Super Disappointed: NYT's Praise for Mac's BBQ Gets Chilly Reception

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The mess of wintry weather that roared through Dallas this week couldn't have been worse timed for Billy McDonald, the legendary pit master whose Deep Ellum joint made the highlight reel of New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton's four-day DFW eating tour.

In a story outlining area eats, Sifton showered Mac's with accolades, calling McDonald's brisket "hugely flavorful" and describing "the moist and smoky turkey" as astonishing.

But readers who showed up at Mac's on Tuesday, the day the story appeared in print, didn't have a chance to confirm Sifton's rave. "We decided not to open today for the safety of our customers," a lengthy voice mail explained. The restaurant didn't open yesterday either.

McDonald's back in business today, but he says any potential traffic spike resulting from the national publicity was wiped out by the weather. He doesn't imagine too many Super Bowl visitors will be willing to risk venturing out on icy streets to try his sausage, even if Sifton did liken it to manna for Pittsburgh fans.

"I doubt it very seriously," McDonald says. "If they're at a hotel, they're not going to leave the hotel."

By next week, the out-of-towners will have returned home, leaving McDonald with the locals who didn't need a New York newspaper to tell them about Mac's. Longtime area eaters are already wise to the fact that McDonald runs a from-scratch operation.

"That's what (Sifton) wanted, and that's how it was done," McDonald says. "Everything is hands-on."

McDonald's sorry to lose the walk-in traffic, but is far more concerned with canceled catering gigs.

"There've been a lot of parties canceled already," he says. "This has pretty well hurt the restaurant business in Dallas."

He doesn't anticipate the situation improving before the Super Bowl.

"They say we're going to get a dusting of snow," McDonald grumbles. "I think it's going to be 4 inches."

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