Given the popularity of a show like Diners, Drive-ins & Dives, it stands to reason that a good way to get people into your restaurant is to combine a low-key vibe with some outrageous dish or fancified take on a classic comfort. Or you could stop trying so hard and just cook food and offer service that speaks for itself — like Billy’s Oak Acres does.
Stepping into the place might make you think you’ve been invited to your favorite uncle’s backyard clubhouse. The kitchen is to the left, service counter and beer taps on the right, and straight ahead a pair of huge bay windows overlooking a verdant backyard bracketed by oak and pecan trees and low ranch fence made of twisted wood. The walls are wood-paneled, TVs occupy the corners, and there’s honkytonk on the stereo. And while the tables are all covered in blue and white checks, the chairs range from comfy, castered, cocktail seating to vintage chrome barstools. If the space itself is casual and welcoming, the service is even more so. My server was attentive and friendly without hovering.
Oh, if only my family made barbecue like this. Owner/cook Billy Woodrich, a big-bellied guy who used to work with Grady Spears and run a bounty hunting company, doesn’t claim to be the best barbecue chef in town, but he still makes some damn good ’cue. Though he’s been at the smoker for only seven months, his joint has become so popular that he ran out of ribs by the end of the lunch rush on a recent Saturday. And for good reason: In a sampling of four meats (brisket, sausage, hot links, and pulled pork), three sides, and a slice of cheddar apple pie, Billy’s barbecue held its own.
Pecan-smoked, with a nice crisp exterior, continuous smoke ring, and delectable bits of melt-in-your mouth fat, the brisket hit all the marks. The sauce isn’t really necessary, but it added a little bit of sweetness to the meat’s subtly smoky tenderness — washed down with a swallow of St. Arnold Root Beer, it’s one of those slices of heaven you remember for a long time. The sausage was pretty good, sans gimmicks, and tasty with or without the sauce.
Smoked bologna was the special the day we visited, but hot links were also featured; my second two-meat combo paired the spicy red sausage with savory shredded pork. Hotter than the sliced sausage, the links could have used even more pep, but they were still plenty flavorful. The pulled pork, also lightly drizzled in sauce, was succulent, juicy, and still had some deliciously chewy bits, blackened ends, and buttery fat — this pig merited contemplative bites, but you can’t blame a person for wolfing it right down.
Next to the tasty meat, Billy’s sides could have been an afterthought, but they made their own mark. The pinto beans and green beans were nice and peppery, and the brine at the bottom of the cup sparked the final bites with flavor. Far less piquant, the red potato salad was nonetheless delicious for all its creamy simplicity.
Besides the ’cue, Billy’s also serves chicken-fried steaks on Thursdays. Desserts — banana pudding, brownies, chocolate cake, and Brazos berry, pecan, and cheddar apple pies — are available all week long. The last features cheese baked into the crust, but you probably won’t notice it because the gooey apple filling is already so good.
At Billy’s Oak Acres, Woodrich allows the meats to do the talking and serves them as if you were eating at his home. Since he’s up there six days a week from open to close, you practically are at his house. Be sure to shake his hand so he can greet you by name the next time you come in.
Billy’s Oak Acres
1700 Las Vegas Tr, FW. 817-367-2200. 11am-6pm Sun, 11am-9pm Tue-Sat. Beer. MasterCard, Visa accepted.
w/brisket and sausage ……… $13.95
w/pulled pork and hot links … $13.95
Cheddar apple pie ………………….. $2.99