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From burgers to brisket

Maple & Motor dude Jack Perkins enters the contentious barbecue fray with Slow Bone

Jack Perkins and Jeff Bekavac at Meat Fight in Dallas
Jack Perkins (left, pictured here with Jeff Bekavac from Neighborhood Services) took home the trophy for best brisket at Meat Fight. Photo by Cecily Johnson
Jack Perkins' winning brisket from Meat Fight
Jack Perkins' winning brisket from Meat Fight, which he cooked fast and hot. Photo by Nicholas McWhirter
Eric Hansen at Meat Fight in Dallas
Eric Hansen, who won for his pulled pork at Meat Fight, will run Slow Bone with Perkins. Photo by Cecily Johnson
Jack Perkins and Jeff Bekavac at Meat Fight in Dallas
Jack Perkins' winning brisket from Meat Fight
Eric Hansen at Meat Fight in Dallas

Having conquered the contentious burger category at Maple & Motor, restaurateur Jack Perkins intends to take on an even more hotly debated cuisine: barbecue. He will open Slow Bone at 2234 Irving Blvd. in late February 2013.

The restaurant will go in the old BW’s BBQ space, but the more relevant information is that it's a couple of doors down from Nick Badovinus' Off Site Kitchen, around the corner from Peticolas Brewery and a stone's throw from the Design District — the new center of Where It's At.

Slow Bone will do brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, ribs and sausage, plus a bigger-than-usual collection of sides and packaged beer, meaning that you can have a beer onsite or take home a six-pack.

 "There are only two or three ways to smoke a brisket," Perkins says. "It's fairly simple: Don't overcook it, and don't undercook it."

Barbecue is such a sacred cow that it seems foolhardy to attempt it, no? No, says Perkins, who finds the concept of the god-like pitmaster to be overblown.

"Technique is important, obviously, but diligence is the most important thing, just being there and overseeing the process," he says. "There are only two or three ways to smoke a brisket. It's fairly simple: Don't overcook it, and don't undercook it.

"We put all of this voodoo on barbecue, but a lot of the guys who are really good at barbecue nationally are not guys who’ve been doing it for 30 years. Rodney Muirhead has only owned Podnah's Pit less than five years; Franklin's Barbecue is a new restaurant. In Dallas, there is Pecan Lodge. These are not places that have been there forever. You can master this process fairly quickly."

The method you hear about most often is "low and slow" — subjecting the meat to a low temperature for a long period of time — but Perkins is taking a different approach. That approach won him first prize for brisket at the recent Meat Fight competition.

"We decided to cook it fast and hot," he says. "Then we wrap it and put it in a cooler, and it keeps cooking as the temperature drops. You're not adding any more heat, so all the moisture stays inside the meat. It's really juicy."

Running Slow Bone will be Eric Hansen, who hails from Kansas City and previously worked at Cane Rosso. He was also a contestant at Meat Fight (he competed in the pulled pork category).

Sides will include standards like coleslaw and potato salad, but also ones we've never had, Perkins says, like mac and cheese or cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, and 95 percent of the sides will be meat-free.

"We're not going to crumble bacon all over everything, so if you're a vegetarian, you can have a mounded-up vegetable plate that you will love," he says.

With the success of Maple & Motor, including a visit from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, one wonders: Why not just open a second burger place? But Perkins says he's taking a page out of Tristan Simon's book, where you stay close to your original turf but expand into a different cuisine.

"We could open a Vietnamese noodle house — or whatever," he says. "If you know how to run a restaurant, it doesn't matter what you do."

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