Throughout this week, we're sharing DFW.com contributor Malcolm Mayhew's profiles of five people who are making their mark in North Texas barbecue. Our most recent installments introduce us to Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge in Dallas, and the family who runs Hickory Stick BBQ in Everman. Earlier this week, we profiled woman behind the sign at Mama E's in Fort Worth, and Bryan McLarty, a Southlake man who takes his smoking skills around the region in competition barbecue events.
People in line kill time by texting others that they're here, OMG, and taking pictures of the long, long line. If you were standing in this line, you'd take pictures of it, too. As it winds its way through Shed No. 2 at the Dallas Farmer's Market, no one in it gripes or gulps; a 30-40 minute wait to even order at Pecan Lodge is, these days, pretty much a given.
At this moment, Pecan Lodge is North Texas' "it" barbecue spot, easily the most heralded barbecue place to arrive in the area in several years. Shortly after Justin and Diane Fourton opened Pecan Lodge two years ago in the market, where they source much of their produce, critics and bloggers started raving about the brisket, house-made sausage, bacon-studded mac and cheese, and banana pudding. Lines started to form.
But when the counter-service restaurant was featured on a May episode of food celeb Guy Fieri's popular Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, goodbye five-minute lines. "It's been a complete game-changer," says Justin, Pecan Lodge's pit master (Diane handles marketing, social media and desserts). "It has completely, completely changed things."
Well, not everything. While a sudden burst of popularity can sometimes hinder food quality, the 'cue at Pecan Lodge remains top-notch, says local barbecue blogger Daniel Vaughn, who re-reviewed Pecan Lodge for his Full Custom Gospel BBQ blog after the DDD segment aired. "Justin hadn't lost a step," Vaughn wrote.
For barbecue aficionados like Vaughn, Pecan Lodge is the perfect example of good barbecue prepared in a simple, old-school manner. Fourton uses a smoker fueled only by fire and mesquite wood. Her name is Lurlene. "She" was custom-built by a guy in San Angelo who built oil field equipment but built pits on the side.
Fourton's techniques for smoking, and the recipes he uses for his sauce and rubs, also pay homage to the past.
"I had a grandfather who lived in West Texas and one who lived in East Texas," he says. "What I'm doing is based on the time that I spent cooking with them, the memories of what everything tasted like. Our brisket and sausage has a West Texas feel, and the ribs we do, which are basted with a barbecue sauce, are inspired by East Texas."
Pecan Lodge is an extension of the Fourtons' catering business, which they started after they left their jobs as management consultants (he quit, she was laid off two months later).
It opened in March 2010, initially with a Southern-comfort menu. Some of those items, including fried chicken, have stayed, but foodies, hipsters, the curious and Triple D-heads line up mainly for fatty brisket; the "Hot Mess," a large sweet potato topped with brisket, sea salt and chipotle cream sauce; the Pitmaster sandwich, packed with brisket, sausage, pulled pork and coleslaw; Diane's banana pudding; and, when available, "burnt ends," twice-smoked tiny nuggets of meat, fat and crust pulled from the point of a brisket.
Part of Pecan Lodge's appeal is its limited schedule; the less there is of something, the more people want it. Pecan Lodge is only open Thursday-Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.-ish, depending on when the food runs out. Justin says that despite the huge crowds, he doesn't envision extending hours anytime soon.
"We're certainly happy that this has happened," Justin says. "But my wife and I wanted to do something that would allow us to spend time with our 4-year-old son. The way things are now, it's the perfect balance between work and a home life. It's taken us a while to get to this point, and now that we're here, it just feels like a very natural place to be."