I've always been a little unclear on the true meaning of the term "guilty
pleasure." Some people use it in reference to decadent, expensive items like
Godiva chocolates or Dom Perignon, while others may mean something rich and
fattening like guacamole or pasta carbonara. I've always taken the guilty
part literally, as in something you would be ashamed of eating in front of
someone you would like to impress, such as a secret crush.
When I lived in Portland, I would do ridiculous things like hide
pepperoni or liver under more respectable items in my cart just in case I
ran into someone who might be offended by such pedestrian fare. But now that
I'm a little older, wiser and surrounded by far fewer vegetarians/vegans
than ever, I'm much more candid about my gluttonous food choices.
Dallas BBQ is one of those guilty pleasure places that I rarely make of
point of going to, yet somehow end up at. I first went on Mother's Day half
out of a sense of sick curiosity, and half out of exhaustion from not being
about to find the Swiss restaurant I'd been meaning to go to. Since then,
I've probably been back about three times.
Saturday, I was out shopping, freezing and a little hungover from a
Halloween party the night before. I thought a nice bowl of soup would be the
perfect remedy. After walking around a bit, the genius idea of BBQ hit me.
This was about as far from a simple bowl of soup as one can get and at 5:30
it was a little early for diner by New York standards, but the place was
hopping and there was even a line out the door. The hungry mobs shouldn't
have been surprising since the clientele isn't typically East Village
(whatever that means). Dallas BBQ is the sort of place even in my more
secure old age, I'd feel mildly awkward if someone I knew saw me inside
(though there's not much worry of that since all the hip, health food kids
have moved across the river anyway).
So, if you can get past the garishness, sit down, blend in with the
crowd and savor your meaty morsels in anonymity. The price is right, the
portions are large, and the drinks are even larger. I hesitate to say it's
authentic barbecue, but if you want to get stuffed on massive quantities of
ribs and chicken, it'll do the trick. They hype up their "Texas Sized" Blue
Hawaii's, Pina Coladas and Margaritas like nobody's business and you'd be
well advised to order at least one. The fuzzy glow adds to the carnival-like
atmosphere and may even cause you to think aloud, "This place rocks!"
I usually end up with the ribs and chicken combo ($8.95) which comes
with cornbread and a starchy side. I always opt for the french fries to up
the grease quotient, but was highly tempted by the "new" yam mashed
potatoes. Maybe next time. There are all sorts of appetizers like buffalo
wings and vegetable tempura (of course, at BBQ the vegetables couldn't be
served naked, only a batter-fried version will do). Beware of the "onion
loaf" unless you're with a party larger than two. I'm dead serious. Once
James and I ordered a large since it was only $4.95. Were we naive. The
thing is this giant mound of coated, fried onions like thin onion rings that
have been stuck together to form a cylindrical mountain on the serving
plate. The waiter warned us about the amount of chicken wings we'd ordered,
but no one ever said a thing about the loaf.
New York's number one guilty pleasure needn't be a dirty secret anymore.
I will self-consciously squirm in my rickety little chair no longer. I'm
sitting proud, handi-wipe in hand. (10/28/00)
After searching Washington Heights bodegas for over the counter
antibiotics, we came up empty handed. Luckily, there was a BBQ branch
nearby, so the uptown excursion wasn't a total bust. (2/18/02)
Dallas BBQ * 132 Second Ave.,
New York, NY (and a handful of other Manhattan locations)