I Drove All the Way to South Dallas and Forgot to Ask for Sauce on the Side (Hardeman’s BBQ)

6 Aug

The dining scene in Dallas, at least by popular media standards, is all downtown and further north.  South Dallas, which is for the most part economically depressed, has its share of noteworthy food, just not the kind that the stereotypical newspaper/magazine subscriber or business traveler would seek out.  Is it media bias, consumer targeted marketing, or in my personal situation, simply a matter of logistics?  I live in the northern suburbs and never have to travel anywhere south of downtown unless heading to Houston.  But I’ve been curious and anxious to explore the mysterious south-of-IH 30 dining scene, where the potential for great BBQ, soul food, and Mexican lies just around the corner.  But which corner?  Thank goodness DallasFood has some great coverage on south Dallas food, with the most recent series of reports dedicated to Mexican food on Jefferson Blvd.

A trip to the Galaxy Drive-In Theatre in Ennis provided that perfect opportunity for some en route south Dallas chow, satisfying both my inner chowhound’s investigative instincts and inner engineer’s endless endeavor for efficiency.  My companion noted that he was in the mood for ribs.  By DallasFood’s recommendation, we headed for Hardeman’s BBQ on Lancaster (Hardeman’s has several locations through south Dallas).

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Not a fancy exterior, but once out of the car, your nose will immediate detect smoke from the BBQ pit at the back of the restaurant (visible from the parking lot).  The inside is equally simple but a bit dark.  As much as I craned my neck behind the counter, it was too dark to see anything distinct in the BBQ pit area.

Unfortunately the traffic to get to south Dallas was heavier than we had anticipated and we didn’t have time for a sit-down meal.  We ordered a mixed pound of mostly short-end ribs (usually meatier and more tender than the other end) with a few slices of brisket thrown in, plus a small side of potato salad and poundcake with vanilla icing for dessert (all for less than $20).  The friendly-in-a-motherly-way lady at the front counter packed everything into a neat to-go bag for us before I could get a glimpse of the food.

When we arrived at the Galaxy (which by the way doesn’t allow outside food, we didn’t discover this until we were parked), we opened the package to discover our dinner covered in sauce:

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Now, it’s not that I’m such a BBQ purist that I despise sauce, though typically I eat ribs sauce-less.  It’s a matter of using the sauce as a condiment, not drowning the meat in the BBQ sauce like it’s a thick stew.  Adding to the crisis of the sheer amount of too-thin-for-my-liking sauce is the overly tomatoey and sweet taste of the sauce.  Through all that sauce, it was hard to detect the smokey flavor of the meat.

The short-end ribs had a strong outer bark with great texture that could not be ruined by the sauce, as well as a fabulously tender interior.  Not quite fall off the bone tender, but it was close (I was able to eat them with just a fork).  The beef brisket was just average, not too fatty but a bit boring.

The extra eggy potato salad and rich, dense poundcake were excellent.  And yes, I definitely ate too much. 

Dallas is no BBQ mecca as anyone familiar with the local food scene will tell you.  To find ribs with memorable texture like Hardeman’s is a challenge in itself.  Next time I’ll make sure to ask for sauce on the side (or none at all).  But to really satisfy a BBQ craving, I’ll continue to pay homage to the legends in central Texas.  Good thing we’re making that Guadalupe float trip an annual tradition.

Rating: 3 / 5

Hardeman’s BBQ
2901 S. Lancaster Rd.
Dallas, TX 75216

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2 Responses to “I Drove All the Way to South Dallas and Forgot to Ask for Sauce on the Side (Hardeman’s BBQ)”

  1. Scott 08/09/2007 at 11:06 am #

    Good for you for giving South Dallas a shot, Donna!

    Just so you know, saucing the meat is pretty much universal in the black-operated barbecue joints south of Woodall-Rodgers. If you want it sauceless, you have to be sure to ask. Also, whenever you’re in South Dallas, you can usually safely skip the brisket. But always try the hot links. On average, sausage in South Dallas is better than what you get up north by an order of magnitude.

  2. Michael Davis 08/23/2007 at 8:35 pm #

    Be careful with Hardeman’s. They had a not-so-nice story on them a few months back.

    http://cbs11tv.com/investigators/local_story_050182027.html

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