Photography by Daniel Walker.

First Bite

Head to Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ for the Ribs

And stick around for the Ferris wheel.

The state of Texas barbecue has never been more bounteous. While Dallas has always been home to numerous local favorites and neighborhood staples, over the last few years we’ve acquired a number of barbecue joints one might safely label as “destination dining.” Here, the lines are long, the anticipation is almost palpable, and waiting customers converse and debate about their barbecue travels and the many joys of traveling the Texas barbecue trail. Needless to say, the standard for high quality barbecue in Dallas is at an all time high.

When a new barbecue restaurant hits the scene, understandably, there’s a lot of excitement. One never knows when the next great pitmaster will crawl out of obscurity and begin making waves among smoked meat aficionados across the state.

Ferris Wheelers Backyard & BBQ began smoking in the Design District in September. The restaurant is brought to us by pitmaster Doug Pickering, a Dallas native looking to stake his claim in a competitive barbecue scene.

But before we discuss the food, one must consider the restaurant’s spectacular backyard and outdoor dining space. Of course, the centerpiece is the 50-foot, fully-operational Ferris wheel. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s certainly eye-catching. But take note parents: if you’re planning on dropping the kids off at the wheel whilst you peacefully enjoy a hot plate of smoked meat, the ride doesn’t run until after 5 p.m., so don’t attempt this at lunch. In addition, on the patio, you can enjoy an outdoor bar, stage featuring live music, and a number of patio games. Honestly, you probably won’t find a more laid back, diverse, and fun-filled patio in this city.

Pickering’s smoked meats draw upon regional styles from barbecue capitals across the country. Of course, central Texas takes center stage with post-oak smoked brisket and beef and pork hot links. You’ll also find St. Louis-style pork ribs, Lexington-style pulled pork, and a mustard-based gold sauce that’s a nod to the preferred blend in the Carolinas.

Daniel Walker.

We started with the brisket. I appreciated the fact that the woman taking our orders asked us if we preferred lean or fatty brisket. Throwing caution to the wind, we did the fatty. The beef came to us tender and appropriately smoky, although it was a touch on the dry side. The rub and resultant bark has noticeable sweet notes from the addition of brown sugar. It’s a departure from Texas tradition, but it was pleasant surprise.

The St. Louis-style ribs and house-made hot links composed the bulk of our two-meat plate. These ribs were truly the shining star of our entire meal. They’re tender, meaty, and smoky. Coated in a sweet brown sugar glaze, they left our fingers sticky and begging to be licked clean. If you go, you’re going to need these ribs. The hot link was decent, but forgettable. It comes filled with bits of jalapeño and a thread of cheddar cheese, but it was rather under-seasoned and lacking the beautiful snappy casing and greasy, glowing interior one expects from an exceptional Texas hot gut.

Sides were reasonably priced and plentiful, with a whole host of options. Waffle fries are a house favorite and we found them an excellent companion to our proteins. The coleslaw comes with house-smoked bacon and jalapeños, making it a bit more exciting than the average slaw found at most restaurants. I’d also recommend the fried okra, which comes crispy and salty and exceptionally done.

Texas’ passion for barbecue does not appear to be cooling down any time soon. Indeed, it’s become one of our greatest tourist attractions, drawing in visitors from across the globe. Ferris Wheelers may need a bit more time before it’s able to wedge its way into the elite group of joints frequently found topping “best barbecue” lists in this state and beyond, but it’s certainly providing some solid and respectable offerings right out of the gate. And it’s undeniably the best brisket I’ve ever eaten while riding a Ferris wheel.

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