There's a thing I keep seeing people do when they take their first bite at Cattleack Barbeque. I call it the Cattleack eye-roll. It's often followed by words like "revelatory," "life-changing" and, in one recent case, "sickeningly good." OK, I know it's just smoked meat, but what smoked meat this is. It may be the best barbecue in Dallas -- and that's saying something now that our once barbecue-impoverished town has upped its game so much. It's easily some of the best I've ever tasted, anywhere.
It takes dedication to sample, however. The somewhat unfortunately named Cattleack (a beefy pun on Cadillac) is a tiny joint hidden among furniture outlets and flooring showrooms just south of Addison. It's open only on Thursdays and Fridays, and only from 10:30 a.m. to 2p.m. Show up much past opening time and you're likely to encounter a line that stretches out the door; worse, some of the meats quickly sell out, particularly the specials. The two dozen or so seats at picnic tables inside and out may all be taken, and you might have to eat in your car.
It's more than worth the effort. The line is jolly with anticipation, abetted by the free beer in the cooler. But your troubles really begin once you make it to the counter, where the pitmaster and owner, Todd David, carves his creations to order before they're weighed and priced: What to have?
This being Texas, you must start with the brisket. And you must have it marbled, because the fat is so much of the fun. This brisket, Akaushi beef smoked for 12 to 16 hours over post oak and some hickory, is beautifully moist and tender, with a dark, salty and peppery bark. For lesser pitmasters there's no such thing as too much smoke; David's brisket is richly smoky, but not so much as to overpower the meat.
But wait. If you have the brisket, will there be room for the beef rib? There'd better be, because it is a triumph. The salt-and-pepper-coated smoked meat and fat deliquesce into a sort of beef confit. Weighing in at as much as 2 pounds on a footlong bone, one of these massive ribs will easily feed two, with possibly enough left over for lunch tomorrow.
Uh-oh. If you have the brisket and ribs, you might not have room for the tender, juicy and lightly salty smoked turkey. And what about the four types of house-made sausages? They're snappy and smoky, and the spicy beefTexan is particularly terrific. And let us not forget the moist and slightly sweet pork ribs. (The pulled pork, though fine, is the least interesting thing here.) Your dilemma will be even worse if David has made one of his specials, like the knock-you-to-your-knees pastrami, salty, rosy, redolent of coriander and black pepper. You'll have to keep a close eye on Cattleack's website and Facebook page for such treats, and for surprises like the occasional Saturday barbecued whole hog.
And just to make life even more difficult, the sides are pretty dandy, too -- especially the from-scratch pinto beans with shards of brisket burnt ends, and the fresh and refreshing finely shredded coleslaw. There are, I'm sorry to tell you, a couple of good desserts, too. Go for the not-too-sweet crack cake, a take on ooey gooey butter cake. Then go home for a nap.
Mark Vamos is a journalism professor at Southern Methodist University.
Cattleack Barbeque (3 stars)
Price: $$ (sandwiches $9.99 to $12.99; smoked meats $13.99 to $19.99 per pound; side dishes $2.25 to $5.99; desserts $3.79)
Service: This is a family affair. You belly up to the counter where pitmaster Todd David slices your barbecue to order; helpers weigh and price it and place it on butcher paper; co-owner Misty David rings you up -- and keeps things moving along in snappy fashion.
Ambience: A barbecue shack hidden inside a small office park. A recent expansion added four picnic tables, and there are a few seats outside around the parking lot.
Noise level: Fairly quiet, except for the murmuring of happy eaters
Location: 13628 Gamma Road, Farmers Branch; 972-805-0999; cattleackbbq.com
Hours: Thursday and Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 2p.m., or until barbecue runs out
Reservations: Not accepted, but Cattleack takes pre-orders, with a 5-pound minimum, for pickup during normal opening hours. See website for details.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair accessible: Somewhat iffy because of a curb
Alcohol: No alcohol (except free beer while you're in line)
5 stars: Extraordinary
No stars: Poor
Average dinner per person
$ $14 and under
$$ $15 to $30
$$$ $31 to $50
$$$$ More than $50