Succulent smoked meats dominate the menu at former Dallas Cowboy and Pro Football Hall of Fame–inductee Randy White’s restaurant. The cooks rely exclusively on wood-burning pits to sear all of their sliced beef, pulled pork, and baby back ribs, avoiding any gas burners or lightning bolts entirely. Seven pieces of fried catfish don cornmeal crusts for the Big Catch platter, and two patties of 100% Angus beef add heft to the Tough Man burger. Stained wood of different shades pervades the dining room's décor, from the light-brown vertical boards that form the walls to the dark-gray planks that compose the booths and act as a backup in case the fire pits run low on logs.
Grill masters at Chasin' Tail BBQ slow-smoke meats kneaded with special seasonings and slathered with a homemade sauce, and they regularly enter their tender treats in barbecue competitions. Diners can gerrymander plates after electing two meats from a trio of candidates that includes slow-cooked pulled pork, beef, or chicken—all drizzled with savory barbecue sauce and body guarded by a hunk of bread. Pairs of sides—with options such as mac 'n' cheese or barbecue baked beans—evoke the down-home comforts of swinging on a back porch and whittling a second back porch out of cornbread. For dessert, peach cobbler or pecan pie shoot down gullets in sweet streaks reminiscent of sugared stars.
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.
In 1941, Travis Dickey decided his barbecue was too good not to share, and he lit the fire in his inaugural pit to craft brisket and ham for hungry folks. Over the years, his menu grew and his sons took over and expanded the operation, but those first recipes remained, sauce and all.
The chefs at the Rowlett location still hickory smoke each tender piece of meat behind a brick serving counter, which clatters beneath plates of polish sausage and glasses of iced tea. Black-and-white photos bedeck walls of corrugated metal siding and hardwood walls, and powder-blue checkered tablecloths re-create the feeling of dining in a rustic farmhouse without all the hours spent trying to figure out what a cornucopia is for.
Starting in 1982 and for years after that, the original owner of The Pantry Restaurant, Sherri Mraz, treated droves of loyal customers to hearty homestyle dishes pulled from her grandmother's favorite recipes. The food, which included classic American eats such as chicken-fried steak, patty-melt burgers, and pecan and apple pies, was so treasured that current owners Tom and Cleo Meredith continue to serve it.
When Sherri first opened it, The Pantry Restaurant was located on South Tennessee Street in historic downtown McKinney. Now, it's located in the confines of the historic Hope Hardware building, built in 1898.
The building's original brick walls and hardwood floors make the perfect backdrop for guests sipping soda-fountain milkshakes or learning old-timey cusswords such as "horse's pompadour" or "pickled peaches." The historic building also serves as a charming wedding venue, with food catered by The Pantry Restaurant.
Executive Chef Tommy Simpson pulls inspiration for his menu from 18 years of traveling the world—he's studied at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, bustled about kitchens in South America, and experimented with recipes in Europe. Today, he crafts innovative American dishes at One2One Restaurant and Bar, which took four bronzes, one silver, and one gold in Plano Profile's 2012 Best Eats Restaurant Survey. Simpson's creations include steaks topped with wasabi mash, blackened chicken sliders smeared with chipotle mayo, and rock shrimp paired with sriracha. He also stacks a wood-fired oven with crispy pizzas and brushetta breads that are speckled with gourmet toppings of lobster, prosciutto, and fig.
The kitchen looks out onto the restaurant’s cavernous dining hall, where light trickles down onto rows of black booths and stone-tiled walls. Blue lanterns surround the granite bar, spotlighting bartenders as they uncork bottles of fine wine and whip up cocktails. An awning stretches out over the outdoor patio, where diners can admire the front lawn’s fountain, which erupts with majestic streams of water and grants three wishes to those who’ve never cheated on a math test.