The first time I visited Dixie Belle's Bar-B-Q, not long after the restaurant opened in 2004, I was impressed by the breadth of the offering. Carolina pork, St. Louis ribs, Texas beef brisket, smoked sausage, smoked turkey, even something called "Texas pulled chicken." If it was made of meat, this little place smoked it.
And I'll confess I was surprised to learn that the person conducting this tour of the Southern Barbecue Belt, the restaurant's owner and self-taught pit master, was a transplanted Northerner named Rich Kazazian. Working with a hybrid gas-fired hickory smoker, Kazazian did a credible job, too.
The brisket, in fact, was as good as I've had this side of the Lone Star state. The ribs, which were brined before slow-smoking with a dry rub followed by a light glaze of sauce, were a cut above the norm. The pulled pork shoulder wouldn't put Allen & Son out of business, but it was respectable. The only outright disappointment was the chicken, which was chopped and so heavily glopped with sauce it was more like a hash. But for all I know, maybe that's the way they like it in Texas.
Last year, Kazazian shut down the smoker, loaded it on a truck and moved it to a new strip mall just off U.S. 64. The new digs are a bit spiffier, though Dixie Belle's is still a counter service eatery.
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And, as I learned when I stopped in for dinner recently, the brisket is as tender and juicy as ever. In fact, after sampling freely among the smoky offering and accompanying sides (highlights of which include fried okra and baked beans liberally seasoned with barbecue trimmings), I'd say that nothing has changed about Dixie Belle's but the location.
Well, not quite. The menu has grown to include fried chicken, Calabash-style seafood and an expanded selection of sandwiches since I last visited. Maybe I'll try a few of the new items next time I visit. That is, if I still have room after I've finished my brisket platter.