Restaurant of the Year.
Pecan Lodge Drew A Line In The Sand This Year and Helped Put Dallas Barbecue Back On The Map.
By Stephen Young on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 9:15 AM
It's hard to talk about the Dallas restaurant scene without trotting out the same trite statistics about the sheer size of it over and over.
Yes. It is massive. Everyone knows this. We are a city that loves its restaurants.
More than that, though, we are a city that loves to argue about its restaurants. We've had seemingly countless "discussions" -- just among our own staff, even -- about which joints in our fair city serve the best burgers, pizza and tacos. We care about this stuff -- sometimes to the point of near irrationality.
But, when looking back on the year that was in the Dallas restaurant scene as objectively as we could, there was one restaurant that jumped out for having left the biggest mark on Dallas' collective culinary consciousness in 2013.
From its coronation by Texas Monthly as the second-best barbecue joint on Earth, to its often hours-long lines and the huge reaction that came last month when it announced a move to Deep Ellum, Dallas' restaurant of the year just has to be Pecan Lodge, Diane and Justin Fourton's bourgeoning meat mecca.
And, to celebrate this distinction, we recently caught up with Justin over email to figure out what we can expect from Pecan Lodge's move to Deep Ellum, his thoughts on the whole the no sauce/no forks debate and, well, just all things barbecue. Because if there's one guy in this city who knows this stuff, it should be him.
It's certainly been a big year for Pecan Lodge. The restaurant's been a hit since it opened, but this year seems to have been something else entirely. Do you think that has a lot to do with the Texas Monthly ranking?
The Texas Monthly ranking was a great boost to our business and certainly helped to spread the love to some folks that hadn't heard about us yet.
Was it a surprise?
Totally. We knew the day they would announce it, but had no idea where we would fit in. That day was definitely a moment in my life I'll never forget.
OK, so we have to ask about the upcoming move to Deep Ellum. Can you give us some insight into the impetus behind it and why you and your wife end up choosing Deep Ellum?
When we knew there were significant changes coming to the Farmer's Market, we started to look around as part of a contingency plan. For over a year, we scoured the city, but kept coming back to Deep Ellum. It felt like home. We loved the sense of community there, the history of the neighborhood and the character of the buildings.
What benefits do you foresee from having a standalone space?
We think it will make the customer experience more fulfilling. We're excited about being able to control the atmosphere more, and to be able to provide beer/wine, music and a great patio.
Have you given any thought to -- after the move -- maybe being open late for the post-show crowd?
We'll see how things go. Once we get our feet underneath us in the new space, I think there will be lots of cool opportunities for us to look into.
How do you feel about the theory that Jack Perkins is testing at The Slow Bone, that barbecue is more science than art, that you can mechanize and speed up the whole pit process and still put out a superior product?
Everyone has their own approach. That's what makes BBQ interesting -- exploring different styles, techniques, flavors. It's good for there to be diversity in what's being offered.
I've read in other interviews that you enjoy eating at a wide variety of barbecue joints. What are some of your favorite places in Texas? Outside of Texas?
Stanley's in Tyler, Franklin's in Austin, Louie Mueller in Taylor and Black's in Lockhart are some of my favorites.
Are you a regionalist? Do you think Texas barbecue is inherently superior to, say, Kansas City or Memphis barbecue?
I try to eat barbecue everywhere we go when we're on a road trip. The best I've had has always been from a Texas joint. But there's a lot of barbecue out there that I haven't tried. Finding good barbecue is like finding a needle in a haystack.
Where does Pecan Lodge Stand on the no sauce/no forks argument?
We have sauce for those who want it. And we have forks, too. I like our vinegar sauce with our pulled pork, and I like my chopped barbecue sandwiches with sauce.
Lean or fatty brisket?
I like the cut right from the middle of the brisket, where the fatty overlaps the lean. It's the best of both worlds. That and the burnt ends.
Do you think that Dallas barbecue has made enough strides of late to catch up to Central Texas'? Can places like Pecan Lodge and Lockhart can stand up to the Franklin's, the Louis Mueller's and the Kreuz's of the world?
Dallas has a very respectable base of barbecue joints. If we continue to focus on the quality of what we produce, I think we will always be able to be proud of the barbecue that comes out of this city.
If someone is new to Pecan Lodge, what is the one thing on the menu that they shouldn't miss?
That's a tough one, but I usually steer people towards the beef ribs and jalapeno sausage links. Those are usually the first things to go.
What's ahead for Pecan Lodge in 2014?
Our biggest focus this year will be getting the new place open in Deep Ellum and making sure that we've settled into our groove there. We'll be able to offer people the ability to host small parties in the new place, and I think that's going to be a lot of fun.
Cover photo via Pecan Lodge's Facebook page. Honorable Mentions for 2013 Dallas Restaurant of the Year: 20 Feet Seafood Joint, Lockhart Smokehouse, Stampede 66, Off-Site Kitchen, The Slow Bone, Zoliâ��s, Glazed Donut Works, Monkey King Noodle Co., FT33, Kitchen LTO.