Derek Allan’s Texas BBQ might be the newest barbecue joint in Fort Worth, but owners Derek and Brittany Crudgington have been in the smoked-meat business far longer. They ran a food truck, Don’t Mess With Texas BBQ, in a the parking lot of a Best Buy in Grapevine for two years. It closed in 2017 as they made plans for their new brick-and-mortar in Frisco, but the build-out schedule lagged. They looked to a different location in Fort Worth and took over a shop that had been selling meal kits; the nine-month renovation ran their savings dry. They finally opened in late May, with Trent “TK” King as the third member of the crew. Now Fort Worth has another contender for best barbecue in town.
For the restaurant’s name, the couple, knowing they would have trademark issues if they tried to keep Don’t Mess With Texas BBQ, decided to use Derek’s first and middle names. “My last name wasn’t going to be great for a barbecue joint,” he told me with a laugh. A video Crudgington posted last October shows the whole family, including his and Brittany’s two young sons, painting the new sign. He posted several more to show folks the progress they were making. “It was hard coming out here trying to make the videos,” Crudgington admitted. He’s an introvert, and he also needed to hide his impatience with the construction process. They ramped up their Dirty Dalmatian rub business to help make ends meet.
The rubs and sausage seasonings Crudgington sells are the same one he uses at the restaurant. There’s no sugar and no anti-caking agents. He touts the use of tellicherry black pepper, dried anchos that he grinds himself, and Hungarian paprika, which he said provides more flavor than other varieties. He makes small batches and makes them often to keep the spices as fresh as possible. “I’m just so passionate about this barbecue that I can’t skimp on anything,” Crudgington said. That includes the beef he cooks.
It’s all Wagyu briskets from Wagyu Excelente that go into the smokers, and Wagyu chuck that’s ground for the house-made sausage. I got a chunk of the fatty brisket on the first visit, and with the heavy marbled fat ready to melt on the tongue, it ate like a beef rib. A slice of lean the next day was incredible. The bark is stout, and the flavor is all savory with a good dose of oak smoke. The Friday/Saturday-only beef ribs are more of the same but even richer. “It’s a melt-in-your-mouth like buttery fat,” Crudgington said of the beef rib, and he’s right. It’s so rich that it’s the one time I suggest using barbecue sauce. A dip in the thin, vinegary “Black Sauce,” which also has a coffee kick, helps to balance out the rich beef.
The sausage shows even more of Crudgington’s skill. It’s coarsely ground and eminently juicy. The low melting point of the Wagyu fat means it acts more like pork fat than commodity beef fat. There are no binders required in the sausage, so it’s just beef, fat, and seasoning. Tender pork ribs are thick and juicy, and the smoked turkey takes on the smoke well. I even liked the pulled pork, which is pulled fresh to order with plenty of the bark mixed in. Smoked meatloaf is another good option on Friday and Saturday.
There was almost no sweetness to be found in the rest of the barbecue tray, either. The pinto beans had plenty of salt and chunks of sausage. A crunchy slaw veered toward the tangy end of the spectrum, maybe from buttermilk. Mac & cheese is made with cavatappi pasta, like a corkscrew version of macaroni. Sharp cheddar and processed cheese come together in the creamy sauce, and toasted chipotle breadcrumbs are sprinkled on top. If you’re looking to carb-load, the mac far outshines the potato salad.
The sugar on the menu doesn’t come until dessert, and it’s a hard choice. Pecan praline is basically chunks of pecan pie topped with whipped cream. The Crudgingtons make their own vanilla. It’s used in the praline and in the satisfying banana pudding, which is layered with mini Nilla wafers that hold their crunchiness.
The biggest challenge you’ll have at Derek Allan’s, besides the meager parking and the cramped dining room, is getting barbecue late in the lunch hour. They were sold out of everything but turkey at 12:15 on a Thursday. Crudgington explained: “I do all Wagyu beef, so if I’m left over with anything—I mean, you know the margins on this stuff.” He noted that Thursday was the most business they’d seen on a weekday in their first seven weeks of operating, and he promised he’d be increasing his output. There’s plenty of capacity left in the two smokers he built for the smokehouse. The strangely upright design, which looks like some sort of barbecue rocket, is worth a peak if they have time to offer a pit room tour.
The barbecue business hasn’t been easy on the Crudgingtons, but they’re offering something special in Fort Worth. Their effort shows in the food and in the hospitality from Brittany, who works the register (and takes out the trash, and watches the pit when necessary, and just about everything else). “We don’t have a safety net,” Derek told me, so they know the importance of pleasing their new customers right out of the gate. His old job in IT seems a lot more stable for a growing family, but he’s happy to be cooking barbecue for a living. “My life shifted in this direction, and I just let it happen without fighting it.” He added: “I feel like God steered me in this direction.” Soon enough Grapevine and Frisco will sadly learn what they’re missing out on.