I will confess, I have always been a believer in chain restaurants. Standardized ingredients means standardized safety. So a couple nights ago, when I went out to dinner with my cousin, I was happy to see that Dallas BBQ reinforced my beliefs. The branch in Times Square is located conveniently across from the Times Square station, which connects the 1, 2, 3, N, Q, R, A, C, E and 7 trains, and situated between 7th and 8th Avenues.
Most New Yorkers hate Times Square, because it is the ultimate tourist destination. It seems to be perpetually daytime there, with ridiculously expensive Starbucks and ridiculously glittery billboards. Even the McDonald’s has a marquee! However, Times Square is also the theater district, and so whether you’re a “real” New Yorker or not, you’ll probably end up there sooner or later.
I have never actually been to any restaurants in Dallas, but I’d imagine that Dallas BBQ is a little closer to those in Las Vegas, or somewhere off the side of the I-5 in California. The entire vibe of the restaurant feels like being on the set of Grease and Dreamgirls simultaneously, while also traveling through the Wild West. Bear fit in well with his letterman’s jacket.
The music I heard during the evening included Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” while reliefs of running horses à la Spirit decorated the walls. In classic chain restaurant fashion, the paper placemat menus keep options simple with BBQ standards like pulled pork, ribs, and fried chicken.
The waitress was very comfortable with allergies and immediately ruled out the breaded items. She suggested the salads with a non-dairy dressing, as well as the ribs or rotisserie chicken—both of these, she knew, were cooked without butter or milk. (NOTE: The French fries are made in peanut oil. I myself am not allergic to peanut oil, but if you are, please be aware!)
Often when I eat out in the city, I become a “convenient vegan,” opting for a vegan meal instead of a meaty one, mainly because of the lack of dairy. However, I actually do eat meat and I’m always baffled as to why meat must include cheese, butter, cream, etc. I decided to order the Bar-B-Q Baby Back Ribs, perhaps the meatiest and most non-vegan meal possible. Also, ribs are something that I just don’t get that often.
When our food came, I was happy to see that our waitress had kept the cornbread on a separate plate—it comes with the ribs. The ribs were a little shorter than I expected, but, of course, they were balanced out by a huge pile of French fries. Dallas BBQ also serves their soft drinks in enormous goblets, so an impulse ginger ale (not pictured here) complemented the heap of saucy food. Obviously, the food was not meant for a connoisseur but as far as standard meat-and-potatoes meals go, I was pretty happy.
Dallas BBQ seems to attract a rather diverse group of diners, which may be partially due to the nature of Times Square itself. The huge multi-level establishment contained, among others, a group of foreign exchange students and many young professionals after hours. Because the restaurant sits near so many theaters, I would imagine the pre- and post-show crowds filter in as well.
The portions were large enough that I could take home half my plate, which made an easy lunch a couple days later. While I, like many others, try to avoid Times Square on the basis of principle, it is comforting to know of a safe restaurant there, for when friends and family come to visit. Dallas BBQ is a good place to take grab a bite, before seeing a show, meeting a friend, or running away from all the neon signs and the flashbulbs. Plus it’s nice to have a place to fill the BBQ-shaped hole in my life, for those sporadic days when I feel like eating a rack of ribs and pile of fries.