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Notes on Dickey's BBQ (Bailey Park)

Original post made by Max Hauser, Old Mountain View, on Apr 23, 2014

No doubt some regular customers know this place better -- I just recently tried it, after seeing it for a long time -- but here are notes potentially useful to newcomers. Dickey's isn't just a barbecue restaurant (with sandwiches, quick meals, etc.), but also something of a delicatessen, offering freshly hickory-smoked meats by weight. I found that feature useful already for home-cooking and sandwich-making supplies; it's a good resource to know about for entertaining.

Dickey's Barbecue (570 N. Shoreline, in Bailey Park Plaza's little restaurant row, near the young and worthy Big Bites Vietnamese restaurant and the local Round Table Pizza) is a locally-owned franchise of a Dallas original (www.dickeys.com). It's a retail smokehouse: sort of cross between a specialty butcher/deli like Dittmer's, and a sit-down restaurant. Menu features seven smoked meats in bulk (1/4 pound minimum). A few tables and a TV accommodate in-house diners. The bulk meats are $12 a pound whole, or $15 a pound cut-to-order.

Gracious owner Alice Kao supplied background information on a quiet mid-afternoon. Dickey's is built around a smoker using hickory wood that processes a fresh supply of meats daily. Those I tried (beef brisket, pulled pork, turkey) were all boneless, lean, very well-trimmed. Dickey's meats are dry-rubbed, not cooked with a sauce.

The pulled pork, for example, is delivered "dry." If you want to add a sauce to any meat, three are available. The "basic" sauce I sampled was a typical US tomato-based BBQ sauce with a touch of heat, but the "spicy" was rather serious, with chili seeds visible. (Nothing a tenth as hot ever appeared at Emil Villa's restaurants of my native East Bay, a gloriously bland longtime local chain.) The third sauce, "sweet," I haven't tried yet.

In US barbecue landscape, Dickey's occupies ground somewhere between edgy independent smokeshops like the lamented, fiercely popular Uncle Frank's (whose meats were fiercely smoked, but which kept moving locations, as if illegal), and restaurants that splash a little sauce on roast meats and dub the result "BBQ."

I found the smokiness less intense than Uncle Frank's (albeit that's true of all other California BBQ joints I've tried too), while the meat specialties were more diverse than at H. Butler's (an authentic but uneven Sunnyvale independent). For sheer flavor, I most enjoyed the beef brisket (a famous Texas specialty) which showed a telltale colored "smoke ring" around the edges. Pulled pork sample was milder in flavor, very low salt, a versatile product easily adapted to sandwiches or other uses. Turkey was lean and juicy white meat (smoked poultry is particularly useful as a cooking ingredient, for everything from pasta toppings to egg dishes.)

Like any such restaurant, Dickey's offers pro-forma "side dishes" (salads, beans, macaroni/cheese), and also charming small pillow-shaped biscuits. Such accessories aren't the restaurant's focus, so I seldom dwell much on them, nor judge a restaurant by them.

Dickey's won't put Dittmer's out of business, but its take-out meats are different anyway, more distinctly American, and worth knowing about, especially for people living nearby. Catering is another part of Dickey's business, with various meal packages offered on the menu.

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