I don’t remember the last time I saw adults get this excited about pizza and nachos. Maybe it’s because most of us media folks hadn’t eaten all day and we were shaky from our morning coffee. Or maybe it was the commute to 3 Stacks Smoke and Tap House in Frisco that expedited our hunger. Regardless, at the tasting event held earlier this week, we dug into those pizzas and nachos like they were heavenly manna. Their creator Trace Arnold, aka the “The Rib Whisperer,” watched from afar.
“Now don’t you fill up y’all,” Arnold says. “We’ve got a lot more coming.”
This Texas cowboy means business. After opening 3 Stacks in early February with restaurateur Jason Hall, Arnold has set out on a mission to spread his barbecue revolution. He’s been on this kick for a long time. After all, he did get famous for inventing an 18-wheel smoker and grill that can feed the masses. So in my book, he’s the epitome of a modern-day barbecue Jesus: he feeds hundreds and has a preacher-like cadence that makes me wish he were my grandpa.
Arnold’s broad frame glides across the dining room and delicately sets down more appetizers. I see him grin beneath his Stetson as round two of photography mania ensues. “We call this one the firecracker boom boom,” he says. These phallic-looking,bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers have smoked brisket inside. They’re dangerously good but I still can’t get my mind out of the gutter.
Arnold’s brilliantly arranged publicity event is working and I’m slowly becoming entranced by the smoky offerings of 3 Stacks. Now, to be upfront: I went to college in Missouri. I’ve had Kansas City barbecue at nationally recognized establishments, and I snobbishly agree with Kansas Citians that their barbecue is the real deal. But barbecue pizza and nachos? There’s nothing like that in the Midwest. And there’s just the right amount of kick to Arnold’s zesty smoked-sausage pizza, and the sweet barbecue sauce relieves the heat. But the salty tortilla chips masked the meaty flavor of the nachos. I’ll forgive Barbecue Jesus, though, because his Smokehouse Special pizza knocked it out of the ballpark.
Just before serving the main course, Trace adorned our table with sides: twice-baked potato salad, cheesy corn bake, cabernet mushrooms, lemon kale slaw, cucumber salad, etc. The kale salad with lemon dressing was beautifully balanced, while other sides like the cheesy corn bake and mushrooms left little to be desired. What we were all waiting for was, obviously, the meat.
The carnivore’s delight arrived on a wooden paddle. Even the vegetarian to my right agreed that it looked beautiful. But before we dug in, a few words from Arnold. After all, when Barbecue Jesus feeds you, you listen to what he has to say.
He started it off like a rehearsed speech. This is a pressing matter: People have been eating BAD barbecue. Why? Because they don’t know better! And it’s our job (i.e. the press) to stop it. Spread the word! Change the barbecue-eating habits of the public! Send humankind to—you guessed it—3 Stacks Smoke & Tap House!
I hadn’t finished my glass of Kool-Aid yet.
After hearing the rules of barbecue ambassadorship, we were sent off to photograph and sample the beloved meats. Fellow guests jubilantly tore into the platter of Carolina style pulled pork, smoked beef brisket, hickory sausage, turkey breast, jalapeno cheddar sausage, and baby back ribs.
Arnold came over and patted my back. “You all finished now?” he asked. I could only nod. The conversion to 3 Stacks ambassadorship had done me in and all I wanted was a toothpick and a nap. But before that, he had desserts on the way.
Nina Bolka is a D Magazine intern. She graduated in May 2013 from The University of Missouri with a degree in science and agricultural journalism. She has written for Vox Magazine, interned at Vogue in New York City, and worked as a chef’s apprentice in Florence.