On walking into Seely's Mill Barbecue, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in the wrong place. First, you're in a hotel, the newly rebranded and remodeled Beeman Hotel on Central Expressway just south SMU Boulevard, formerly known as the Magnolia Park Cities.
Second, there's no actual signage announcing you've found the restaurant. Have a seat in the bar area, as we did on a recent quiet Sunday afternoon, and the barkeep will quickly appear with menus bearing the Seely's Mill name.
A quick backstory is in order. The Beeman Hotel picked its new name as a nod to John Beeman, an early settler of the Dallas area (Beeman's son-in-law, John Neely Bryan, is generally credited as Dallas' founder). Seely's Mill was the name of the mill that Beeman, according to the hotel, built in the area.
All this Dallas history is supposed to invoke Dallas' entrepreneurial spirit, which is perhaps the only explanation for eating barbecue in a restaurant that is more modern hotel lounge than pit-barbecue joint. According to hotel general manager Jared Williams, that mix of old and new is part of the plan.
“Anybody visiting from outside of Texas really doesn’t have to go far to get a taste of what Dallas is offering," he told The Dallas Morning News during the restaurant's opening event last fall.
Nestled into our high-backed leather chairs around a small cocktail table, we perused the menu. Appetizers lean toward standard bar fare such as wings and quesadillas, but we were drawn to the Dancing Duo ($8) of pimento cheese and onion dip. Both dips arrived in small mason jars, with house-cut potato chips and vegetable spears as vehicles for transporting dips to faces. Smoky flavors permeated both dips, while the house-made chips held up surprisingly well and were cut perfectly to fit into the mouth of the mason jars.
One must move on to entrees to see where Seely's Mill flexes its barbecue chops. There are a few sandwiches to chose from and a 44 Farms Burger, but the barbecue options come in meals of varying sizes. Brisket, sausage or smoked chicken are available by the half-pound or as part of a two or three meat plate, and ribs are available in a half or full rack.
For the curious or the overly hungry (we were both), the best deal is the Signature Sampler for $26, It's a tray of all four meats plus burnt-end beans, jalapeño slaw and a cheddar biscuit. It's easily enough food for two people to share, especially if an appetizer or two precedes your order.
We'll start with what works, which are the ribs and the brisket. Ribs have a decent smoke flavor and pull neatly off the bone. The brisket is seasoned with modest amounts of salt and pepper, and under the impressive smoke ring lies tasty bites of beef. However, the slices of brisket were quick to dry out, so start with the beef as you make your way around the tray.
Speaking of dry, the smoked chicken might have been juicy once upon a time but was only saved with dips into the standard barbecue sauce. The sausage tasted like a smoked link from the grocery store and sported grill marks that masked its pedestrian roots.
Execution on the sides comes across as equally risk-free. The jalapeño slaw was spicy in name only, and burnt-end beans could have used more burnt ends to bump the excitement up a notch. The cheddar biscuit was cold and dry, as if it was from the prior day's service.
By offering hotel guests a taste of Texas' trademark cuisine without having to leave the hotel, Seely's Mill is a smart idea in principle. In practice, it's one that needs some polish before it's ready for a prime spot in the rotation of barbecue spots preferred by locals and visitors alike.
Seely's Mill, 6070 Central Expressway (inside the Beeman Hotel), open 4 p.m. - 10 p.m. daily.
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