When wife Richard and I learned we were moving to Dallas, we decided to watch some TV shows to bring us up to speed with the place. A European ideal of Texas is one of deserts, cowboys and mild racism. American TV is, of course, all-pervasive wherever you are in the world, and we figured that Dallas would be a somewhat unrealistic portrayal, so we resorted to three programs. They were Police Women of Dallas, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders: Making the Team and King of the Hill.
The first taught us that crime didn't pay, because if that's what the police were like when the cameras were on them, what would they be like without them? The second demonstrated that American sportsball was such a big deal that superficial people were prepared to not only dance around in their underwear for very little recompense to celebrate it, but that they would compete to do so, in pursuit of the all-encompassing national pastime of achieving some sort of fame, no matter how that fame occurs.
Of course, neither of those lessons was very useful to us. We already figured that Dallas police, from the wider stereotype of American police, may not be the friendliest to individuals they perceive to be criminals. We also figured that humans, from the wider stereotype of fame-hungry, desperate-for-recognition idiots, would desire their face on a screen as large as the one at Cowboy stadium. King of the Hill, though. That was different. It taught us more about Texas than any number of guide books. Creator of King of the Hill Mike Judge once lived in Garland. And so it was that I happily ventured out to Garland in the hope of spotting some propane, or at least some propane accessories.
Propane has no place in Texas barbecue, of course. It's wood or nothing (all of Texas is looking at you, The Salt Lick). The wood piled up along the side of Meshack's was almost the size of the tiny shack itself, and like the hopeful patrons, each inwardly praying for the availability of ribs, all were baking in the afternoon heat. A long queue eventually resulted in the day's final pound of ribs, along with brisket, sausage and a sandwich (The $9 Jasper, which comes with a warning/challenge that you won't be able to eat it) so outrageously priced in comparison to Meshack's other, very reasonable, prices that I had to have it. The chagrin of those behind us in the line who overheard we had taken the last of the ribs was palpable. Tension was high. If it wasn't so hot, wood would have been thrown.
Another similarly lengthy wait eventually resulted in bags and bags of food, and a sandwich the size of my arm (which isn't saying much, I have quite small arms) being thrust at us from through the small slot in the front of Meshack's, which serves as the point of sale.
It was top quality. The last ribs had dissolved into a fatty mess of flesh and the odd bit of cartilage, the brisket was falling apart into a moist pile of delicious and the sausage could be my second favourite meat tube ever. The Jasper, though. That thing is the size of a sub, but with so much chopped brisket and sausage on it that there is not a chance any aspect of that could support its own weight, like a blue whale with spindly legs making the move to living on the beach. We had two buckets of sauce. Someone had brought a single chair, which we used as a makeshift table. We all had carefully wrapped bread. It was a day of days. In short, Meshack's is very good. It is not average. I would eat their barbecue again without a thought. Hank Hill would give a small nod of satisfaction, down a beer, and then stoically return to the task at hand.
Garland's other offering is Double S Texas BBQ, and it's not quite so stellar. Stranded in a strip mall over by 635 (which I hear is named 635 because that is how many near-death experiences you will have per trip), this place had a homey feel inside, and some excellent AC, something that Meshack's offers you the exact opposite of. No AC and some fires. What is the temperature like inside the shack? Lord only knows. Double S is, however, a delightful space, with some fixin's right out of the Texas playbook, and a full bar. Decidedly empty, though, like that desolate Texas countryside I keep ending up in.
With a couple of pounds of the holy trinity of Texas barbecue, I felt sure this place would be a winner. It even had taps for different sauces -- sweet, Texas Heat, spicy. What the difference is between "heat" and "spicy" I cannot tell you, beyond the fact that Texas Heat appears to be made from a combination of lava and ghost peppers. I even asked for fatty brisket. Alas, the brisket was drier than sand. If the Jasper from Meshack's had indeed been a whale that went to live on the beach (bear with me here, OK), then this brisket would have been the beach. Never mind, because the ribs were excellent. Right up there, in fact, with the best I've had around Dallas. The sausage was unremarkable, but it was fine, because there were excellent ribs. It's very rare a place craps out on all three elements of the trinity (except Babbs Bros., who decided to have an excellent cheese meatloaf instead, the crazy fuckers), so there's always something to look forward to.
Brisket, however, is obviously the best of the three, and I cannot recommend Double S from my sampling. Instead, we took the brisket home, and the delightful Richard made it into a delicious French onion soup. Then it was more than palatable, although I fear by melding French and Texan cuisine we have probably offended several million folk. Sorry, everyone. Hank Hill would have done that surprised noise he always does before finding some way to resolve his inner anger using the immensely powerful tool of feigned indifference.