We were just a few minutes into our chat with Doug Pickering about his new barbecue spot, Douglas Bar and Grill in Snider Plaza, when he openly addressed the elephant in the room about offering barbecue in the Park Cities.
“As I’m sure you’ve seen from our menu, it’s pretty expensive,” Pickering confessed.
There’s no getting around the fact that it takes a lot of money to run a restaurant these days.
Inflation has stung us all, and food costs are up across the board. That said, you may be forgiven for experiencing a bit of sticker shock when browsing Douglas’ menu. Brisket is $22 for a half-pound plate. Pulled pork is $18, and a jalapeño cheddar sausage is $17. Sides are extra. You may think we’re on the take, but hear us out: This is expensive barbecue that is actually worth it.
Pickering grew up in Highland Park, and after graduating from SMU, he got into investment banking. After experimenting with barbecue on the side, he plunged into the catering and restaurant business several years ago.
“I found a passion [in barbecue] that I could make people happy without losing their money,” Pickering says.
Pickering was the pit master behind Work Bar in Deep Ellum around nine years ago and also helped launch Ferris Wheeler’s in the Design District in 2017. But Douglas Bar and Grill is the restaurant that Pickering says he’s always wanted to open, free of partners and cooking what he wants. And since the area lost two stalwarts nearby — Peggy Sue's Barbecue in Snider Plaza and the Sonny Bryan's nearby at Inwood and Lovers — Pickering saw an opportunity to bring the community a barbecue spot of its own.
The interior is more refined, not the usual rustic style found at many barbecue spots.
Inside, Douglas is not a large restaurant. The bar, heavy on wood and brass, sits directly ahead, with seating for no more than half a dozen or so. The dining room is split by a single aisle, with a banquet and tables one side, and half a dozen booths on the other. Decor is elegantly minimal, which keeps the feel cozy and classy.
On our first visit, we arrived in time for happy hour, which means an array of drinks and appetizers for just $10. There are plenty of options — both barbecue and not — but we went with the most barbecue-sounding item: brisket bullets. Chopped brisket and cream cheese are stuffed into a jalapeño, which is wrapped in bacon and tossed into the smoker. Four bullets come to an order and are drizzled with some of Douglas’ Carolina gold-style barbecue sauce. There are plenty of barbecue spots offering some version of this dish under names like Texas twinkies, rattlers, Texas torpedoes and the like. The bullets at Douglas are spot on, with the jalapeño heat coming on near the end of each bite to balance the savory cheese and brisket.
Moving on to dinner choices, we naturally had to find out how Douglas’ brisket measures up. Pickering sources his brisket from HeartBrand, which means American-raised wagyu, and smokes with a blend of oak and hickory. Our waiter asked if we preferred lean or fatty brisket and was happy to oblige our request for a little bit of both. Slices of each are presented on white plates, with plenty of pickles and onions. Ribbons of perfectly rendered fat made each bite of brisket a flavorful dream, imbued with just the right amount of smokiness.
The smoked salmon has quickly become one of the most popular items on the menu.
But there's more to Douglas than just barbecue. The menu offers a trio of prime steaks from Allen Brothers Ranch, but we were more intrigued by smoked salmon for $35. Pickering says that has quickly become one of the most popular items on the menu. He admits he’s not much of a salmon fan himself, but he has come up with a recipe that blends his barbecue techniques with the fish into something he enjoys. There’s a little bit of brisket rub on the fillets, and the salmon is smoked in the same smoker used for the briskets. Each fillet is finished with a honey glaze that still allows the salmon flavor to shine, and ours could not have been more perfectly cooked.
Douglas’ entrees stand alone, and sides are portioned for sharing among the table. Boursin mashed potatoes ($12) were a safe choice. The mashed russets were certainly creamy and buttery, but perhaps missing a dash of extra seasoning. A better option is the whiskey glazed carrots ($16), which were fork tender but not mushy, with the perfect hint of added sweetness from the caramel and bourbon glaze. The sides menu also includes mac and cheese, broccolini and truffle fries, and all the sides portions were more than enough for two people.
The BBQ Burger comes with pimento cheese and pulled pork.
We popped into Douglas again a few days later to try out the lunch fare. The same barbecue plates are available a la carte, and sides are more traditional barbecue fixtures such as brisket beans, potato salad and slaw. You can also get your barbecue fix on a bun, and the chopped brisket ($21) with pickled red onion and a side of mac and cheese was a stout and tasty decision.
Two burger options are available as well. There’s a standard house burger with a smashed wagyu patty, cheddar, and bacon jam ($20), or you can make it a BBQ Burger for $5 more, which adds pimento cheese and a generous helping of pulled pork. The BBQ Burger is truly a mammoth sandwich, one that requires both hands to lift and should come with a wrist brace for extra safety. The burger is juicy on its own, and the pork and cheeses only add to the flavor party that’s barely contained by the brioche bun.
In economics, there's a financial principle called the "time value of money" that states the value of a dollar today is worth more than the value of a dollar in the future. The value of your time is also worth more now than it ever will be in the future. Yes, a meal at Douglas Bar & Grill is going to put a dent in your wallet, as Doug Pickering is certainly aware. But he tells us more people have complained when he runs out of brisket than have complained about what it costs. And sellouts are rare, as Pickering and his team at Douglas have figured out how to serve barbecue for lunch and for dinner where everything on the menu is almost always available.
And this is where Douglas is worth the expense. So much excellent barbecue involves limited hours, driving some distance to get it, then standing in line waiting for your next smoky meat fix. At Douglas, there are no waits. You can make a reservation and have some sublime barbecue in front of you mere minutes after being seated, along with sharp service and a full bar to go with it (seriously, if you've not had brisket and a chilled martini, you're missing out).
All these things cost money. But we make exchanges of time for money every day, whether its springing for a toll to avoid traffic or paying the neighbor kid to mow the lawn so more of your weekend is free to enjoy as you wish. Douglas Bar & Grill operates on this same principle, and for plenty of people, this tradeoff will strike them as quite the value.
Douglas Bar & Grill, 6818 Snider Plaza. Tuesday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.