Soulman's Bar-B-Que (Mesquite, TX)
It had been a few weeks since I'd last devoured some smoked meat, and my inner carnivore was having serious withdrawals. Soulman's has billboards all around the Dallas suburbs which tout their "Since '74" slogan. In honor of their 40th year, I thought I'd give Soulman's a try. There are a dozen different branches of this joint, but I wanted to scope out the original location.
Soulman's website says they opened doors at their Pleasant Grove location on October 19, 1974. Of their different locations, the Mesquite spot is the closest to being in Pleasant Grove (close, but still 5 miles away). Perhaps the township borders have just shifted over the past four decades. Regardless, I thought it was worth a try.
I caught the scent of delicious smoke as soon as I pulled up, even before I stepped out of my truck. Inside, a great smoky aroma filled every inch of this place. There was a pleasant country atmosphere which matched the music they were pumping out. I felt right at home.
Their other slogan is "We're not stingy with our meats," so I hoped for a true belt-busting feast. Soulman's has eight different meats available, but the true measure of any bbq joint worth its salt is the ability to dish out the Texas Trinity: brisket, ribs, sausage. I snagged their 3 Meat Plate without hesitation. Everything is sliced to order right in front of you, which is always appreciated. I took this opportunity to request fatty brisket rather than lean. They also seem to favor thinner slices of meat, so I asked for thicker slices as well. Side dishes are self-serve, and I helped myself to pinto beans and potato salad.
Soulman's has two versions of pinto beans to pick from: regular and loaded with pico de gallo. Naturally, I opted for pico. The beans had great flavor and a definite kick from the diced jalapeno. I also liked the crunch from the onions. I'm going to have to steal this recipe and make it at home. As for the potato salad, it was unsurprisingly mustard-based. There was a big punch of dill and pickle which masked the mustard nicely. I generally like my potato salad with larger diced potatoes, but the flavors here were great nonetheless.
Despite my earlier request, the brisket was still sliced a little on the thin side. The bland bark was seasoned with little more than a light dusting of salt and pepper, and the bites without bark had almost no flavor at all. I found only a modicum of smoke, which makes sense because there was barely any smoke ring on these slices. The brisket was tender and juicy, but definitely not what I would consider "fatty" brisket by any means.
The sausage contained some pretty finely-ground meat, suggesting that it was store bought, and the taste echoed the same fear. It tasted like Hormel, and there was hardly a hint of smoke. It was also a little greasy for my liking. There was a decent snap to the casings at least. It could definitely use some coarse black pepper and more garlic, though it's hard to tweak sausage that you don't make in-house.
As usual, I saved the ribs for last. The crust looked about average. I couldn't see any pepper, so I feared these ribs would be about as bland as the other two meats had been. To my surprise, they were cooked well and were quite moist. There wasn't much smoke here either, though still more than the brisket and sausage combined. The majority of the flavor came from the grill char rather than from the smoking process or a rub. My ribs were the only one of the three meats I actually finished eating, and that's partially because there were only two of them.
As disappointing as my meal had been, I couldn't help grabbing a peach fried pie for dessert, especially since they're only 49 cents each.
The flaky crust and gooey peach filling were amazing. It wasn't overly sweet and tasted fresh, not like the canned pie filling I often find. I don't know if they make or purchase their pies, but it was the best part of this whole meal. Well, that and the pico beans.
Soulman's certainly doesn't skimp on the portion size of their meats, though they do seem to skimp on the amount of wood used to smoke them. Commenting on the fact that this joint is located on Gross Road is like shooting fish in a barrel, so I'll leave that one alone. However, I will say that for a place called Soulman's, their meats seem to lack spirit and passion.