DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Before the doors open at Pecan Lodge, a group of people are gathered outside just waiting to get in. It’s a sign that a legend has been born in the barbecue world. “We heard the lines were ridiculously long, and I don’t mind waiting in line for good barbecue,” said John Snowden, who was in from out of town and looking foward to eating at the restaurant.
Once inside, you find a rustic decor, tender brisket and a success story that beat the odds. “In hindsight, it just seems like the most ridiculous decision anybody could ever make,” said Justin Fourton, co-owner and pit master at Pecan Lodge.
Corporate downsizing in 2008 led owners Justin and Diane Fourton to rethink their careers and focus on food. They quit the corporate world and turned their hobby into a business. Doing that during the Great Recession was a tall order. “When that happened, we thought, maybe we will give this a try. We said we will give it three months,” said Diane, whose business card says ‘Boss Lady.’
Things took off from there. In less than two years, they went from a farmer’s market to a full restaurant in Deep Ellum.
The Pecan Lodge name comes from a family ranch in Abilene. And the food comes from recipes that have been passed down from family members. “We can cook about 160 briskets at once, which is our capacity on a Saturday,” said Justin.
Part of the secret of their success, the Fourtons said, is using traditional wood-burning pits instead of commercial ones. “It’s definitely the hardest way to go,” Justin said. “But I definitely think you can’t get the same results without putting that time and effort in.”
The smell of mesquite wood permeates the restaurant. “We go to make a deposit at the bank and they say this money smells so good,” said Justin. There are worse problems to have.
Surprisingly, the Fourtons didn’t set out to make Pecan Lodge a barbecue joint. “Originally, we had lots of things on the menu. It’s just the barbecue that stood out,” said Diane.
Customers said that the southern side orders complete the meal. “It’s the best mac and cheese I have had — I don’t know — in a long, long time,” said customer Tina Bass.
By focusing on quality and serving dishes that have been part of their family tradition, the Fourtons have taken the restaurant world by storm. “People come from all over, and we are serving the same food that I was eating after church on Sunday at my grandmother’s house,” said Diane. It seems that home cooking never goes out of style, which may account for the perpetual line at Pecan Lodge.
Here are a few secrets to the popular restaurant. If you are up for an early dinner, there is rarely a line between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on most days. And, if you have four hungry eaters or a party of five or more, you can skip the long line and go to the express line.