One visit. One meal. One chance to get it right
I don’t feel compelled to review Pecan Lodge. I have eaten there, and eating there’s enough.
In fact, I had the first morsel from the first brisket ever sliced from the board of the Main Street location that opened earlier this summer in Deep Ellum. The taste was, predictably, a sensation — not merely sensational — as an adjective of superlative appreciation — but an experience for the senses: smoky to the point you wonder whether they get their edge by having the cows puff on Cohibas while dipping Copenhagen, rather than merely fulminating grass before they sacrifice their flesh to the kitchen gods. There’s something sanctifying knowing that a life, even of the cattle variety, was given in service to a memorable and careful food creation, rather than wasted on some fast food mystery meat abomination.
And no one would ever call Pecan Lodge “fast food” … for several reasons. First, any truly deft iteration of Texas barbecue takes time. In my salad days, like many wayward souls, I was apt to choose a BBQ joint based on the signature sauce (which, when it comes down to it, is merely some variation of tomatoes, vinegar and molasses) when the star is meant to be the meat. It would be like claiming to love homemade gelato but only eating it when smothered in Magic Shell. True Texas barbecue requires four things: (1) good beef; (2) time; (3) a smoker; and (4) a pit master with patience and a keen eye. The best barbecue takes many hours — hours!!!! — to reach its apogee of flavor. When it’s ready, it’s done. Sauces are permissible but extraneous. The meat carries the day, or should.
And so it is at Pecan Lodge — not, truth be told, my favorite local BBQ but a contender for one of the top spots among peers, and definitely trek-worthy. The trek is the other proof this is not fast food. I refer not to driving into Deep Ellum, but the waiting in line once you get there. The queue is rarely shorter than what you’d expect to find for the Titan at Six Flags on Memorial Day weekend. It’s a common problem. When Justin Fourton and his wife Diane operated Pecan Lodge in Shed 2 at the Farmers Market downtown, it was the major draw for weekend urbanites and the line went on forevuh! Worse yet: at Shed 2, once the meat ran out, the grate came down and remaining customers were SOL. They won’t run out anymore, they promise (it’s open daily for lunch and weekends for dinner). But that doesn’t mean you get your meal faster. It’s a pilgrimage for many (hence the street cred I get for being the first customer ever) who worship at the altar of the god of carne. Waiting is part of the process; tantalizing is a kind of flavor.
Watch the brisket being sliced: the glistening ropes of lean bloody muscle seem to pulsate with the life force of flavor before transferring that energy to you. I could praise the sausages, or even the classic sides that complement but do not interfere with the meat. (If you’re vegan, don’t go figuring you can “just enjoy the veggies” — not worth the wait) or I could describe the beer list, which includes a house specialty created by Five Corners Brewing specifically for Pecan Lodge.
But I won’t do that. Cuz I’m not reviewing Pecan Lodge. A review will only get more people interested in going there and the lines are already long enough. It may be too late to keep it a secret but no need to shoot myself in the foot. That first spot in the queue doesn’t come by often.
Pecan Lodge, 2702 Main St. Open daily for lunch and dinner on weekends.PecanLodge.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 5, 2014.