Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Discomfort Food

Sonny Bryan’s
2202 Inwood Rd.
Dallas, TX

There is a certain school of barbeque philosophy that states good barbeque can’t be too comfortable.

After all, any self-respecting pit master is going to have to toil in triple digit Texas heat hovering for hours (or days) over a smoldering fire in a dark carcinogen-filled smokehouse.

Some of the more famous Texas barbeque joints down around Lockhart don’t even offer utensils. Customers sit there at a picnic table with strangers and eat their fall-apart tender brisket off a piece of wax paper the way God intended – with their fingers.

Just don’t wipe them on your tie.

This “discomfort = great barbeque” school views Sonny Bryan’s as its Mecca.

With ancestry dating back 101 years, Sonny Bryan’s is considered something of a tourist destination in a city that otherwise has none.

In its half century old “dining room”, Sonny Bryan’s takes barbeque discomfort to a new level. The tiny, dusty old room’s walls are lined with one armed junior high school desks.

The regulars, who know exactly how to get in and out of the damn things without smearing BBQ sauce all over their butts, enjoy the entertainment value of watching the tourists fail to do so.

After you place your order at the counter, they call out your initials and serve your meal on a big round metal pizza pan which you lug to a precious vacant school desk after grabbing a mini Corona bottle of Sonny Bryan’s famous sweet sauce off of the warming plate.

Except once you place the pan on the arm of the desk, there’s no room to squeeze your butt between the sauce laden food and the shoulder of the rough-looking cowboy sitting next to you.

I studied the situation for a moment and decided to ditch the pan to give myself a few extra inches. I precariously placed the plate of BBQ, sauce bottle and long neck on the tiny arm of the desk before attempting to plop my butt down.

The regulars all snickered.

It’s been a couple decades since I’ve attempted to eat at one of these things. Let me tell you, not as easy as you think. Either these desks are too small or my arms are too long.

One or the other.

After apologizing a few times for accidently elbowing Wyatt Earp sitting next to me, I said a quick prayer of thanks to God for making me right-handed. I have no clue how a lefty could even contemplate this maneuver.

But I’m happy to report that there is a reason so many locals and out-of-towners stand in line in the Texas heat to endure this indignity.

The barbeque here is the real deal.

Obviously, when in Texas, you order brisket.

I like my barbeque tender. So whenever given the choice between sliced or chopped, I always opt for the latter.

But not in Texas.

Done right – as in slow smoked for a day or two over hard wood – sliced Texas brisket is tender as melted butter. There’s no need to get it chopped up.

Down around Lockhart, BBQ sauce is as frowned upon as forks and plates. You just don’t need it.

But the warmed up aromatic sauce is part of what makes Sonny Bryan’s a Texas legend. So I happily poured a good third of the bottle over my pile of sliced cow before I squeezed the two soft buns together and took my first bite.


That’s the best way to describe sinking my teeth through this soft as a pillow, flavor-packed sandwich. BBQ heaven.

Almost as famous as their sauce and brisket, Sonny Bryan’s giant buttermilk onion rings are on almost every customer’s tray. Big, sweet and juicy, these are among the best rings you’ll ever find.

The ranch style baked beans were decent, more savory than sweet.

As I washed it all down with a local Fireman’s #4 Blonde Ale, I decided that a little discomfort and elevated dry cleaning bill is a small price to pay to experience one of the true legends of Texas.

Rating: Seriously Thought About Buying Shirt.

Sonny Bryan's Smokehouse on Urbanspoon


  1. Just realized I visited this place back in 2012 on what I think was one of the hottest days in the history of Texas. I was sitting out in the hot sun on a picnic table stuffing my face full of delicious BBQ all while wearing a wool suit.

  2. Now that's what I call discomfort!