My partner is a fan of a good barbecue. We have been to a few all around the Lower Mainland, so today we were giving “Dixie’s” on Hastings a try. They are known for their Texas style barbecue and show their allegiance through the restaurant’s decor. It has a well themed rugged look with a worn wood pallet ceiling, a wagon wheel chandelier, and red brick and sheet metal walls.
I liked the rusted cinema style light boxes, repurposed into signs on the left hand wall. The pair welcomed you in and advertised their availability of brisket, ribs, links, and smoked pork; with its shattered light bulbs.
And I found their use of an old pick-up truck clever. It jutted out of the front left wall. Not only for propping, but its tail gate could be dropped and the stools taken down from its trunk to create four additional bar-style seats.
Behind the bar, a pair of longhorns crowned the flat screen television broadcasting a blue jays baseball game. It was mounted within a refurbished glass door cabinet, which certainly added to the country homey look of the place. With it were two additional cabinets on either side. Its shelves were used to carry all their whiskeys. And the space under them, held all the glasses needed to pour yourself a stiff drink.
The bar continued to draw your attention, with an angle iron suspending thick chains and light bulbs within mason jars. Both hanging above the stools that lined it. Their was an old timey register for show, it matched the antique revolvers hanging behind the bar on display.
We originally started off seated at one of their high tops, but was quick to trade up given how uncomfortable the stools were. They were hard and flat with jagged edges. And the table in front of it much taller. I felt I was too short to be able to satisfactorily reach the food that would be presented before me. Luckily we were able to move to a larger picnic table by the window, this was the most effective seating arrangement for us. One large enough for us to be able share our meal below.
Each table was well equipped with your own paper towel roll for the hand held adventure before you. Pails of cutlery and a caddy of sauces were available to take and use as needed. On the table was also a listed explanation of the different American styles of barbecue, and where to find them locally. I found this a great lesson to learn off of a table sign.
Central Texas BBQ emphasized on the meat, where the sauces and side are secondary. It is always served with white bread and pickles to help cut in to the grease and balance the plate with some acidity. This is what we would be having at “Dixie’s” today. Memphis style barbecue is big on pork including pork ribs and pulled pork. Both use a dry rub, before a thorough cook in a big pit. Locally you can get this from “Memphis blues”. North Carolina style BBQ also specializes in pork. They brush theirs with a spice and vinegar mixture while cooking, and then serve it with a ketchup based sauce. This is represented in the city by “Pekinpah”. Kansas City style uses all kinds of meat and they are all cooked super slow and super low, preferably over hickory wood. The sauce is most commonly a thick, sweet molasses and tomato mix that sticks. In Vancouver you can get this from “Hog Shack”.
When dishes were ready, one of the chefs came out from the back to help serve them. He came out gleefully in its torn and worn tan apron, thick beard, and baritone voice. If I were to personify a good barbecue, he is what I would describe. He hand delivered metal trays two by two and gave additional information on all of the meats as he set them down.
To get the best assessment of the place we ordered the “The Bubba”, which offered up a little bit of everything. This is a family style dinner meant to be shared at $35.00 per person. It included a tasting of all their smoked meats: brisket, pork ribs, hot links sausage and pulled pork. It also had a healthy serving of their corn meal fried chicken, best enjoyed with their country gravy and your choice of one side per person. We went for the mac n cheese and cornbread over the possibility of smoked brisket beans, tots, serrano cheese spinach, meat chilli, biscuit, coleslaw or potato salad. The menu and our server warned us about the portion size and the need to be hungry to fully enjoy it all. Although we find comfort in having leftovers and the ability to pick at it for days to come.
It was recommend that we start on the beef brisket first, as the fat on it will congeal the longer we leave it. It was prepared 8:30am, first thing in the morning, and you could tell this was the case by the quality of the meat in your mouth. It was tender and juicy, however lacked flavour for me. It had us reaching for a sauce, but only the hot variety or ketchup was available at our table. And the country gravy that came with the platter already had chunks of meat in it. Besides it was best paired with the fried chicken instead.
The fried chicken was my favourite, it was deboned for eating ease and breaded crispy in their corn meal batter. The meat underneath this thick layer of crunch was some of the juiciest I have had. But as good as this was, it was only good eaten right away. The breading didn’t keep its wonderful crunch the day after.
Once again, I liked the pairing of it with the county gravy. The gravy was thick and creamy like congee, adding a different textural element to the chicken, as well flavour. Althohgh I could have done without the chunks of ground beef embedded within it. It was tasty, but not necessarily. It was already a flavourful gravy as is, and its texture without ground beef would have been better to highlight everything else around it.
We found that the pulled pork also lacked flavour, and once again we were without a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce to perk things up with. But like the brisket the meat was just so well done that you continued to eat.
The only smoked meat we found enjoyable presented to us as is was the whole rack of ribs. It was marinaded in Dr. Pepper soft drink for that extra syrupy sweet flavour. The meat fell off the bone, or was at least easy to pry from bone.
Amendment, the spicy sausage cut up into chunks, was the most flavourful of the smoked meats. It had plenty of herbs and lots of fire for flavour. This too was enjoyable dipped into the country gravy to balance out all that spice.
The corn bread was a little dry and I could have done without the chopped up jalapeños in it. And instead I would have preferred it with more sweet sponge to help break the meal up. Something different to rejuvenate the plate, helping to change all the overwhelming meaty textures and flavours.
The macaroni was more successful in offering us this much needed break. However, alone it was bland, just a thin coating of cheese over starchy pasta spirals.
When it came time to leave, our bill was rolled up and presented in a large calibre bullet casing, it was a nifty touch. And I knew I couldn’t walk out without first visiting their washroom. Based on how well themed the dining area was, I wanted to see if things were consistent all the way through to the washrooms.
The hallway leading to the facilities were marked by a handsome set of antlers and a couple of swinging saloon doors. The corridor on route to the stalls were painted with the Texas flag and a few photographs to mark the city. Inside, each stall had its walls papered with faded posters of country singers and black and white photographs of cowboys and Indians. Kenny Rogers with a mike and Dolly Parton in her teens. It also had its own juke box, but I couldn’t be sure the country ballads playing were coming from it. The sink was a repurposed oil drum, the flowers sat in a recycled milk can, and the soap dispenser was once a mason jar.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
This was both our first time trying this style of barbecue, so we couldn’t help but to compare it to what we liked from our favourite: Memphis style barbecue with its sauces and fries. Both of which we were left craving for. Not that there is anything wrong with this style, it is just not our preferred type of barbecue. However I would still recommend them, and wouldn’t be apposed to returning for more chicken and sauces, or maybe to try one of their burgers instead. Don’t deny your cravings.