If you're used to getting your barbecue the real Texas way—no plates, no utensils, just a big ol' pile of meat served on wax paper on your tray, then you may well dismiss Smoke, chef Tim Byres's Dallas restaurant before even sampling it's 'cue. That would be a mistake, as it is exceptional. There is a certain amount of self-consciousness inherent to a barbecue restaurant that serves its fare on china and tablecloths and grows its own vegetables in a garden out back, but there's nothing pretentious about the service or prices at Smoke.
Dining alone during off-hours can be an uncomfortable experience. At Smoke, the servers instantly made me feel right at home—they didn't even bat an eye when I ordered both a sandwich and a platter for a late lunch tasting. Apparently, they're used to it.
The brisket sandwich ($12) comes chopped and piled onto a housemade soft roll with thick slabs of lightly pickled cucumber. It's a totally different experience than biting into the magical barbecue at, say, Franklin or any of the other Austin-based brisket joints, but it's a delicious experience nonetheless. A little drier, perhaps, but with a good amount of chopped bark thrown into the mix, an intense beefiness, and mild smoke, along with some great flavor from the coffee-spiked rub.
The pickles are far from your standard sweet bread-and-butter chips—they're more like a good Jewish half-sour. Not traditional and pricier than your average BBQ joint at $12, but the sandwich is perfectly balanced, a big mouthful of meat, and Smoke isn't exactly your standard BBQ joint.
Perhaps even better than the sandwich was their Pork and Beans plate ($13). Tender pulled pork piled on top of some excellently creamy barbecued beans, slices of house-made juicy smoked andouille in a mustard sauce, and two bones-worth of their Kansas City-style ribs. The latter are exceptionally good with a sweet, sticky, molasses-based sauce and meat that just barely falls off the bone. Two types of slaw, one tangy and vinegary, the other creamy, and some properly tender braised green beans round out the plate.
I didn't get a chance to try out the dinner menu, but if Byres can bring the same quality of execution to exciting-sounding dishes like Pit Roasted Cabrito with Fresh Masa or Duck Leg and Pasilla Mole, it's a pretty good bet I'd be a fan.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.