Jody’s Barbecue Revue: Digging In at Derek Allan’s
More often than not, it floors me how few people seem inclined to try new places or things.
That seems particularly true of barbecue restaurants. Often when the subject of “favorites” comes up, you’ll hear folks mention establishments that were probably good at one time – but frankly have been living off their reputation for 30 to 40 years. Not that tradition is a bad thing, because it isn’t. I love old places, too – but “old” doesn’t always translate to best, and certainly not because it’s simply where people have gone since LBJ was in office. We’re all creatures of habit, of course – but some of us just need to get out more.
The good news is that (mostly) great new barbecue joints are popping up on the local landscape almost daily, and frequently in parts of Dallas-Fort Worth that really needed a few. One of those areas? The western end of Fort Worth’s booming Medical District, just south of I-30 and Summit. Not that modern-era hospital food is all that bad, mind you – but having plenty of good dining options is a good thing.
And Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue could make a dead man walk.
A year old come May, Derek Allan’s began in a Grapevine parking lot where husband-and-wife Derek and Brittany Crudgington operated a food truck a few years ago. By 2017 the couple started looking at a permanent location in Collin County, but ended up choosing a vacant storefront on Fort Worth’s 8th Avenue instead.
Thank your lucky stars, Cowtown.
Settling on Derek’s first and middle name for what they call their joint, the Crudgingtons use the Dirty Dalmation barbecue rub they originated back in their food truck days – and the stuff is spectacular. Put together frequently so as to be as fresh as possible, the extra effort is noticeable – and Derek Allan’s does offer it for sale. You bet I bought some, and I will absolutely lie and tell family and friends who come over that I made it. It is a smoked-meat pitmaster difference-maker, whatever you put it on.
I might even daub a dash behind my ears.
Honest to goodness, being a patient might not be such a bad thing on days when the hospitals and clinics near Derek Allan’s are downwind. I spent a lot of time in that area as a kid, and there were days when the aroma of chicken fried steaks at Massey’s seemed to make it all the way to Fort Worth Children’s. I had to circle the block a few times to find a parking spot where I could squeeze in my pickup, and you should know ahead of time that 8th and Rosedale nearby is perpetually under construction. There are also a ton of new buildings going up, so you may find yourself competing with some big trucks and heavy equipment. ‘Promise you, though – just roll down your window and inhale. Any thoughts of inconvenience will be obliterated by the sweet smell of woodsmoke and eager anticipation.
That anticipation will be rewarded, too. Derek Allan’s brisket is well worth any amount of hassle. I was a little surprised find no line inside, as I got there just before the lunch hour – but that’s not always the case, and they’ve been known to sell out. One taste of that beef and it was easy to understand why. When brisket dissolves in your mouth almost before you have a chance to chew it, you have come to the right place – and that’s exactly what Derek Allan’s slow-smoked brisket does. Moreover, they don’t scrimp on the portions. These are big, meaty slices – all permeated with that delicious oak smoke and fabulous Dirty Dalmatian seasoning.
Once again, another new joint offering excellent sides that are the great staples of any good barbecue joint – starting with Derek Allan’s impressive potato salad. Colorful and rich, I enjoyed every bite. Next time I intend to try the mac & cheese with chipotle toasted bread crumbs, which looked amazing – and about which I’ve heard nothing but praise. The guy just in front of me actually came back to get another serving, and just glancing at it I could easily see why.
Derek Allan’s also makes what I hear is a killer slaw, but I had my eyes and nose on something else when I walked in – and what I really want to mention is them beans.
I say “them” beans because that’s how beans of this elevated status should be addressed. Them beans aren’t your normal beans, where you walk in and say oh yes, and a side of those beans please. Them beans are bean royalty – the kind where you try ’em once and next time nearly shout “Gimme some of them beans!” Derek Allan’s pintos come thick and richly flavorful with a garnish of the house sausage – like the brisket, made with deliciously juicy Wagyu beef. But it was the seasoning and smoky oakiness of them beans that caught my attention. Just enough firmness but still fall-apart tender, they’re like an old veteran chuckwagon cookie made them up frijoles charros-style over an open campfire in a Dutch oven. Chances are most barbecue restaurant reviews aren’t going to spend a whole paragraph rhapsodizing over a side item, but them beans might just be the best I’ve ever tried.
Next time I’m going to have to try Derek Allan’s beef burnt ends with jalapeño jam, or the beef rib “Dino Bone” if I can get there on a Friday or Saturday when the latter is available. The pork rib I had with my combo plate was exquisite. Robust but not too spicy, the delicate meat came right off the bone. The turkey is outstanding, too. Moist but firm, turkey is no afterthought here. It can play with the big boys just fine.
And though I’m of the deep belief that truly good barbecue needs no condiments, Derek Allan’s thinnish Black Sauce fascinated me enough to try a bit. Know why they call it “black”? Because it has a touch of coffee in it. It’s zesty original thinking and perfectly piquant. It was sooooo good with that brisket and turkey. You can buy bottles to take home with you, and I could drink it.
For dessert, Derek Allan’s offers banana pudding – but I had to try what they call their Pecan Pie Parfait. Basically it’s crumbles of pecan pie and (I think) gooey chocolate chips in a cup topped with whipped cream. I know, I know. It sounds pretty basic, but it is a-mazing. Thank goodness I wasn’t in that part of town for a blood sugar test.
Derek Allan’s is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7am to 3pm. As their hours imply, they also serve breakfast – including Wagyu brisket tacos and egg & sausage plates with fresh toast and tortillas. They also recently introduced something called Brisket on a Biscuit. Oh, yeah. I can see I’m going to have to get up early soon and go try it.