Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue, 1116 8th Av, FW. 817-238-3840. 11am-4pm (or until sold out) Tue-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
The doors of Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue open promptly at 11 a.m., and in a mere 15 minutes, more than a dozen patrons of all stripes – from shirt-and-tie business execs to baseball cap-wearing frat boys – form a line from the cash register up to the front door.
Welcome to a slow Wednesday morning at Fort Worth’s latest entry into the fiercely competitive craft barbecue scene. Allan’s Texas Barbecue, open for about six weeks, has shrewdly chosen quite the buzzy location, smack in the middle of the Hospital District, across from yet another freshly minted apartment complex and a comfortable distance from a prestigious name in local ’cue: Heim Barbecue.
This is as family-run an operation as it gets, with no outside investors, Derek Allan himself manning the carving area up front, while his wife, Brittany, rings up your order. Brittany is a Jackie of all trades, chatting up customers, amiably apologizing for items that have sold out, and bussing tables often with her brother.
The 35-year-old Allan, a Fort Worth native, first found a rabid following for his barbecue while manning the wildly successful Don’t Mess with Texas BBQ food truck in Grapevine.
When it comes to the essential ingredient of beef, for Allan, it’s all about the Wagyu. He discovered that the Gearhart ranch was his best source for Texas-raised Japanese black cattle. The Jeff Davis County-based ranch produces the most melt-in-mouth flavor of Wagyu, Allan said.
After securing the ideal product, Allan custom-forged two vertical smokers from old propane tanks. He manufactured one smoker just for sausage.
Allan brings real art to the tricky science of smoking. Beginning his restaurant day at 3 a.m. by firing up his smokers, Allan, with his preference for oak, has discovered that elusive sweet spot for smoking sausage (at 200-300 degrees), turkey (two to three hours), and pork ribs (five to six hours), while his brisket takes anywhere from seven to 10 hours.
And then there are his homemade rubs: Derek Allan’s Dirty Dalmatian rubs in blends for beef, pork, and Texas Black. The rubs showered over beef, pork, and turkey combine feisty (not-just-for-color) Hungarian paprika, smoked sea salt, and genuine New Mexican-grown ancho chile. The Texas Black blend – highlighted by freshly ground, aged tellicherry peppers – amps up the brisket.
Allan’s alchemy of wood, heat, and smoke – the last always subtle, never overwhelming – and his hand-crafted rubs were in pitch-perfect harmony in all of the proteins I sampled.
The smoked Wagyu beef sausage fulfilled that thoroughly enjoyable cliché of simultaneously delivering a buttery mouth-feel along with that lean, juicy, richly meaty taste.
My single serving of turkey converted me from skeptic to believer. After a generous application of Allan’s hand-crafted spice rub, my turkey slices emerged with a delicate char, ringing their outer edge before giving way to interior tender juiciness that was fowl fabulous.
My two pork ribs were a post-graduate-level example of rib preparation as the burnished bark exterior, the color of a mahogany coffee table, hinted at the spurting-juice lusciousness of its interior meat.
As for the Wagyu brisket, its layers of flavor were delivered by its expertly calibrated application of smoke forming an outer charred crust (plus a glistening layer of unctuous fat) yielding to descending levels of smoke-ringed, pull-apart beefy goodness.
The sides brought the same sophisticated smoke touch, especially the ever-popular mac ’n’ cheese (creamy, not gloppy), whose chipotle-scented bread crumbs scattered over the cavatappi pasta brought a welcome touch of spicy heat to what can risk being a boringly tame side. While the pinto beans were spiked with healthy chunks of Wagyu sausage, Allan could apply a heavier spice hand with his saucing of the coleslaw – the meal’s only truly flat offering.
The banana pudding dessert, with its flotilla of mini Nilla wafers bobbing on its surface, sent me tripping back to around the fourth grade. Allan’s use of handmade vanilla extract perfumed the entire dessert and infused the bananas with even more tropical island flair.
As I left while Allan placed the “sorry y’all sold out” sign on his window, I couldn’t help recalling the various slogans on Allan’s “memory lane wall” collage adorning the back of his simply decorated restaurant. Amid dozens of photos was the stirring maxim from Martin Luther King Jr: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
As Allan is determined to apply that same generosity of spirit and devotion to his ’cue – and paired with another window slogan proclaiming, “Texas BBQ is my religion” – then the restaurant bearing his name may very well be assured a huge and loyal following of steady customers.
Derek Allan’s Texas Barbecue
1/4 pound brisket $5.50
1/4 pound pork ribs $4.75
1/4 pound sausage $4.75
1/4 pound turkey $4.75
Chipotle mac ’n’ cheese $3.50
Pinto beans $3
Banana pudding $5