We were bothered by the name of Dallas' new barbecue restaurant, Louie King BBQ, even before the doors opened last week on their Greenville Avenue location. You might think of Louie's, the iconic dive bar on Henderson, or Bar Louie, the chain of drinking establishments with seven locations in DFW.
For barbecue hounds, Louie's brings to mind Louie Mueller, the iconic barbecue joint in Taylor that is consistently ranked among the best in Texas — not exactly the kind of place you want to subconsciously compete with by also starting your Texas barbecue joint with the word "Louie." Was Frank & Lynn's or Pecan House not available during the name selection process? Alas, after we asked, we learned that Louie King is named after the son of one of the owners. Also, we're working on being a little less cynical.
Louie King does bring a name with solid barbecue cred to their staff, however, with Will Fleischman manning the pits. Fleischman's bearded visage was a staple for years behind the counter at both the Oak Cliff and then Plano locations of Lockhart Smokehouse. Fleischman left Lockhart a few years ago, lent his name to a line of smokers, wrote a book and now finds himself back in a barbecue restaurant. We were excited to see what magic Fleischman and his team would bring to Louie King's, so we dropped by just after they opened to check it out.
Former patrons of Daddy Jack's will feel at home at Louie King's, which keeps the red and white motif of the longtime Greenville Avenue seafood joint. In fact, short of some beer signs and barbecue tchotchkes on the walls, the feel is almost identical to Daddy Jack's, down to the worn booths and stained ceiling tiles. It's almost as if the focus was getting down to smoking meats, which is certainly fine by us; if you're looking for fine dining, Louie King's "redneck barbecue" isn't for you.
Wafts of smoke greeted us as we walked up, and a short line of early adopters moved quickly through the counter ordering process. A chalkboard menu hangs over the counter, where meats are offered by the pound. We settled on some of the Akaushi brisket ($22/lb.), shaved pork loin ($18/lb.) and a Pittsburg hot link ($5), along with a side of mac and cheese and potato salad ($4 each).
Let's start with the weak link, which was the Pittsburg hot link. Pittsburg hot links have been made in Pittsburg, Texas, since the 1890s, and Louie King is the only restaurant in DFW serving them. The flavor of the links is spot on, but we think the links could have spent much more time under smoke. The casing of our sample was woefully limp, and there was so much fat oozing from the pork sausages that it congealed into gelatinous pools on our tray.
We've less criticism of the Akaushi brisket, which was tender and delicious, if perhaps a touch light on smokiness. However, our slices ranged from paper thin to almost as thick as a finger. Even slices would look better, and the thin slices dry out much too quickly. The surprise star was the shaved pork loin. Most barbecue joints might serve pulled pork, but the pork loin from Louie King is a step above and smartly executed at that, with its sweet and smoky pork flavor.
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We also appreciated Louie King's unique takes on traditional barbecue sides. The mac and cheese punches above its weight class, with four different cheeses melted into the creamy sauce. Meanwhile, the potato salad is equally elegant in its simplicity, with quartered red potatoes in a seasoned broth and small chunks of white cheddar mixed in. We're also fans of the house-made pickles (in regular and hot varieties), as well as house-made pickled onions. Three types of sauces are available: a sweet traditional barbecue, an Alabama white sauce with mayo and horseradish, and a thin mustard vinegar sauce.
A common trope says judging a restaurant as soon as it opens is unfair, and some places need a bit of time to perfect their fare. In the case of Louie King, we'd be inclined to agree. While the foundations of Louie King are solid, we expect to see improvements as they go. Fleischman's time at Lockhart consistently turned out some of the best barbecue in the area. We think with a little time to work out the kinks, Fleischman and Louie King could do just as well on Greenville Avenue.
Louie King BBQ, 1916 Greenville Ave. (Lower Greenville)