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 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 famous entertainers, sports legends, and A-list celebrities alike. Sonny's seasoned chefs also cater heaps of smoked brisket and jalape?o sausage 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 101 Tastiest Places to Chowdown, 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.
Ever since opening in 1981, Mike Anderson has personally cut each piece of hickory-smoked meat plated in his restaurant. His cooks mix rubs from scratch to create a top-secret barbecue-sauce recipe from all-natural ingredients, earning a Best Barbecue nod from the Dallas Observer in 2010. The restaurant serves its menu cafeteria style; plates in hand, diners can sniff out such hearty meats as hand-pulled pork, spicy sausage links, and succulent brisket that spends the night being tenderized by Golden Gloves competitors. Homespun sides, freshly baked desserts, and a condiment bar full of pickles, peppers, and edible bibs help accessorize meals. In addition to the booth-filled dining room, the restaurant supplies a heated and covered seating area aptly named Mike's Big Deck.
Since 1973, Big Al’s Smokehouse BBQ's cooks have barbecued their marinated meats in accordance with a secret family recipe. On a menu as long as a menu-sized slab of beef, meals range from sandwiches stuffed with hot links to pulled pork to 1-pound baked potatoes loaded with cheese, meats, and plenty of butter, sour cream, and chives. Ribs, chicken, and sliced beef marinated in signature sauce emerge from slow cookers ready to be flanked by barbecue beans, creamed corn, and fried okra.
When the garage-style glass doors at The Nodding Donkey's Uptown location roll up into the ceiling, the aroma of American food spills out onto the street and a secluded patio. It's the smell of crispy onions and blue-cheese crumbles combined with a bison burger; the scent of brisket, sweet pickled jalapeños, pickled red onions, goat cheese, and barbecue sauce heating up on a Texican pizza. In the evenings, customers catch whiffs of simple gourmet plates such as beef tenderloin, Scottish salmon, shrimp fettuccine, and braised chicken with mushroom ravioli. As flat-screen TVs beckon the eyes, servers plunk glasses down and pop open bottles to offer more than 30 beers and 16 wines by the glass. They also lead special events such as wine, beer, and whiskey tastings.
Those looking for a more family-oriented dining experience can eat at The Nodding Donkey's second location, situated near SMU. Playing host to a diverse brunch spread every weekend–from chicken and waffles to poached eggs and prosciutto served on an english crumpet–the SMU locale also caters to children with a kids menu of chicken strips, pizza, and fruit.
Dickey's Barbecue Pit traces its origins to 1941 in Dallas. The menu then cataloged only beef brisket, pit hams, barbecue beans, potato chips, beer, bottled milk and sodas. Today, it presents a whole lot more, including barbecue pulled-pork sandwiches and the smokehouse salad with chopped brisket. In the 70+ years since its inception, the menu has been more than expanded. It has been refined. Each Dickey's Barbecue Pit slow-smokes and seasons its meats onsite.
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.