If we had to identify just one way the pandemic has hit us all, we'd guess it's the warping of our sense of time.
Days and weeks run together, months lurch onward, and we find the holidays just around the corner. Back in the spring, we heard of OAK'D Handcrafted BBQ, a planned barbecue restaurant coming to Dallas. The best-laid plans were often foiled by COVID-19, and OAK'D was no exception; the planned summer opening date kept sliding further down the calendar.
Combined with our lack of temporal awareness (do you even quarantine if you don't ask Alexa what day it is once a week?), we'd lost track of OAK'D, until news came that the restaurant would finally open the first week of November. The official first day was Nov. 6, and shortly thereafter, we grabbed our masks and headed over for a look.
Admittedly, it's been a minute since we've been in a barbecue joint, but OAK'D feels at once familiar. The ordering line wraps around two sides of the dining room, and a modestly sized but otherwise fully stocked bar occupies the opposite corner. In between, the dining room is composed of long tables with appropriately spaced chairs and hand sanitizer on all of them. A spacious patio invites and will host live music once it is safe to do so.
OAK'D Handcrafted BBQ smokes their meats on a trio of post-oak burning Oyler smokers that reside in a smokehouse adjacent to the patio, and we're happy to report that all the meats we tried were smartly executed.
OAK'D offers either prime brisket for $11.99 per half-pound or Texas-raised wagyu beef from Rosewood Ranches for $13.99. Wagyu beef also goes into the two kinds of sausage, and Duroc pork is available in ribs or pulled varieties. We stuck with prime brisket, a handful of burnt ends ($7.49 per quarter pound), and a link of jalapeño-cheddar sausage ($4.99), then added a side of three-cheese mac ($5.99), all wrapped up to go.
All the meats traveled extremely well in the 20 minutes it took us to get home. The brisket stayed delectably moist, with a noteworthy bark and smoke ring, while the sausage impressed with chunks of jalapeño and cheese. The burnt ends were also a savory-smoky-and-slightly-sweet indulgence, one we're glad to see on the everyday menu.
While at the restaurant, we had a chance to try the Sandwich and Some Lovin' ($14.99), the OAK'D sandwich named after the podcast of Dallas radio personality Kellie Rasberry (Rasberry and her husband are investors in OAK'D). Pulled pork, house-cured bacon and OAK'D sausage are piled high on a brioche bun, topped with coleslaw. The sandwich is a nod to Rasberry's Carolina roots, and the pork products pair nicely with the Carolina style sauce and its mustard and vinegar bite.
Judged solely on the basics, OAK'D would be a solid choice for Texas barbecue. But co-owner Clint Norton and his team didn't stop there. How many barbecue joints hire a full-time pastry chef? OAK'D has one, and Cessie Mendoza, formerly of Abacus and Georgie, offers a variety of rotating baked goods. We brought home one of Mendoza's massive shortbread biscuits ($1.99) laced with bacon and what must be illegal quantities of butter. Yeah, they're amazing.
Mendoza also turns out a banoffee pie as a regular menu item ($6.99). Banoffee is an English dessert of toffee and bananas on a cookie crust, and eyebrows raised in our party with every delicious bite.
OAK'D stretches barbecue norms up and down the menu. Sure, our three-cheese mac was on-brand creamy and tasty, but having our coleslaw tossed to order is a new twist. We also tried a freshly tossed salad with slices of brisket, perfect for someone wanting a dash of barbecue goodness with a nod to eating healthy. There's also balsamic-glazed Brussel sprouts, and a cool, crisp tri-color quinoa salad that we think make flavorful alternatives to the traditional barbecue sides.
For the time being, it's a lunch-only offering at OAK'D, but dinner service is just a few days away as of this writing, and there are plans for a weekend brunch menu. It's certainly a bold move to open a restaurant in this environment, and we wouldn't blame the owners of OAK'D if they put their plans on the shelf.
But after trying the fare that cleverly blends barbecue classics with chef-driven updates, there's a lot to like about Dallas' newest barbecue spot.
OAK'D BBQ, 5500 Greenville Ave., No. 1300 (Upper Greenville).
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