Sunday, November 8, 2009
DALLAS: Dr. Bell's BBQ
1404 Main St.
Dallas, TX 75202
Open M-F 11-8, Sat 12-8
Update: This joint is CLOSED.
11/2009: On this second venture to Dr. Bell's, a few things have changed. The shiny new wall menu has been replaced by a more customizable set of chalkboards above the serving line. While the beef ribs still have a home on the online menu, they are nowhere to be found on the new chalboards, or on the serving line. One new item is a 1/2 pound plate that can be 1, 2 or 3 meats. I enjoy variety, so I opted for the pork ribs, pulled pork and sliced brisket. I'd heard good things about the sweet and spicy beans, so I coupled them with the colorful cole slaw for my side options.
A generous portion of pork ribs included one good looking specimen, one rib with the bone already showing (cut too close to the bone) and one mangled mess of rib ends that amounted to a smokey crust with a few bone chips lingering inside. The solid specimen was moist and well cooked. A layer of well rendered fat lay beneath this deeply black crust. If you read this blog, you know I love smoke flavor, but this crust was verging on a level of blackened closer to charcoal. It's been four hours now and I'm still burping up tiny plumes. Brisket was a nice improvement from my first trip. Solid thick slices were just on the verge of dry, but were tender and flavorful with a good level of smokiness. Pulled pork was one dimensional with little fat or crust. The nicely shredded meat had been mixed with a slightly sweet au jus to give it the moisture usually supplied by rendered fat.
Sides were well short of a revelation. The colorful cole slaw of red and white cabbage mixed with a medley of bell pepper and shredded carrots had so little dressing it was barely raised above rabbit food. The sweet and spicy beans had both as advertised, but they were essentially pintos with some sugar and cayenne and a few bits of brisket. The heat was there, but nothing else was brought to the party. Although they seem to have the brisket down, I think the ribs have regressed a bit. I'll also go back to the mac & cheese and potato salad next time.
09/2009: Andrew Bell finally got this place open last Friday after some delays getting his permits in order. One permit he wasn't willing to pay for was the one requiring him to build a smoke vent all the way to the roof for several thousand dollars in order to have the wood fired Bewley smoker that he still covets. Instead, he had to settle for a smallish gas fired Ole Hickory pit which he feeds a steady dose of pecan wood. I was excited to try the rarely offered beef rib listed on the online menu, but learned that it may be offered in a few months when he gets a new cooler. He simply doesn't have the storage space for the giant ribs.
I instead opted for a combo plate with brisket and spare ribs with potato salad, green beans and mac & cheese. All of the sides were good, and worth a repeat. The ribs had a well balanced rub that offered a nice level of spice without overpowering the smoky flavor of the meat. The ribs had a nice red interior with well rendered fat. The smokiness went to the bone, but the meat had gotten a bit dry requiring some mastication to finish off. After the ribs, the brisket was a disappointment. The fatty meat was sliced very thick with good crust clinging only to one slice. These slices from the point had well rendered intramuscular fat with good moisture and great tenderness, but the flavor was closer to roast beef than smoked brisket. While it was well executed roast beef, it reminded me of Schoepf's in Belton which was also missing the smoke that I crave.
My wife only came along because they had a frito pie on the menu. This version is done with a spicy chili, and is served deconstructed. She enjoyed it, but just wanted more.
While I think the Doctor is on the right track, he's still got some kinks to work out. I'm excited to return and try the meat during the lunch rush when the joint isn't getting down to the end of their stock. While they show real potential, until they can elevate the brisket from roast beef into smoky BBQ, I can't recommend going too far out of your way. I think the folks downtown will be happy to have this option added to the lunch mix.
Posted by BBQ Snob at 7:46 AM
Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT
-THE PROPHETS OF SMOKED MEAT