If I asked you to name some iconic New York restaurants, we could all probably guess what might get listed. Katz's Deli. Russ & Daughters. Joe's Pizza. Momofuku. Shake Shack. Magnolia Bakery. Peter Luger.
But there's one place that, if you aren't from New York, I promise you didn't name, but if you've lived here for even a year or two, I could just as easily promise you did. And if you grew up here, it might actually be the first place on your list. Dallas BBQ.
Dallas BBQ is not a great barbecue joint. This isn't where you line up to get incredible platters of smoked brisket and sausage, nobody is about to even consider making an argument that it can compete with whatever other hometown barbecue joint you have in mind (such as, say, Hometown Barbecue down in Red Hook). Dallas BBQ is essentially Applebees. It's an affordable, big, loud, family-friendly sports bar-ish restaurant, which probably sells more chicken wings and margaritas every night than it does racks of ribs. There's about a dozen locations around the city, and as far as I can tell, it's solely a New York chain. And people love it.
And when I say "people," I mean people. Like, the actual "real" (scare quotes) New Yorkers that actually make up the majority of this city. Alec Baldwin has probably never been there. Your friend who lives in Bushwick has probably made fun of it in passing (although a fake Dallas BBQ lookalike was featured in Broad City as the location where Abbi and Ilana celebrate their anniversary every year, so it's possible your Bushwick friends once went there ironically). But for a ton of people in this city, Dallas BBQ is the place that you go for your son's birthday, or where you get drinks after a softball game, where your family goes after church, where you meet up with coworkers for happy hour every week, where teenagers can afford to go eat with friends on a Friday night. Like I said, it's Applebees. But as a friend of ours—a Queens native—put it: Dallas BBQ is for New Yorkers.
I'd usually jump in here and say, "And unlike Applebee's, it's actually good!" But honestly it's been so long since I've eaten at Applebees that I have no idea how that place holds up at this point in my life. Maybe it's fine?? But Dallas BBQ: yeah, it's actually pretty good!
Despite all my snark up there about Bushwick cool kids eating at Dallas BBQ ironically, I'd be lying if I said our visit there wasn't at least a little tongue in cheek. Like maybe 20%. But really it was just like, we felt like having some loud sports bar food, felt like going somewhere cheap and easy, and just said "Fuck it, let's actually go to Dallas BBQ and check it out!" I knew going in that they didn't actually have a ton of barbecue options. But I was slightly disappointed that the only ribs they offer are babyback ribs. Which, despite what Chili's would want you to think, are the crappiest cut of rib. Which is why Chilis and Applebees and Dallas serve them. They're cheap compared to spare ribs. But all things considered, these ribs were good! They were tender enough, not too fatty (I'm looking at you, Gentle Perch), and the sauce was tangy and had just enough personality that it didn't feel generic. I got a baked potato on the side, and it's pretty fucking hard to screw up a baked potato, so they nailed that too. Erin got some honey-lemon chicken which was fried, not smoked, which was disappointing, but still not too bad. And she also got a margarita the size of a tractor tire; almost everyone there seemed to have ordered a margarita the size of a tractor tire, I imagine that's mostly what keeps the place in business.
There's always talk and discussing and hemming and hawing about "real New Yorkers" versus transplants, locals versus tourists, rich versus mega-rich versus middle class versus poor. I don't want to say that Dallas BBQ is somehow in the center of it all bringing all those factions together—it's not that. But it absolutely is a place for "New Yorkers." Most people in this city aren't eating at Russ & Daughters every weekend. They can't afford Momofuku, probably haven't even heard of Balthazar or Eleven Madison Park, and absolutely don't care about whatever new hot pop-up is opening in Gowanus. But going to Dallas BBQ is the highlight of a lot of people's weeks. If you're ever in town, you absolutely don't need to go there, and I think there's something nice about that.