Dickey's: First stop on a tour of Twin Cities barbecue

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I don't own a smoker and I don't barbecue. Barbecuing is all about low temperature and slow cooking. I'm a griller--high heat, fast cooking, instant gratification. Most of the recipes I create are meals that can be made in under an hour, so ribs aren't something I do on my show. But I do like me some ribs. When I go out to eat I want to order something that I don't make at home, so barbecue is a great restaurant meal for me.

My problem is all these southern transplants that constantly complain online about the complete lack of good barbecue up here north of the Mason-Dixon. I'm out to prove their snotty-Texan-pit-smoking-pulled-butts wrong. So for the next couple weeks I'm going to do a tour of the Twin Cities' barbecue scene. I'll do a different barbecue joint each week, always ordering the brisket, the ribs, the pulled pork, and some sides. (This is exactly the diet I was hoping for with swimsuit season approaching.) What are your favorite barbecue places? First up for me, Dickey's.

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Dickey's is a relative newcomer to our neck of the woods. Started in 1941 in Dallas, Texas, Dixie's now boasts 115 stores in 23 states. Like all national chains, it shares the advantages and disadvantages of being a large company. Because of its buying power, the prices are lower, but to maintain consistency in all 115 stores some food comes from corporate. For instance, at Dickey's the base BBQ sauce comes from corporate and then they mix the variations at each location based on set recipes. It's a mixture of prepared and fresh. The meat comes from Sysco, a national food distributor. But consistency can be good. When I was at the Shakopee store someone from corporate was there making sure everything was run to company standards and making everyone nervous. That's a good thing.
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Dickey's cooks some of its meats for 12 hours in a wood smoker with steam assist. Steam assist adds moisture while cooking at slow temps for moist but well-done meat. (We are starting to see this even in consumer ovens.) I was impressed they use real wood in their ovens and not some liquid version. The meat was tender and very smoky, with a nice but not incredibly unique sauce--again, the advantage and disadvantage of a national chain.

Other good news:
Fried okra: Good! Who knew? Not slimy or gross.
Yeasty dinner rolls: incredible.
Free ice cream: just the right amount of dessert.
Free plastic take-home cups.

Bad news.
Onion Tanglers. My dining companions felt we had received the bottom of the basket with just little bits of dark onion bits. But a return trip proved that consistent. At 560 calories per serving, they are not worth it.
There were some hard and tough edges to the brisket. We'll have to see how consistent that is with the other restaurants.

Overall a pleasant and inexpensive dining experience. The pulled pork sandwich was one of the best I've had. Interestingly they list it as pork butt on the website but not in the restaurant. Maybe it's a southern thing. Give them a try and let me know if you agree or disagree, unless you're from Texas.

Stores in Maple Grove and Shakopee, with six more coming soon.

Nutritional information:
Beef brisket - 405 calories
Pork ribs - 445 calories
Pulled pork sandwich - 550 calories
Jalapeno beans - 220 calories
Yeasty roll - 140 calories
Onion tanglers - 560 calories
Fried okra - n/a

Rob Barrett


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