“Life is too short to live in Dallas.” So says a sign on a wall in Railhead Smokehouse B-B-Q, Fort Worth. The slogan is repeated on Railhead T-shirts and plastic soft drink containers. Loyalists on both sides of the city limits passionately debate the quality of Dallas versus Fort Worth barbecue.
Let’s put the Fort Worth/Dallas barbecue rivalry to rest, and while doing so, glean some Chow Town barbecue inspiration from both cities. Howard Taylor, Gary Bronkema and I set out last week to sample a few outstanding places in both cities.
Here’s our quick rundown of some barbecue stops worth trying when you visit metro Dallas/Fort Worth:
2533 White Settlement — Fort Worth
It opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1958 and has packed in customers of all ages — especially TCU Horned Frogs past and present — ever since. Hickory smoked pork ribs and beef brisket are perennial favorites. Angelo’s newest crowd-pleaser is the brisket or pulled pork taco with shredded cheese, Pico de Gallo and sour cream. They say Angelo’s has the coldest beer in town.
“A Legend in Texas Barbeque since 1927.” Chow Towners will relate best to the Cow Town Riscky’s at 140 E. Exchange Ave. in the Historic Stockyards. Beef ribs, pork ribs, brisket, smoked catfish, plus brisket and pork tacos, will comfort your inner cowperson. Riscky’s pinto beans and barbecue sauce have a slight cinnamon and chili accent. Save room for pecan pie.
2900 Montgomery St. – Fort Worth
Thanks to KC pitmaster Johnny White for recommending Railhead. We raved about Railhead’s smoke-kissed, tender, juicy barbecue brisket and perfectly barbecued bologna. Customers also rave about the ribs. Although packed for lunch, the cafeteria-style order/pay/eat line moved along with no hassles.
3201 Riverfront Drive — Fort Worth
Chef Tim Love’s Woodshed is an upscale barbecue destination for good eats and barbecue knowledge. The “shed’s” corrugated steel roofing motif merges with high ceilings and substantial wood beams. Rustic tables and chairs are within sight of the peaceful Trinity River. Woodshed’s menu includes a glossary of house woods, with a symbol for each — mesquite, oak, pecan and hickory — next to smoked items on the menu. Goat kid, aka cabrito, was the featured meat when we stopped by. Beef, pork, lamb, fish and mussels/shrimp/gamebird/rabbit-rattlesnake sausage paella was also available.
Our lightly seasoned mesquite-kissed shredded cabrito tacos with corn tortillas were juicy and flavorful. Locals could spend a month grazing through Woodshed’s menu while learning a lot about barbecue.
4100 Maple Ave. – Dallas
We hungered for a Chow Town burnt ends barbecue fix at 18th & Vine, and savored each tender, juicy, smoke-kissed slightly sweet morsel, along with fantastic smoke-roasted cauliflower steak and a cold Boulevard Wheat on tap. The place was packed at lunchtime with Millennials, GenXers and Elder Boomers. Right on, Matt Dallman!
2234 Irving Blvd. – Dallas
Once you find a parking place, dining at Slow Bone is an easy treat. The line moves along smoothly. Staff, from line service to cashier to buser, is friendly and efficient. Tell the meat cutter what you want, choose your sides and beverages, pay the cashier, find a table and enjoy the barbecue. Our heavily smoked brisket, spareribs, pulled pork, cilantro sausage, brisket tamales, sweet potato casserole, greens and hush puppies did not disappoint. Slow Bone’s meat needs no sauce. A tomato/vinegar base slightly grainy chili-spiked house sauce is available if you want it.
4226 Preston Road – Frisco
Metro Dallas outer ring suburban barbecue lovers flock to 3 Stacks for a first class variety of traditional barbecue with creative tweaks, plus giant beef ribs, naked and “KC sweet” burnt ends, and barbecue nachos, tacos and pizza. We especially loved the pulled pork and brisket tacos.
688 Freeport Parkway – Coppell
Sprouted from its home base in Stephenville, Coppell Hard 8 hot pit barbecue feeds hungry suburban masses with beef, pork, pork and sausage fresh from the pit and sliced to order. A medley of sides inside the large brick and wood-beamed cement floor dining area tempts you as you move along the line to the cashier. We opted for the free pinto beans with meat scraps and a jalapeno kick. Our lightly smoked pork ribs, brisket, sirloin and sausage gave a palate-pleasing finish to a long day of delightful grazing.
270 North Central Expressway – Richardson
From the original Richardson restaurant, Spring Creek has expanded to more than 20 other Texas communities. It attracts a diverse clientele with traditional straight-from-the-pit Texas barbecue. Our lightly smoked ribs, brisket and black pepper sausage was homestyle delicious. I prefer the pulled pork naked instead of dressed in Spring Creek’s sweet mustard base sauce. Tomato based sauces are available for beef and sausage.
6516 East Northwest Highway - Dallas
With nine stores in Texas and one in Edina, Minn., Baker’s is a popular chain. Instead of ribs, we wanted barbecue pulled pork and brisket fried pies. Reminiscent of Upper Peninsula pasties with a flakier crust, they were absolutely delicious, as were the pecan and peach fried pies we enjoyed while waiting for the meat pies.
13628 Gamma Road – Dallas
Since Howard Taylor raved about this place after his first visit, we had to try Cattleack. Our big beefy rib bone, sliced brisket, pastrami, cheesy jalapeno grits and burnt end beans were superb. The post oak-smoked meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and got a Wow! from all three of us at first bite. Todd David is one of the best pitmasters in Texas. Co-owner Misty adds personality-plus and a creative flair to the menu and premises. Next time we hope the chopped beef and cheese Q-T Pie, a Misty creation, is on the menu, and we’ll for sure add a Toddfather sandwich to our order.
KC Pitmasters Please Take Notice: Our burnt ends are gaining huge favor in Dallas/Fort Worth, thanks in large part to KC native Matt Dallman at 18th & Vine. It’s time that we emulate Dallas/Fort Worth with barbecue tacos, tamales and quesadillas! And how about some barbecue breakfast tacos, KC!
Life is too short to limit yourself to Fort Worth or Dallas barbecue. Enjoy both!
For more about Dallas barbecue: Kansas City barbecue, jazz find a home in Dallas & Loose ends from an Oklahoma, Dallas barbecue road trip & Dallas’ Pecan Lodge serves top-quality barbecue and trend-setting extras.
Ardie Davis founded a sauce contest on his backyard patio in 1984 that became the American Royal International Barbecue Sauce, Rub & Baste contest. He is a charter member of the Kansas City Barbeque Society and an inductee into the KCBS Hall of Flame. He has been interviewed on food shows and writes for barbecue-related publications. His most recent releases are America’s Best BBQ (Revised Edition), with chef Paul Kirk, and Barbecue Lover’s Kansas City Style .