Friday, June 28, 2013

First Look: Work Bar & Grill in Deep Ellum, Dallas

Brisket plate with sides of cole slaw and tortellini mac & cheese at Work Bar & Grill. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

A philosophical question: Can a place that has more salads on its menu than smoked meats be called a barbecue joint?

After sampling the brisket, pulled pork and chicken at Work Bar and Grill in Deep Ellum, the Posse answers "Yes."

We also are better able to answer a couple of other pressing Dallas barbecue questions.

Where's a good place to have a sit-down barbecue dinner with drinks?

Lockhart Smokehouse used to be our only recommendation. Now, we can add Work. Both have great bars.

And, if the lunch line at Pecan Lodge is way too long, where's a good nearby alternative?

Work is only a few blocks away.

For a couple weeks or so, we had been hearing good things about Work, which recently opened, from several Posse advance scouts, although one did say the brisket portions were too small.

During our lunch visit Thursday, four of us ordered a sampling of all the smoked meats on the menu. (Note: Pork ribs, baby backs, are only served Thursday nights. We'll be back.)

The pulled pork, with a smokey light sauce, was excellent. The brisket was very good. It had a nice crust and parts were almost melt-in-your-mouth tender. The chicken was good, but like the brisket, could have used more smoke taste.

Work Bar & Grill from the inside and outside. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

"This is better than 90 percent of the places in Dallas," Posse member Jim Rossman said.

We don't usually make a big deal out of sides, but we're going to make an exception. The tortellini mac and cheese was wonderful.

"That's dangerously good," Rossman said. Later, he and I scraped up the remaining thick cheese sauce with waffle fries. Miss Manners would not have approved, but this is the Posse. Excuse us, please.

The real interesting aspect to all of this is that the pitmaster at Work, Doug Pickering, is a relative newbie. So, if he continues to learn and improve, there's nothing but barbecue upside.

A refugee from the hedge fund world, Pickering, 34, said he has been cooking about a decade or so for friends and family, some of that time with a Big Green Egg. In March, he got a real smoker, the Magnum Sniper from Pitmaker in Houston, which lists at $5,000 or so.

It's set up in a shed behind the restaurant, very similar to the arrangement at Pecan Lodge in the Farmers Market.

Pitmaster Doug Pickering loads up some lunch plates at Work Bar and Grill. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

"I'm used to the Green Egg," Pickering said as he showed us his smoke house. "I'd set it up and walk away for 20 hours. This thing requires maintenance about every hour or so."

Pickering, who largely uses oak and pecan wood and throws some apple chunks on for chicken,  said he cooks about 100 to 200 pounds of meat a day. He has Sundays and Mondays off.  

"I'm kind of old to get started with 18-hour days in this heat," he said. "But I love it so much it doesn't really bother me."

Another interesting aspect to Work is that Pickering has his own brand -- D.W.P.  Grill M.D. -- and does catering jobs from the same location.

Managing partner Shea Comer acknowledged that it is an unusual arrangement.  He also said the owners are keen to expand the Work concept to other locations, if it proves popular.

The Posse doesn't yet know about the salads or other menu mainstays, but based on the barbecue, we'd say expansion is not out of the realm of possibility.

Work Bar and Grill, 2618 Elm Street, Dallas, 214-699-6959. Open Thurs 5pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 11am-2am, Sun 11am-10pm, Mon 8pm-2am, closed Tues-Wed.

Pulled pork plate with sides of sweet potato fries and beans. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Our waitress brings two brisket plates. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Pitmaster Doug Pickering takes a break by his Magnum Sniper smoker, made by Pitmaker out of Houston.
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Work pitmaster Doug Pickering is the lucky guy with Texas BRISKET plates. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

Pickering mainly uses pecan and oak woods to smoke meat at Work. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse) 

Scenes of Deep Ellum are reflected in the front window of Work Bar & Grill. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/Fotobia.com)

2 comments:

  1. I had some of Doug's brisket at a party at the Taylor's in May. It was fantastic. Best I've had in a good long while. Congrats on your new place and thanks for the delicious brisket.

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  2. I had the fat side w/burnt ends.

    I stepped outside the door and leaped a nearby tall building in a single bound.

    It was that good.

    ReplyDelete