The global pandemic has made life exceptionally difficult for restaurants, so we're always pleased when a new one braves the uncertain economic waters to open its doors. Sugarfire Smoke House originally hails from St. Louis but opened near Five Points in Northeast Dallas in June.
When we first heard of Sugarfire's impending arrival, we were optimistic; the Five Points neighborhood has seen a focus from both the city and its residents to reduce crime and improve its image, and the willingness of businesses like Sugarfire to open there show the work is paying off.
Let's be honest. We were also a little curious about a St. Louis barbecue restaurant setting up shop in Texas, where barbecue is near-religion for many. Our thirst for knowledge is only exceeded by our hunger for good barbecue, so a visit was in order.
As luck would have it, we picked the weekend when Sugarfire's bar was coming online for our arrival. The bar opens to the dining room and a modest patio. Besides beers and cocktails, there's a small selection of bites from the bar menu. We tried some pork belly hush puppies ($6.99) and fried mac-and-cheese balls ($2.99) while we perused the menu from the socially distanced patio. The hush puppies were a deep-fried gem; savory and smoky flecks of pork belly sparkled in each bite. The mac-and-cheese balls, two racketball-sized globes to an order, were an inviting combo of crunchy exterior and creamy interior. We appreciated the shaving of Parmesan and the marinara, but they could've used a touch more salt.
We settled on a two-meat plate ($16.99), which comes with two sides. This is Texas, so naturally, we needed to see how Sugarfire's brisket measures up, and the lone sausage was a jalapeño-cheddar standby made in-house. Sugarfire staff also smokes up pulled pork, ribs and turkey in the Old Hickory smokers. We were told the baked beans were a classic St. Louis recipe, so we added the beans and creamy mac and cheese to our tray.
Despite not getting a choice of lean or fatty from the meat slicer, we were pleasantly surprised by Sugarfire's brisket. Our lean slices oozed moisture with each pass of the meat cutter's knife, and the beef carried a solid smoke flavor. We also picked up bits of sweetness from the ebony bark. The sausage breaks no ground in originality, but the flecks of pepper gave each succulent bite an appreciable kick.
Sugarfire's mac and cheese was first-class, with creamy and tangy cheese. We were less a fan of St. Louis' take on baked beans, which seemed to be excessively sweet. Give us Texas-style with a kick of spice any day of the week.
Speaking of sweet, there's a number of sauce choices, if sauce is your speed. We sampled a pair of them. We expected sugar in a sauce called "St. Louis Sweet," but the coffee-barbecue sauce had coffee notes locked in mortal combat with the sugary overtones. At least with a name like Sugarfire, we should know what we're getting into.
At the end of the day, we're pleased with what Sugarfire has to offer. The menu hits on some less barbecue-centric items we'd likely check out next time: Smoked salmon and a portabello sandwich caught our eye. Sure, we all know Texas barbecue will forever have a place in our hearts, but we appreciate that Sugarfire brings a different take on barbecue to a neighborhood on the rise.
Sugarfire Smoke House, 6750 Abrams Road, No. 110 (Northeast Dallas).
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.