Another first year fest Scott scored tickets for and this one seemed to be under most folk's radar. Supposedly they still had VIP tickets left the day of the fest. That's sad because there were some very good BBQ joints present and every bite of brisket I had was excellent. We never saw the Snob or the Texas BBQ Posse but we did run into Misty and Todd from Cattleack BBQ and Chad from the Red Dirt Fest. Chad says Red Dirt will be back in Tyler in May. We shall be there!
This party was promoted as a combination music festival and BBQ festival, hence the cow/musical instrument themes. It was held at Main Street Garden, a small block wide pocket park bounded by Main Street, St. Paul, Commerce, and Harwood in downtown Dallas. The setting was similar to that of the Red Dirt Fest in Tyler only with bigger buildings and more expensive parking.
Things seemed a bit disorganized at the start. The check-in booth was within the security fence and the police officer at the gate had no clue about ticket prices or if there were tickets still available. I saw several folks who stopped and asked. Enquiries at the gate found that there was no early check in for VIPs. We cued up just before 1pm and they began the ticket, wristband, and security check right at 1 pm. Fortunately there were only a handful of folks there at the start so we didn't lose much of our "golden hour" before the general admission throngs came in. If they are going to put the check-in booth inside the security line they might want to check bags at that gate, then check in and wait by the booth for admittance. That would speed things along nicely when they open for business. That's something most of the other fests seem to have down. You shouldn't have to spend "eating time" waiting for check-in and security when that can be done before the gates are opened.
Main Street was closed off and that served as pit row for the line of portable BBQ pits fueling the festival.
The booths were set up in front of the pits and most served the usual paper boats with anything from 1 small piece of brisket or sausage to a nearly full meal.
In addition to the usual smoked meat masters like Black's, Stanley's and Lockhart Smokehouse, some additional area chefs participated and some stepped outside the BBQ lines to serve sides or dessert. The meats were all excellent. All of the brisket had well rendered fat that melted in your mouth. Not a single bit was undercooked. I am hard pressed to pick out favorites, all of it was very good, however the burnt end bits we got at Black's were about as good as it gets. I only had two pork ribs, one from Stanley's and one from Hutchins, and both were outstanding. Louie Mueller's was serving beef ribs that were excellent with their usual peppery rub. All of the sausage I had was nice, too, especially the new brisket sausage from Longorias. Good stuff.
We ended up trying 14 of the 15 joints at the fest. I never made it by the gourmet hot dog place. There was another chef who was set up behind the stage for the performers but we weren't with the band so "no soup for you".
For a first year fest things seemed to run pretty well. $3 for bottled water seemed a bit steep and made me appreciate the free watering stations at the Texas Monthly and other fests. Also there was no "swag bag" for VIPs. Now that's not why we're there or why we pay the VIP ticket price. It's just a difference we noticed from the other fests we go to. If it helps keep prices down that's a good thing. Anyone who wants a t-shirt can certainly buy one. We didn't.
We left just before general admission time of 2 pm and there was a decent line waiting to get inside. I have seen much longer lines at Pecan Lodge and Franklins.
Additional photos of booths and food follow below. As always you can click on any photo for a larger view.
I love barbecue. I always wanted to spend some vacation time sampling the best BBQ joints in Texas. A few years ago, my friend Scott and I started doing just that and we've been doing it every year since. We call it the "Calories and Cholesterol Tour". Since so many people were asking me about our experiences, I started writing them up. We are not expert eaters or writers. We just do this for fun and because we LOVE Texas BBQ.
A note about our reviews. We tend to be "stealth" reviewers. We don't ask for pit tours or cooking techniques and we try to be discrete about taking photos til after we are done. We want to experience each meal as an average customer.
If you know a great Texas BBQ joint we need to try, e-mail me at donotemp AT lycos DOT com. CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A LARGER VIEW
I also have a separate bass fishing blog.