Daddy Duncan’s BBQ trailer in Katy may only open its windows on weekends, but you can get its barbecue all week long. Owners Sylvia and Randy Duncan have partnered with nine different restaurants and food vendors who have come up with creative ways to integrate Daddy Duncan’s meats into their dishes. It’s a culinary collaboration that allows smoked brisket to cross into unfamiliar territory.
After ordering brisket empanadas and a brisket-stuffed arepa, I stirred a café bombón at La Baguette Bakery & Bistro. The drink is layered with sweetened condensed milk, espresso, and whipped cream. It was gone in a few sips, giving me some much needed mid-afternoon energy during a day when I sampled seven of Daddy Duncan’s collaborations (see my Twitter thread here). It was hard to choose a favorite when the food arrived. The texture of the brisket filling in the crisp empanada was somewhere between pulled and chopped. It remained moist inside the protective shell and paired well with the cilantro sauce on the side. The crisp corn arepa was held wide open by a generous serving of the brisket that had a hint of barbecue sauce. I would have welcomed a salsa to spice it up, but they respected the brisket and made two dishes worth coming back for.
La Baguette is a recent partner, according to Randy Duncan. Oddly enough, the barbecue cross-pollination began because of amateur wrestling. The Duncans served barbecue at DZW wrestling matches. “I had some tables and a tent. I had some crockpots that my grandma gave me,” Randy said. “We were doing brisket sandwiches and Frito pies for all the wrestling fans.” Some nights, the Pizza Shoppe also offered pizza. On the nights that Daddy Duncan’s couldn’t attend a match, they wanted to find a way to still have their barbecue present.
So Randy took a bag of chopped brisket into the Pizza Shoppe to see what they could come up with, and the Texas BBQ Brisket Pizza was born. The Pizza Shoppe put it on the menu in July 2018. “He had a line out the door. People were going crazy over it,” Randy said. Soon after, Glaze Donuts next door requested brisket for a new kolache, and it was an immediate hit. “I was giving them ten briskets a week,” for the first two weeks of the special, Randy told me.
More restaurants started asking for smoked brisket, then smoked beef cheeks, and even smoked pork belly. Tiger Noodle House adds either brisket or barbacoa to fried rice or noodles. Texas Tradition tops a bacon cheeseburger with enough smoked brisket to dwarf the half-pound burger patty. You can get a whole pan of lasagna made with smoked brisket from Danjoy’s Homemade Pasta (which I did not try). There’s a separate “Social-Daddy menu” at the Social Pub & Grill with nachos, tacos, and loaded fries. Now Daddy Duncan’s smokes about forty briskets a week to satisfy all their orders.
Part of the genius of these collaborations is that it puts the Daddy Duncan’s brand on menus all over Katy. A mini chalkboard at Glaze Donuts even uses the barbecue trailer’s logo. “One hand washes the other” is how Randy explained the benefit the businesses get from one another. There’s also a sense of community created between all of these small, locally owned restaurants in a town known for chains. In my recent travels around Katy, I passed a Rudy’s, Spring Creek, Memphis transplant Corky’s BBQ, and the newest location of Cooper’s, which opens later this year.
It’s not all upside, though, when partnering with another business. There are risks in attaching your name to a company you don’t control. One of Daddy Duncan’s most successful collaborations had been with the Pho Shack. Then, in March, Pho Shack owner Danh Le’s racist comments became national news. Randy remembered they were celebrating Sylvia’s birthday when the news broke. He called Le and said, “We have to cut it off right now,” and to their credit, they did.
A less serious issue is that the barbecue might not be served at its best. I loved the peach pie, and the slice of chocolate silk pie I tried at Proud Pie, but the chopped brisket sandwich had an odd flavor from the sauce, or possibly from the reheating method. At Slurp Ramen Factory, they get the briskets whole so they can slice them for the smoked brisket ramen. The slices are reheated individually with a torch, then placed in the bowl of ramen. It was one of the collaborative dishes I truly enjoyed. The brisket was a bit dry, but when it’s submerged in a salty broth, it doesn’t really matter. Still, I can imagine the cringe of any pitmaster seeing brisket reheated using such a blunt method.
After trying many reheated versions of their brisket, it was time to give the Daddy Duncan’s BBQ food trailer a visit. They were parked at National Iron and Metal for a promotion where the only thing you could trade for barbecue was scrap metal. They let me scrape by with an empty can of coffee. Only brisket and sausage were on offer, along with four sides. The mac and cheese was creamy with a dose of cracked black pepper. I liked the chunky potato salad, the crunchy slaw, and the beans that hovered between sweet and savory. Thick slices of fatty brisket were tender with a thick coating of peppery rub. It paired well with their house-made sauce, but even better with the salsas they offer. I was hoping for a bigger sampling of their menu, but that will come soon when they open their brick-and mortar location.
The Duncans recently broke ground on two acres on the north side of Katy. They hope to be open by the end of the year, but the trailer is already booked beyond that. They’ll operate both for a time but plan to park the trailer for good once things settle in at the permanent location. Randy said, “We’ll have live music, wrestling matches, playground for children, movie nights … sort of a community-type place.” He promised whole hogs on the weekends. The Duncans are hopeful they can keep up with the demand that a bigger operation will bring thanks to a new 1,000-gallon smoker they’ve ordered. They’re not sure how their current barbecue supply operation will be affected by the permanent location, but for now you can enjoy Daddy Duncan’s barbecue for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Katy, even when they’re not open.