Mac's Bar-B-Que in Deep Ellum, Dallas, is the kind of restaurant you might expect to find in a smaller community in rural Texas, one where everyone knows everyone. Mac's is that kind of place, only with a much larger population, in its position just east of downtown Big D. Second-generation owner Billy McDonald greeted a dozen of his customers by name during my visit for a late weekday lunch. It was obvious by the animated conversations that Mac's is a hub, where regulars congregate, regularly.
Although it was my first visit, it did not stop Billy from treating me like he knew me. While I deliberated over the smoked sausage or hot links, he interjected, "Let me take care of that," as he presented freshly-cut, thinly-sliced samples. I settled on the hot link, which contained finely diced jalapeño. Billy cut and plated everything while I watched, before I settled at one of the twelve tables. My tasting including Saint Louis Pork Ribs, wonderfully crispy french fries, a beef brisket baked potato, and sweet beans. He sliced the hot link very thin, so that they resembled chips. The ribs were tender and conveyed a thick hickory smoked flavor as promised. A milder, semi-sour sauce accompanied the meats.
When there were not people waiting to order, Billy spent time sitting at various tables, talking everything from smoked meats to local politics with customers. When I asked about being a fixture in the local neighborhood, he spoke of the effect of being in almost the same location for sixty-three years. This is actually the third address for Mac's, but all were within walking distance of the current restaurant. He talked of the importance of consistency, both in product and service. "People have expectations, and we are here to deliver." On being in such a competitive category as Texas BBQ, he said there have been a lot of changes, many brought on by larger companies seeking to dominate with scale, not necessarily good smoked meats. Regarding larger restaurants that seat hundreds in a loud environment, he said, "When you have wine, you want to be able to enjoy it, you don't want to drink it in a football stadium full of people...from a plastic cup."
Billy carried on serving up delicious BBQ and lively conversations. The meats speak for themselves, but Billy's commitment to nurturing the Mac's community is the true special sauce.
Mac's Bar-B-Que - 3933 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75226