Out with the healthy and organic, and in with the fatty ribs: It's a strange twist of fate that H&D BBQ & Grill would open in the old Vitality House Cafe in Richardson.
Owner Dave Harrison, who owns H&D with his wife, Hazel, hastens to reassure that, in addition to barbecued meat, they serve grilled salmon, tilapia and chicken on wild rice. But brisket and ribs are the specialties of the house.
“We’re in Richardson. You have to think about that,” he says. “There’s a Sonny Bryan’s a couple miles down the road and a Spring Creek BBQ. Those two businesses thrive, whereas vegetarian offerings, there really are not any.”
“Garlic has a tendency to emulsify during the smoking process,” says owner Dave Harrison. “It dissolves and permeates the meat thoroughly, though it’s not an overwhelming garlic flavor.”
Harrison, an Oklahoma City native who moved here 14 years ago, has held a variety of jobs. But he has logged time with restaurant companies such as Chili’s, Joe Kelly’s Oyster Dock and Bennigan’s.
“My family has been in the barbecue business for over 150 years,” he says. “My parents owned a restaurant and private club called Raymond’s Barbecue back in the ’60s in Oklahoma City. My wife decided we needed to open a restaurant. It was something I prayed about long and hard, but everything fell into place.”
The first step was to find the right location.
“One of the things we looked for is an area where our recipes would work, and we wouldn’t have an inordinate amount of competition,” he says. “Also, we knew we wanted to do something with barbecue, but there are all kinds of regulations with smokers. When we found this restaurant, it already had a 24-foot vent hood in place.”
It also came fully outfitted, because the Vitality House folks were eager to sell.
“This facility already had pots and pans, dishes — most of the nuts and bolts,” he says. “It’s easier to sell a restaurant when everything’s there. We happened to be blessed that we got to see it before a lot of other people had viewed it.
“Now, someone might just see that as a bunch of pots and pans, but I could recognize that there were thousands of dollars’ worth of small wares here. They had also recently redecorated the front interior.
They make their own sides from recipes that have been in Hamilton’s family for three generations, such as his mother’s potato salad.
“My wife and I knew we wanted to offer more than barbecue. We didn’t want to have the rustic look and feel you experience in most barbecue restaurants. We wanted it to be more upscale and comforting.”
So that explains the lime green and orange color scheme. The menu includes rib-eye, porterhouse, St. Louis-style rib dinner and hickory-smoked sausage, which they buy from food supplier Sysco but then re-smoke onsite.
They use an electric smoker in which they burn a combination of hickory and pecan wood pellets, which Harrison says produces results that are consistent.
“It’s what I call consistent, healthier smoking,” he says. “Wood pellets burn at the same temperature and have the same moisture content all the time. A cord of wood can vary in moisture.
“With the wood pellets, a 16-hour smoke is a 16-hour smoke. The only variance is if you smoke with pecan or cherry or apple. Hickory and pecan burn consistently and burn hot, so you get a great smoke ring and flavor.”
The Harrisons serve traditional brisket and garlic-stuffed, their signature dish.
“It comes out with a different flavor and texture than regular brisket,” he says. “Garlic has a tendency to emulsify during the smoking process, like fat does on the outside of meat. The garlic dissolves and permeates the meat thoroughly, though it’s not an overwhelming garlic flavor.”
They make their own sides from recipes that have been in Hamilton’s family for three generations, such as his mother’s potato salad that uses a mayonnaise dressing, not the more common mustard.
“We do a technique with the celery — you know it has the strings along the backside of the stalk that are really annoying,” he says. “I can still see my mother and grandmother taking the potato peeler and removing the strings, and it’s made here the exact same way — the way my mother always made it.”
They make their own sauce, with an unusual twist.
“It includes freshly cut lemons and bay leaves,” he says. “It’s a different taste for a barbecue sauce. Most people taste it and say, ‘I can’t figure out what you have in here.’ I’ve had people say, ‘I got a lemon seed in my barbecue sauce.’ Our barbecue sauce recipe has been in my family for 150 years.”