Merle’s Bar-B-Q – Dallas, GA

Some times you drive by a place for years and never stop. Then one day, for whatever reason, you do stop and the food is so amazing that you wonder how you ever lived without it. Or maybe, instead, one day you do stop and you realize that driving by for all those years was actually the correct decision. Merle’s Bar-B-Q (on highway 61 in Dallas) belongs in the latter category.

Sure the temptation was strong.

  • A barbecue joint, in what appears to have been at one time a trailer, virtually attached to a pawn shop.
  • A portable sign out front that said: Merle’s Bar-B-Q – As seen on TV – Open 4th of July

How could it not be good? They managed.

I arrived about 7:15 on a Saturday night and there was ONE person sitting inside. I think it may have been Merle, as he was watching the Braves game and not eating. I did see two cars come through the drive-thru while I was inside. I wasn’t hungry but that gave me the chance to “sample”. I decided to try a small chopped pork sandwich and a hot dog, Varsity-style (chili, onions, mustard), sans onions. The young lady behind the counter gave me my number (50) and told me she’d call when it was ready.

I go to grab a table and they are all dirty. I clean the least dirty of the lot and take a seat. A mother and daughter come in to order take out. A yell of “Fifty!” comes from the counter and I walked up. The first thing I notice is the mound of onions on my chili dog. I mention that it’s wrong and they make me another. Back to the table.

Then I look more closely. Is that the outline of a pickle that I see through the wax paper? I unwrap it and, sure enough, there’s a big honkin’ slice of dill pickle sitting on top of my sandwich.If, as a restaurant, you plan to desecrate my food by defiling it with pickle juice, please warn me. Then I can, respectfully, request that you omit this unique form of nastiness.

As to the food itself: The sandwich was covered in a thick tomato-paste-like sweet barbecue sauce. When I opened the sandwich up to find some meat with no sauce, there was little. But what I did find had no smoke taste whatsoever. Like a pork roast, but drier. The chili on the chili dog was spicy. Not bad, but spicier than I expected. When I went to grab a bottle of ketchup from the counter top of sauces, there was no ketchup among the Heinz 57, A-1, Tabasco and weird squeeze bottles (which all seemed to contain hot sauces). All they had were packets.

I was fairly committed at this point to not returning, based on what I ate and what I saw (the fries were golden crinkles from the freezer and I saw a microwave behind the counter. Why would a barbecue joint need a microwave?) But as I was leaving, I saw the sign that advertised the “Burger-Cue” – a 1/4 pound burger with a 1/4 pound of barbecue pork. If I could get it without the sauce, I’d be tempted to get one for carry-out. On second thought, nope. I’m not going back.
Merle's Bar-B-Q on Urbanspoon

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  1. JBarrett · · Reply

    Wow. It certainly sounds as if you had a terrible experience. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

    On the other hand, we eat at Merles quite a bit and have never seen this. The establishment is usually clean, the wait short. We’ve tried most everything on the menu with varying results- some great and some not (they have GOT to do something about their fries.)

    We used to use Route 61 BBQ exclusively until the owner/chef died and they closed late last year.

    1. Glad to hear your experiences there have been better. Mine wasn’t terrible – I didn’t get sick. Or see bugs. It just wasn’t particularly memorable. And they really should warm folks about the pickles.

  2. Hello there, we recently found your blog are truly enjoying it. We are foodies and “food snobs” ourselves here in Dallas. We eat out a lot and cannot stop bitching about the culinary wilderness that is Paulding and Douglasville. We love to eat well and to cook sometimes, but are by no means gourmets. I’m from New Orleans, and my husband is from Texas, and has traveled and eaten in 16 countries, including just spending a week in Tuscany this past month (…next time he takes me or else he’s not allowed to return). We agree with much of what you’ve written about Merle’s. We’ve only lived here seven years and have eaten there by choice (and necessity) perhaps six or eight times a year. It’s literally right around the corner from our house. Beggars can’t be choosers, as the saying goes. For a decent mesquite grilled burger it’s actually pretty good. But the pickle thing just drives us nuts. And the french fries are consistently nothing but dregs. The rest of the menu is take it or leave it hit and miss. It’s useless to complain, since as with most restaurants around here they’re completely indifferent to anything but the handicapped local palate. If you get a chance though, we’d would like to hear your opinion on his burgers. Thanks for your blog. :)

    1. I’ll have to give the burger a try. That was the original purpose of my blog – to find the perfect burger. Thanks for reading.

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