With its tagline “A Deliciously Curated BBQ & Music Fest,” Saturday’s Smoked Dallas delivered on that promise, and then some.
Texans love their smoked meats. They’ll travel hundreds of miles on pilgrimages in search of the very best, whether it be the traditional oak-smoked brisket offered at generations-old markets in Central Texas or the upstarts getting their feet under them in a food truck, as Aaron Franklin, one of Cowboys & Indians’ 2015 Trailblazers of Western Cuisine, did.
But at Smoked Dallas on Saturday, it was the barbecue pitmasters along with a few other restaurateurs who did the traveling, bringing a feast of traditionally smoked meats as well as some more creative dishes. Joining them were a handful of music acts that complemented the beef and the beer.
The festival was three-tiered, with VIP entrance an hour early at 1 p.m., followed by the general admission for tasting ticketholders at 2 p.m. Those who were only interested in the music bought cheaper tickets and were admitted at 5 — a shame, as they missed a great show from Dallas’ alt-country-folk-rock act Vandoliers as well as the bulk of the Quaker City Night Hawks’ smoking 4:30 p.m. set of Texas boogie rock, though Asleep at the Wheel’s headline Western swing performance and sets from Dallas soul legend Bobby Patterson, indie mainstays Pleasant Grove, and Houston soul act The Suffers likely made up for that.
As for the food, the booth for the legendary Black’s Barbecue from Lockhart, Texas, had the longest line by a factor of 10, until it ran out of brisket well before the 5 p.m. concert admission time. But for those with big appetites, every booth was worth a visit. Louis Mueller Barbecue, which, like Black’s, makes appearances on most serious aficionados’ favorites list, was handing out generous slabs of melt-in-your-mouth brisket and snappy sausage links. Other veteran Texas outfits included the consistently great Cousin’s Bar-B-Q from Fort Worth, Opie’s Barbecue from Spicewood, Lockhart Smokehouse from Dallas, and Schmidt Family Barbecue from Bee Cave.
Newer and lesser-known Texas pitmasters were making names for themselves as well. Bet the House from Denton had an excellent sausage and fine brisket, and Fort Worth’s Heim Barbecue and Catering — which is for now just a trailer in a bar parking lot open two days a week — served “bacon burnt ends,” tidbits of smoked pork belly that had many an attendee walk away wide-eyed and moaning with pleasure.
Other welcome breaks from the beef included lamb-belly tacos from chef Aarón Sánchez of New Orleans’ Johnny Sánchez, chicken-fried quail on jalapeño corn with collard greens from Dean Fearing, and an impressive pork-belly bánh mì from Orlando, Florida’s Norman Van Aken.
For the tasting portion of the event, at least, the crowds were never too thick and the lines for food samples, drinks, and restrooms were easily manageable. The perfect weather, as Dallas was blessed with a sunny day in the high 70s and a cooling breeze that day, certainly helped the good vibes, too.