The tradition of Sonny Bryan’s award-winning barbecue started more than a century ago on February 13, a date that would become circled on the calendar again and again throughout Bryan’s Barbecue history. February 13, 1910, marked the opening of Elias Bryan’s Oak Cliff restaurant, Bryan's Barbecue. Exactly 20 years later to the day, his eldest son, William “Red” Jennings Bryan, launched his own restaurant. When February 13 rolled around again 28 years later, Elias’ grandson, William "Sonny" Jennings Bryan Jr., and his wife, Joanne, opened another restaurant, the first Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse.
Although a different Dallas family now manages multiple locations of the restaurant chain in Utah and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the legendary barbecue lives on. Sonny Bryan's original barbecue sauce spices up its savory pulled meats and ribs, which have been devoured by US presidents, famous entertainers, sports legends, and A-list animated Disney characters alike. Sonny's seasoned chefs also cater heaps of fresh brisket and smoked chicken to parties and events.
Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse has been on the culinary radar since 1989, snapping up awards and publicity from Food Network, the Travel Channel’s Man V. Food Nation, and Emeril Lagasse’s The Originals with Emeril. The modest joints have also earned some highbrow epicurean chops through a 2006 Zagat rating and a 2000 James Beard Foundation award for Culinary Excellence and Achievement.
Holster's Texas Bar-B-Q's pit masters combine sweet and smoky flavors to craft their signature sauce, which drenches a variety of meats including ribs made from a family recipe. A cast of homestyle sides, such as hand-battered onion rings, complement smoked sausage, pulled pork, and beef brisket as tender as a puncture wound left by cupid's arrow. The family friendly eatery also caters to kids with chicken strips and pint-sized portions of their smoked meats.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit may have expanded into hundreds of franchises throughout the country since first opening in Dallas in 1941, but each restaurant's dedication to creating the best Texas-style smoked meats remains the same as the original's. Every new franchise goes through a training process called Barbecue U, where owners learn the ins and outs of food preparation and customer service as founder Travis Dickey practiced more than 70 years ago. And considering two of Travis's primary tenets were authenticity and barbecue sauce, it's not surprising that both of those things rank high on Barbecue U's curriculum.
Yet despite all these other points of focus, pit-smoked meats—from beef brisket to fall-off-the-bone pork ribs—are still the core of what makes Dickey's great. Because these tried-and-true staples never fail to keep customers coming back for more, Dickey's changes very little about its menu. In fact, the first major change in 50 years happened just recently: a spicy cheddar sausage intended to be a limited-time offering was so popular that it was inducted onto the menu permanently. Aside from that, Roland Dickey, Jr. (Travis's grandson) stays true to his family's original vision, aiming for a friendly, down-home ambiance where guests can help themselves to free extras such as buttered rolls, soft-serve ice cream, and breathable oxygen.
Big Barn Bar-B-Que's specialty dry-rubbed and pecan-smoked meats stock hungry mouths with succulent tastes backed by a cavalcade of sides. The menu enumerates a choice of 10 different meats, including two-meat plates that pair together savory combinations of carnivorous fare such as a tender arrangement of chopped brisket, classic baby back ribs, or jalapeño-cheddar sausage. Sides such as coleslaw and potato salad celebrate refreshing, cooling textures, and crisp fried okra and onion rings tantalize taste buds more completely than PhD students learn the alphabet. As duos, quartets, or sextets revel in smoky delights and share tastes, iced teas, fountain drinks, and coffee anoint liquid intake apparatuses in preparation for a finishing course of just desserts—seasonal cobblers packing a palatable punch of fruits such as strawberry or peach and Mama's famous banana pudding, which reveals a union of fresh-blended bananas and crisp vanilla wafers.
Dick's draws in diners with a menu heavily concentrated in authentic, Texas-style barbecue. As with the healing of wounds and the forgetting of birthdays, time is the key ingredient of Dick's marvelous meats, which are hickory-smoked on location for as long as 12 hours to help each bite reach its palate-rocking potential. Use your jaw-mounted mouth knives to slice into barbecued chicken leg quarters ($8.99 for a four-piece plate), the rib sampler ($13.99), or a pulled pork and chopped chicken plate ($12.79)—all served with the sauce on the side, to let the flavor of the meat take center stage. Alternatively, take a flavor-fueled tour of protein paradise with Dick's Traditional Texas Feast ($17.99), which partners three ribs, half a pound of sliced brisket, and smoked sausage. A selection of sandwiches, including options such as pulled pork ($4.59), Texas hot links ($4.59), and sliced turkey ($4.99), pairs the same great meat with the latest in bread-based food grippers.
Whoever said everything was bigger in Texas must have been referring to Fred and Dianne McDonald's company vision. As Fred says, they “put a lot of L-U-V” into barbecue that they hope will one day reign as the best in the state. It's on its way—the barbecue is so painstakingly produced that many customers don't need to sauce it, and instead sop up the eatery's tangy, housemade marinade with bread or use it to paint the faces of children sleeping at nearby tables. Aside from the ribs, pulled pork, and preservative-free sausage the McDonalds smoke over Texas wood, Fred ignites palates with tamales his grandfather taught him to make while growing up in the southern part of the state. On Friday nights, live blues musicians—featuring house band Kenny Strauther and Second Hand Smoke— take to a stage that has been graced by Jimmy “Preacher” Ellis and a former member of The Gap Band, both of whom, according to NBC DFW 5, also stuck around to nosh on the restaurant's eats.