Smoke is mysterious, fire is uncertain, and pit men are expensive. So the mystery, uncertainty, and expense of taking the chance to make great barbecue is being replaced by the quantifiable methods of always making pretty good 'cue.

— Jim Shahin

Austin Chronicle

Smoke Daddy's Review of Baby Back Shak

Weighted Overall

1/2 Rack PlateAll-in-all, this is a solid joint... but don't get too distracted from the main attractions here.  

In February, I started a new job in the Cedars area of South Dallas.  I am a few short blocks from the Baby Back Shak, but have been bringing my lunch to work every day.  Well, due to a number of factors, I didn't have time to prepare a lunch today.  

This photo of The Baby Back Shak is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Plus, its my birthday today, so I figured to walk over and treat myself to some BBQ for lunch. 


  • The ribs were well-rendered, but still on the bone.  Meat came off with a slight tug, and I wasted no time in dispatching these!  Good balance of smoke and spice.  The savory rub had a good amount of spice on the finish.  

Smoke Daddy's Review of Corkscrew BBQ

Weighted Overall

The moist brisket was so good that despite everything else proving a letdown, it still rates as a positive experience.  Yes, the brisket was THAT good!  The learning curve to get consistently good barbecue from an Oyler pit is steep... I hope Will Buckman can meet the challenge, but as of today he's still got some work to do.

Cathy and I drove directly from Dallas on Saturday, and arrived at Corkscrew BBQ just before 1pm.  I was worried that it was too late... but since were there, we decided to take our chances with the slow-moving line.  As we wait, I can't help but notice the J&R Oyler pit that stands alongside the BBQ pavilion... and although I can't remember the whole history off the top of my head, something tells me this is a new development here (Validated by JC Reid's Houston Chronicle article reporting that the new pit was installed in August 2014).  They run out of ribs while we are in line... darn.

MAIN FARE:Corkscrew Spread

  • Brisket - We asked for "moist" brisket.  This is a winner, winner, chicken dinner!  Fully rendered fat, great beef flavor, good texture with the outside edges, and great salt, pepper, and spice rub on the outside.  Clean smoke profile here... great care must've been taken with these.  Note: Saturdays are beef rib days, so it is possible that beef ribs and brisket get special treatment on that day.
  • Pulled Pork (Because they are out of ribs) - This is a mistake.  They try to cover it with vinegar and red pepper flakes, but the meat has been tainted by bad smoke.  Once it penetrates the meat, there is no way to take it out (or cover it up).  After two bites to determine what the heck is going on, I am done with this.
  • Sausage (regular) - We are told that they contract with a real meat market to make these links to their specifications.  Wow, really?  I'm not a fan of the spice profile or of the texture (large clumps of hard fat).  If you dunk the slices into the sauce, it improves them greatly -- because you taste the sauce rather than the sausage.  Maybe the hot link would be better???
  • Chopped brisket - This actually seems like a combination of burnt ends and chopped brisket, or maybe the whole lot is put back onto the smoker.  I like the concept and the heterogeneous texture, but the smoke profile here is less than clean.  Even though they sauce it up, smoke quality issues are prevalent here. 
  • Spare Ribs/Beef Ribs - They were sold out by the time we reached the counter.  However, if they treat these the same way they handled the sliced brisket, I imagine they would be very good. 


Quick Stop at Millers Smokehouse

On the way down IH-35 to a conference in Austin, a collegue and I stopped into Miller's Smokehouse for dinner.  We departed Dallas in the late afternoon, and raced the clock to get to Belton before their 6:30pm closing time.  The traffic Gods smiled on us that day, and we arrived with a few minutes to spare.

The cashier is located near the kitchen, and we walked through the front dining room to get in line to place our order.  In our rush, we failed to fully coordinate our order, and both ended up with a two-meat plate of "brisket and sausage".

We did, however, manage to order different side items and were able to taste the beans, potato salad, cole slaw, and green beans.  The brisket on my plate was mostly lean slices with the bark trimmed away (In my haste, I had forgotten to request fatty/moist brisket).  The brisket was smoky and tender, but because it was trimmed of fat and bark, many of my slices begged for the addition of sauce for both flavor and moisture/mouthfeel.  My colleague, however, had scored more slices that were cut more from the "high" side with the bark intact.  These slices were tender and tasty all by themselves.  

The Zen of Brisket and Zin


Thanks to Matt Thompson and James Jordan of and Justin and Diane Fourton from Pecan Lodge for putting together a Zinfandal and Brisket pairing that was, for lack of a better term, awesome.  The selected zinfandels were delicious, and the casual atmosphere at The Wine Poste struck a tone that matched the event.

Richmond VA Mini-Tour


Doug, David, and SteveOn a visit to see Double-Boner in DC, he and Blair surprised me with a 1-day mini-tour in Raleigh, Virginia.  We had a nice time road-tripping, eating Q, and visiting with old friends.

The last stop of the tour blew my mind. It was the first time that I have ever been impressed with a chef-led, franchise-ready, strip-center barbecue restaurant.  Tuffy Stone's Q Barbeque was up to the task, and changed the way I think about strip-center bbq.


The Joints:

DFW Mini-Tour


Lockhart Front DoorA few DFW locals, including XO, Smoke Daddy, and Phil Chelf hit four barbecue joints in the area to keep our instincts honed and ready for the next full tour.  I have written a couple of blog posts related to the barbecue and craft brewing renaissance happening in the DFW area.  

Making a couple of 1/2-day excursions, we managed to piece together a mini-tour covering a few joints (and yes, you might see pictures of some "Mini-Me's" on these outings).  This may become a more normal mode of operation for us in the future, as large blocks of time for full tours seem to be few and far between these days.

The Joints:

Smoke Daddy's Review of Allen and Son

Weighted Overall

An excellent barbecue stop from start to finish.  Traditional methods & recipies; dedication to craft; and attention to detail produce great food and loyal customers.  Breadth of the menu did not dilute the quality of the barbecue.  This is a model of success that other restaurants should study.

MAIN FARE:The barbecue

  • Chopped - Hand Chopped. Even with the vinegar-based dip from the kitchen, the smoke comes shining through.  Many textures here: outside brown; shreds; chunks.  Excellent.



Smoke Daddy's Review of Hurseys Barbecue

Weighted Overall

The barbecue was above average, but the strawberry cobbler was a winner.  Although the sliced was a bit dry, I preferred it over the chopped today.  While I enjoyed the flavors in the chopped, I just couldn't get over the mushy texture of the meat (machine processed).  Next time I will try the chicken and apple turnovers.

Hursey's Spread


  • Sliced - There is a sweetness on the meat.  A bit of pink indicates smoke, but it is very mild.  Although appearances would lead you to believe it is too dry... it is not.
  • Chopped - Using a buffalo chopper... run very thoroughly.  Texture is mushy.  Dipped in the kitchen, it is a flavorful mix of meats.  


Smoke Daddy's Review of Short Sugars Pit Bar-B-Q

Weighted Overall

I thought the sliced was better than the chopped today... primarily because it seemed the fresher of the two.  The atmosphere and dip are unique, and must be experienced.  

MAIN FARE:Short Sugar's Spread

  • Sliced - Smoky flavor does come through.  Fork tender, with a little chew.  Bonus for not being held in a steam pan.
  • Chop - More fat = more flavor! Mushy... this has been held awhile?  Chunks have a much better texture and smoke flavor.  I like the fact that it is hand-chopped.


Smoke Daddy's Review of Fuzzys

Weighted Overall

This joint has a solid history and good local following.  My favorites were the banana pudding, Brunswick Stew, and BBQ Slaw.  

MAIN FARE:Fuzzy's Spread

  • Sliced - This has been in a steam tray for quite a while.  It is lean and very tender.  Would be good with some fried rice, or as sweet-and-sour pork.
  • Chopped - Buffalo chopper in use... meat is "minced".  Moist & Tender, but where is the smoke flavor?


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