto them, so I'm protecting their identities.
Barbecue outlaw number 1, a man whose name may or may not be Horace (presumably not), eyed me as I approached. "You guys selling?" I asked which, in retrospect, is the worst parking lot transaction opening line of all time. I'm not very good at this sort of thing. He looked at me suspiciously. I gestured at the smoker. "You know. Meat." He nodded, and led me over to the gigantic black smoker that was making the entire parking lot, and the surrounding half a mile or so, smell of delicious wood smoke. You want to find the guerrilla barbecue? Just follow your nose.
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"What do you want?" I had no idea. "What ... what are my choices?" "Beef, ribs, sausage, turkey, chicken, hot links, you name it, we're smoking it." "How much per pound? "Per what?" "Per ... per pound?" "Man, you can get a meal, or a sandwich. We ain't got scales." Stupidly, I somewhat overestimated the professionalism of a barbecue being sold in the parking lot of a heavily discounted supermarket. "OK ... I'll get the dinner with beef, ribs, and sausage." "A one meat dinner or a two meat dinner, man. No three meat." "Right. Sorry. Er ... beef and ribs."
Somehow I ended up with two dinners, one of brisket and one of ribs, for $10 each. I don't really know what happened. I hurried back toward the discount supermarket, only to discover I had apparently forgotten two cans of Coke I was entitled to, both marked "multipack only" on the side. While I was walking away, I noticed I had made a rookie error (well, several rookie errors, but noticeably this one) -- everyone else was driving up to get their food through the car window, as if this were an accepted form of Carrollton drive-thru. How did this social convention develop? If I were a man with a smoker, and people started driving at it, I would become nervous about the flame/vehicle interaction possibilities. But apparently I'm the weird one for parking up and going on foot.
Nevertheless, the food was predictably delicious. The brisket was tender with an excellent smoke ring, the fat was perfectly melty, and everything had clearly been smoked for a long time, as the smoke on the ribs especially was overwhelming. It was like eating a rib that you had saved from a forest fire which had been raging (at a controlled temperature, of course) for several days. My hands smelled of smoke for hours afterwards. I didn't wash them, just used them to caress the wife, so that she too would smell of smoke. And ribs. And sauce. I don't know where I'm going with this.
Suffice to say, if you should find the guerrilla barbecue team (they genuinely call themselves the Kings of Smoke), then hit them up for some barbecue. You won't regret it. Thanks to me, you know what not to do.