For this week’s safari, we once again give Eastern BBQ a try — east of the airport at least.
We set our sights on Mike Anderson’s BBQ House in Dallas.
This place has been around since 1982, with a twisted history involving fathers and son, the Marshall BBQ dynasty of East Texas, soccer, rodeo and, according to its own website, it was, at one point, “the kinda joint Robert Irvine of Restaurant Impossible would have a hissy fit about.”
Sounds like my kind of place.
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When I arrived for lunch, there was a line out the door, so there was time to take in the surroundings: cow horns and haphazard signs. A cluttered serving line, and cow- print plastic tablecloths.
Could this be it? Could the holy grail of North Texas BBQ, in all its disheveled glory, be on the wrong side of the airport?
I finally made my way up to the man with the big knives and ordered my usual: the three meat plate ($14), which had brisket, pork ribs and jalepeño-cheddar sausage. I dumped some sauce in a bowl, got some dill potato salad (homemade) and BBQ beans, and for dessert I ordered a giant jalapeño ($3) stuffed with meat, wrapped with bacon and covered with some sauce — then smoked. When I saw this thing, I decided any other dessert would be a disappointment.
Service was on the money. Efficient, assembly line with no plastic small talk. You get what you want, pay at the register, and move on. I grabbed the first (only) table I could find and took in (in every sense) what was on my tray.
The potato salad was fresh and flavorful, a nice change from the mustard-based stuff straight out of the food service tub that too many places serve. The beans were as good as any you’ll ever try, with a bit of the slightly sweet house BBQ sauce mixed in.
But the meat is why we’re here, and for the most part, it delivered.
Mike Anderson’s bills itself as real Texas BBQ and real Texas BBQ is brisket. I tried meat off of the point (more fat), and some off of the flat (leaner) and both ends were tender and had a good smoke ring. The flat end was just a touch dry and bland, the point was perfect.
Good ’cue shouldn’t need sauce, but if you’re the kind of person who likes to sauce your brisket, then the flat would be perfect. Myself, I’ll ask for fattier stuff next time.
The ribs were cooked perfectly. The meat pulled away with each bite but didn’t fall off the bone as if it had been boiled. These pigsicles also had a nice smoke ring, but flavor-wise they were a touch mild. Again, if you’re the kind who sauces everything (maybe it’s an Eastern thing?) these would be perfect. But I could have used a spicier rub.
The jalapeño cheddar sausage was perfect in flavor, texture and heat, and worked well with or without the sauce. Certainly a winner.
Finishing up this myocardial infarction on a tray, I tore into the stuffed jalapeño. This thing is pure heaven, with the sticky glaze from the sauce offsetting the pepper and bacon and ’cue inside. I could be quite happy just getting a half-dozen of these.
So where does Mike Anderson’s fit in the vast Texas BBQ landscape?
This is a solid everyday ’cue joint. It’s only open for lunch, so be prepared for a line (although it moves fast). I’d order the brisket (ask for the fatty end), the sausage and the stuffed jalapeño.
So while the holy grail may still be eluding us, you owe it to yourself to check this joint out. And if you think you know where the ultimate North Texas BBQ is, leave us a comment online and quit hogging the place all to yourself.
MIKE ANDERSON’S BBQ HOUSE
5410 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas
Hours: 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday