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.
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10 comments

  1. I just don’t understand any negativety towards this place. I live paycheck to paycheck and Merle’s is where me and my lady go to treat ourselves. The BBQ is top of the line delicious.

    1. I’m glad that you enjoy it.

  2. I don’t know why I keep going to this place. The food is average at best. I think it is a convenience thing. I have probably purchased food here about a dozen times over the 13 years I have lived in Paulding county. I have mostly done take out on Saturday afternoons. We don’t have a ton of money and therefore don’t eat out often. Tonight we decided to eat out. We didn’t feel like dealing with Saturday night crowds in Hiram so my wife and 3 small children stayed close to home and went to Merle’s. We paid over $40 for 2 adults and 3 girls under the age of 12. My complaint isn’t so much with the food as with the staff. They always seem completely annoyed to have to deal with you. No one smiles. No one says thanks for eating at Merle’s. Everyone behind the counter seems to be a teenager who would much rather be somewhere else with a 25 year old in charge. This has happened EVERY time I have patronized this place and I always swear I am never going back. This was the final straw. I’m done. If the food was amazing maybe it would be worth being treated like dirt. If Sonny’s was still around it would blow the doors off this place ….and Sonny’s was nothing to write home about. Tonight the service was downright rude. Other reviewers can rave all they want about this place always being packed. I’ve never seen it packed. My pork plate was served room temp with way too much sauce already on it.The sauce is way too sweet and I wasn’t given the opportunity to add it to my taste. If I had it to do over again tonight I would have gone to Subway’s instead. I DO NOT recommend this place and it is mostly based on the ungrateful rude staff. I am all about supporting local businesses but this one can go away as far as I care. They don’t deserve it.

    1. That sounds like an awful dining experience. And, like you said, any time you think of Sonny’s as a “step up” for barbecue your eating, it’s just sad.

  3. Okay, while your experience does sound bad, I’d have to say it was a one-in a million.I have been going to Merle’s for my entire life, and have never had a bad experience there. I lived about 5 minutes away for 7 years, and even now that we are an hour away we still eat there quite a bit. And it is one of my favorite restaurants EVER. I have never had the barbecue sandwich, but always get a burger (or two), fry (which I like, but not love), and wings. Lots, and lots of wings. They are the best wings that I have ever tasted in my life. Better than Buffalo’s. When we go, the table’s are always clean, and while granted few people are in there but Mr. Merle, I don’t know why. Every time I have gone there has been ketchup on the tables in the squeeze bottles. You need to try it again.

    1. I’ll have to try the wings – they’re another obsession.

  4. 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.

  5. 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. :)
    Cheers.

    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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