Mmmm, good barbecue. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit has become a Dallas tradition, for all that it’s spread to other parts of the country as well these days. The Dickey’s Barbecue empire began here with a single store in 1941, and in fact that first store on Knox/Henderson in downtown Dallas is still open, original building and all. My understanding is that the chain took a while to get started; it didn’t expand to three stores until 1969, back when I was three. After about 1971, the rise was pretty much meteoric.*
There’s a darn good reason for this: their offerings are nothing short of fantastic. And I say this as a son of Texas, one of the barbecue centers of the known universe. Every Dickey’s offers something like eight different meats and sixteen sides, all of which are decadently tasty. Of course, from one perspective not a single item is good for you, being mostly red meats smothered in sauce and veggies sautéed in butter and other such scrumptious things. (And yes, I am drooling right now). From a cardiac perspective, I’m sure that the medical establishment would give the entire menu a collective head-shake. Screw ’em. If you’re a diabetic like me, it’s heaven, as long as you go easy on the sauces and avoid the potatoes (only my favorite parts, of course). And hey, Adkins dieters? This meal’s for you.
These days, you’ll find Dickey’s Barbecue Pits in malls, strip centers, etc., but in their freestanding forms, they tend to take the standard rustic format that most barbecue places do. Here’s an example in Richardson, my old home town.
Of course, to give it even more barbecue street cred, it’s got this ramshackle old wagon out front. I wonder if there’s a company that makes these, or if they just comb the backwoods and forgotten fields of rural American to find them?
Inside (which I have no photos of, as usual for a restaurant), the décor is pretty plain and straightforward, consisting mainly of unpainted wooden walls, a cafeteria-like walkthrough line, and a few rows of plain, metal-topped tables. There are the standard rusty metal signs, old photos, and various small bits of farm equipment on the walls, with the occasional stuffed animal head glaring down at you from among them. To get fed, you grab a tray and silverware and get in line, like at Luby’s or Furr’s. You order your meat from a fellow who slices or chops it up for you right on the spot, but you have to serve yourself when it comes to the veggies that you get with your meal (you can get a number of possible combinations). You also get your own drink, which, if you choose, can come in a two-quart big yellow plastic cup for a few quarters extra. And yes, I do have quite a few on my kitchen shelf…why do you ask?
I have never had a bad meal at Dickey’s, and I’ve eaten there a lot. The places are invariably clean, and the meat is well cooked and tender. One of the nice things about the place: they don’t flood your meat with sauce. You can get it or not, as you please, and they offer two or three different types in a little self-serve island near the counter if you change your mind or need extra. As for the service, there’s not much beyond the serving line. If you want more tea, you have to get up and get it yourself. This might be a big deal if you’re used to five-star restaurants, but not if you’re one of the hoi polloi like me.
While I love the beef brisket that’s the standard for Texas barbecue the world over, I’m especially fond of their pulled pork and sausage links. It’s all good, of course, including the chicken, and the ribs are to die for; sadly, I tend to avoid them, though, because I find that they’re difficult and messy for me to eat. If you don’t mind dealing with the bones, though, try them out, especially with the hotter of the sauces they offer. While it is indeed warm, it’s not so hot that it overwhelms the taste buds.
Like all barbecue, Dickey’s tends to be a lot more pricy than McDonald’s. If you want a good two-meat plate with sides, which is just about enough to satisfy your average hungry man, you’ll be paying about $12 or so, plus your drink. So this might not be something you want to do every day, but when you do you’ll still end up with a great, lip smacking meal at a good value. Deal with it –good barbecue ain’t cheap. And hey, there’s that big yellow cup! Incidentally, make sure you get a lot of napkins before you go to your table, because you’ll need them, especially if you’re eating those ribs. And if you’re like me, you’d better bring a bib, or you’re going to end up marked with sauce all up and down your front. Also, if you can’t come to Dickey’s, they’ll be happy to come to you. Most locations offer catering for parties and other big events. As for other specials — well, kids eat free on Sundays, and you’ll get free ice cream with your meal every day. How’s that for a good deal?
To learn more about Dickey’s, check out their website at http://www.dickeys.com/. You’ll find everything there from their corporate history to every single location (they’re in 27 states now). If you’re visiting the DFW Metroplex, don’t worry — it’s hard to go more than a mile or two on any major street without coming across a Dickey’s. Check ’em out!
*Interesting enough, though, the chain is still family owned; they’re up to the third generation of Dickeys, at last count.