The Upswell Summit, November 15-17 in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), reflects the local roots and deep community engagement of our host area — from the programming to the unique cuisine DFW is known for — especially the amazing BBQ! For some, the BBQ is “all about the brisket.” For others, there’s “something about the sauce.” But one fact is for sure — DFW ranks high for dishing up some of the best BBQ on the Texas dining scene.
From “mom-and-pop” stops to legendary locales, DWF has all the smoke — and flavor! — to make your pit-stop experience both mouth-watering and delectable. Whether a Food Network craze or Guy Fieri fave, make sure you register for the Upswell Summit, and while you’re in town — visit one (or more!) of these BBQ joints during your “me time” — and chow down to the bone!
Smokey Joe’s BBQ
Not to be confused with the other “Smokey” BBQ joint on this list, this Oak Cliff fave has been serving the smoke for well over 40 years. Run by pitmaster Kris Manning, Smokey Joe’s is a Top 50 Texas BBQ location, and known for slicing the best brisket in town. Manning professes to studying under the best, just to perfect the look and taste of his brisket — one that has mouths watering and traveling all the way up I-35 for a bite. But save some room for dessert. Smokey Joe fans can never leave without a slice of the famous buttermilk pie, which is a staple to the location and to this family-owned establishment.
Foodie Tip: For the adventurous, order the boudin. An ode to the Louisiana sausage, the Smokey Joe’s boudin is homemade, spicy, and stuffed with both brisket and all the sausage “fixins” one can handle!
Smokey John’s BBQ
This “Smokey” stop is known for its ribs, southern-style sides, and its two owners: brothers Brent and Juan Reaves. Seen on A&E’s “Best in Chow” and “Deep Fried Dynasty,” plus a top runner-up on Good Morning America’s best pitmasters, this Smokey John’s duo dishes up more than just food at this family-owned location — they’re also serving some star power. Offered cafeteria style, the local favorites span smoked sausages, pork ribs (seasoned savory with a hint of sweet), BBQ loaded baked potatoes, plus more. Depending on the day of the week, you might spy a celeb or two dining in, or catch one of the two brothers behind the glass chopping up a slab of brisket. During Thanksgiving, Smokey John’s offers the ultimate foodie fix: a large turkey leg stuffed with homestyle dressing.
Foodie Tip: Try the fried catfish. It’s finger-licking good! Although SJ’s is an award-winning BBQ destination, the real locals know that the fried catfish is the real star on the menu — no tartar needed.
Another award-winning destination, Pecan Lodge (the Lodge) is located in the heart of Deep Ellum, Texas destination for arts, music, culture, and innovation. Nestled comfortably toward the edge of Main Street, the family-owned establishment is named among Texas Monthly’s Top 4 BBQ joints in the world. “Just some mesquite wood, plus a little oak” is a part of their BBQ success secret, according to owners Justin and Diane Fourton, who ditched their corporate jobs to make the Lodge the cult favorite as it is today. The portions are hearty and the flavors are full as the Texas-sized brisket, hefty sides, and housemade sausage top the Lodge’s “must-try” items.
Foodie Tip: Plan to arrive early to avoid long lines — which are inevitable at this Deep Ellum hotspot, (and especially during the lunch hour). But as with any great BBQ restaurant — it’s always worth the wait.
Boasting three locations across DFW, Heim’s tagline, “farm to smoke,” truly marks their commitment to quality sourced meat and ingredients for its craft BBQ menu. Open seven days a week, this local fave dishes traditional BBQ items of brisket, jalapeno cheddar sausage, pulled pork, and even beef short ribs. But it’s the hangover side of the menu that has all the mouths watering: loaded mac-n-cheese (with choice of brisket or pulled pork), loaded potato skins, and its instaworthy BBQ Snob Sandwich. This massive sandwich packs a whole jalapeno cheddar sausage link, a half-pound of chopped brisket, topped off with bacon burnt ends, and overflowing from a jalapeno cheddar bun. Let’s face it — this was the Texan thing to do. And lest you forget — Bacon. Burnt. Ends! Run (don’t walk) to Heim if you’re in a pinch for some Texas-sized, unforgettable barbecue.
Foodie Tip: It’s like Pokemon at Heim — try them all!
For a destination more centrally located in Dallas, the spacious eatery of Oak’d BBQ is on the menu. Also a cafeteria-style BBQ spot, the restaurant is equipped for dining in, as flat screen TVs line the wall for the perfect combo of BBQ and sports, or a casual night out. Oak’d prides itself for its chef-driven menu that boasts both locally and regionally sourced meats — including its much-requested wagyu brisket. Delicious and tender, its brisket is “infused with the vanilla-tinged flavor of Texas Post Oak smoke, and cradled in a peppery bark.” Outside of the meats, Oak’d is known for its gourmet sides — straight from its scratch kitchen. Its biscuits and pies are also showstoppers, along with a dessert menu and homemade ice cream that is simply like no other.
Foodie Tip: Try the collard greens. That’s it. That’s the tip — no additional words (or seasoning) is needed. Thank us later.
The 2023 Upswell Summit, powered by Independent Sector and Social Venture Partners (SVP) Dallas, is a central meeting place for community activists, nonprofit leaders, philanthropists, business and corporate leaders, academics, journalists, and others partnering to build a better future for us all to heal, learn, and thrive.