what to eat at the dallas airport

October 20th, 2006

On my way back from New York, I found myself wandering around aimlessly during a stopover at the Dallas airport. It was one of those stopovers that is long enough to drive a person to boredom but not quite long enough to actually exit the airport and walk around the city. Having experienced the hydrogenated plastic that is domestic US airline food—the pleasure of which you are often required to pay extra—I decided to look around the airport for something a little more appetizing that I could take with me on the flight. Sandwiches aren’t yet seen as a security threat in the world of airport security, so I figured I could safely carry on a little bite of something or other.

The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is an interesting place. Every five minutes a stern, yet friendly recording announces that “any jokes about security may result in your arrest.” And nowhere, but nowhere, can you find a fresh vegetable of any kind. Sure, there is the prerequisite smoothie stand selling half gallon sugary fruit drinks that could sustain an African village for a month. But there is not a single leafy green to be found, and believe me, I checked the sandwiches at Starbuck’s. Nada.

So I looked over my options. Starbuck’s, Popeye’s, Chilli’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell. Given a choice of boring franchise food, what do you eat? Why, whatever’s local, of course! And what’s local in Texas? Barbecue! Off I went to Dickey’s BBQ, just left of Popeye’s in Terminal C.

In keeping with what I can only assume is a Texas tradition, Dickey’s offers no vegetables to speak of, unless they’re doused in mayonnaise, deep-fried, or battered and deep-fried. But then, you don’t go to a barbecue joint for a salad.

I bought two barbecue sandwiches: the slow-cooked brisket and the spare ribs. The brisket sandwich consisted of an ordinary hamburger bun with a big ol’ honkin’ slab of meat bathed in barbecue sauce. For the second sandwich, two large sets of ribs were placed in a bun, forming an enormous pork seesaw with a flimsy bun fulcrum. Eegads! Naturally, Dickey’s packs a substantial wad of napkins along with your foil-wrapped sandwich.

I ate the brisket sandwich on the plane. The sauce was pretty good, with a nice balance of sweetness, tanginess, and spice. The meat was tasty, and still somewhat red on the inside, but it was missing something. A little too dry, perhaps. Still, I was grateful to eat a decent lunch, considering that the airline’s “chicken BBQ” meal was pretty much inedible (and since when do Texans barbecue chicken?). I saved the rib sandwich for my arrival at home, to be shared with A. Naturally, A was pleased. The sandwich was very good, best enjoyed at home where you can eat large, messy barbecued ribs that leave your taste buds happy and your face shiny with fat and sauce. Barbecue is an impolite food by definition. You may as well embrace the chaos, just use the napkins when you’re done.

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