337 East Hastings | 778-379-4770 | MeatAtDixies.com
Open for dinner Wednesday-Sunday, 5pm-midnight (close 10pm on Sundays)
Brunch Saturday-Sunday, 10am-2pm.
Once upon a time, barbecue wasn’t something you would go out for. Unless you were picking up a rib platter at Safeway, it seemed that ready-made barbecue was something you could only have in summer on your back deck – and even then, there were limits. I used to plan trips to places like Texas and North Carolina strictly for the chance to have some authentic smoked and grilled meat.
The times, they are a-changin’, however, and Vancouver is currently packed silly with joints like Memphis Blues, Hog Shack, Central City, et al, all serving up various styles of barbecue that are more or less authentic – and more or less successful. The one region that didn’t seem to have any representation, however, was Texas, specifically, the rubbed and pecan wood-smoked meat of Central Texas.
Enter Dixie’s. The five-month-old joint comes courtesy of Gringo owners Christina Cottell and Shoel Davidson. Gringo never took my fancy, but Cottell and Davidson, along with chef Jeff MacIntosh, have knocked it out of the park with this concept. Yes, there’s a smoker in-house, although the pecan wood is obviously a bit hard to source locally.
Central Texas barbecue goes easy on the sauce and is significantly less sweet than other regional varieties. The emphasis is on the meat, plain and simple, with a little rub or glaze, some white bread and pickles, and your hands.
It’s a simple concept, but often difficult to execute. Dixie’s has it down to an art. Pork ribs ($15 for a half-rack) are juicy, tender and slightly sticky, with a beautiful pink rim that speaks of proper smoking. As with most Texas joints, your hands are considered the proper utensils, but bars and tables at Dixie’s are lined with small galvanized steel buckets loaded with cutlery and wet wipes. There are also rolls of paper towel for you to rip off as needed. Use a knife and fork if you must, but the best way to eat these ribs is to pull them apart with your hands and set to.
Brisket ($24 per pound) was another winner, meltingly good and completely addictive. All of the meats come with a couple slices of basic white sandwich bread (although, with the minimal sauce, it’s really only for the carbaholics) and some housemade pickles that are fantastic. Spanish onion, cabbage and cukes are light on the vinegar, but give just enough acidity to balance out the richness of the meat.
Fried chicken was slightly less successful. I couldn’t fault the beautifully-raised meat or the breading, but it was a bit like licking the Dead Sea, despite the beautiful textures. A little less salt would make a huge improvement here.
The drinks menu is smart and well-chosen to complement the meats. An extensive whisky selection is balanced out with local craft brews on tap (there are three that rotate constantly) and a handful of solid cocktails ($7 for a single), like the bourbon-spiked sweet tea, made in-house and steeped for 24 hours. Lemonade was another winner. I tried it both spiked and virgin, and it’s just sweet and tart enough in either form, although bourbon improves almost everything.
There are usually a couple featured desserts, but the pecan pie with maple cream is the way to go. The crust is shortbread and the pie stops just short of sickly-sweet territory and lands firmly in eye-rolling delicious. Like the meat, it’s not too sweet, but it’s full of flavour and delivers in Texas-sized spades.
All ratings out of five stars.
*: Okay, nothing memorable.
**: Good, shows promise.
***: Very good, occasionally excellent.
****: Excellent, consistently above average.
*****: Awe-inspiring, practically perfect in every way.
Anya Levykh is a freelance food, drink and travel writer who covers all things ingestible. In addition to obsessively collecting cookbooks, she is a judge for the Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @foodgirlfriday.