Dayne Weaver is a latecomer to the Texas barbecue community, but you can’t blame him. While his dad is from Fort Worth, Dayne grew up wherever his mom’s Air Force career took the family, including England, Italy, and Japan. His dad would smoke beef jerky to pack in his school lunch. “For my birthday, I always wanted my dad to make a rack of ribs,” Weaver said. He also vividly remembers a trip to Keller, just north of Fort Worth, when he was fifteen. “I was craving barbecue,” he said, so he walked a mile and a half to Shady Oak Barbeque and ate a rack of ribs. Now he’s a full-time Fort Worth resident and runs one of the city’s best new barbecue joints.
Before selling his barbecue, Weaver smoked meat in his backyard. He went through so many briskets that his then-girlfriend Ashley (they married in September) reached her breaking point. She told him, “You’re cooking brisket for nobody on the weekends … Someone needs to be eating it.” They began selling bulk barbecue out of the house in January 2018. At first, it was to friends and family. Then strangers starting lining up in their driveway, and the couple figured it was time to go legit, beginning with a series of pop-ups in mid-2018. A falling out with a landlord derailed their first attempt at a brick-and-mortar last year, but since September, Dayne’s Craft Barbecue has set up at Lola’s Trailer Park in Fort Worth every Saturday at noon.
When Weaver began his barbecue journey, he wasn’t aware of Texas barbecue culture. “I was always kinda on my own doing it,” he said of his cooking. Instagram provided his inspiration. Weaver followed the likes of Moo’s Craft Barbecue and Burt Bakman (now at SLAB) of Trudy’s Underground Barbecue in Los Angeles and admired their styles of cooking. He finally reached out to Joe Zavala of Zavala’s Barbecue in Grand Prairie in December 2017 to see if the Zavala’s crew needed help and was invited into their pit room on a Friday night. “That was kinda my eye-opening moment with Texas barbecue, spending the whole night drinking Lone Stars with the Zavala’s guys,” Weaver said. He learned of barbecue joints like Truth BBQ that he’d never heard of and left feeling inspired.
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I visited Dayne’s one recent Saturday. My noon arrival was a bit too late. I stood behind about thirty others holding fresh beers from the Lola’s bar. The four racks of beef ribs that came off the smoker earlier that morning were sold out by the time I reached the window at 12:30. Weaver said he’s still trying to adjust the amount he’s cooking to accommodate his recent uptick in business. November and December were tough, but January has been a pleasant surprise, especially given how slow the month usually is for restaurants. Still, seeing all those people in line before the window opens is stressful. Weaver said, “I just don’t like people having to wait.”
The most popular order at Dayne’s is the aptly named “Fort Worth the Wait” platter for $55. Five sides, a half-pound each of sliced brisket, pork ribs, and pulled pork along with two links of sausage are lovingly arranged on the paper-lined silver tray. It’s impossible to take a bad photo of a Dayne’s Craft Barbecue tray, and Weaver said that’s the point. He coveted the barbecue arrangements made and often shared on Instagram by Adamson Barbecue in Toronto, and the resemblance is apparent. I consider myself lucky that they had already sold out of pulled pork when making my tray, so they offered to swap in a few slices of bacon brisket. I didn’t object.
Bacon brisket is just the name for a whole smoked pork belly at Dayne’s. It’s not cured like bacon, but Weaver explained, “The first couple times I tried to sell pork belly, no one bought it.” He still believed it was a great cut of meat. “I just started calling it [bacon brisket] one day at a pop-up, and everybody wanted to know what it was.” It has sold out every time since. As for the preparation, Weaver said he tries to convince the pork belly it’s really a brisket in the same way a goat raised by dogs might think it’s a dog. “We rub them with the briskets, we cook them with the briskets, we rest them with the briskets, and by the end of it, they just think they’re a brisket,” he said, laughing.
The bark on the bacon brisket was stunning. It had a crunch to it that contrasted with the perfectly tender meat beneath. Briskets get the same rub and are also smoked to the perfect doneness. I like brisket fat, and the juicy slices from the fatty end were pleasingly decadent, but the fat cap was incredibly thick on the lean side of the brisket, which could have been more carefully trimmed.
A little sauce goes on the pork spare ribs before they’re served. I enjoyed the flavor, and the meat pulled from the bone easily enough. Slices of smoked turkey were smoky and plenty moist, but it was the sausages that most impressed. Weaver grinds and stuffs the sausages in a remote commissary kitchen (the same place where Ashley makes all the sides and desserts). He used to just air-dry them for a couple days before putting them on the smoker, but, he said, “you were always chewing on the casings.” Now he cold smokes them first, then chills them again before finishing them on the smokers on Saturday morning before service.
Weaver usually makes a berry gouda and triple-cheddar pepper sausage, but during my visit he was serving a couple varieties he hadn’t done in a while: a jalapeño Havarti and the “Funkytown Fuego.” Weaver admitted he may have opted for Havarti cheese because it sounds good with jalapeño. It costs him, though, when he adds $15 worth of cheese to every twelve-pound batch of the sausage. I loved the creamy cheese and the chunks of jalapeño. The casings were as good as advertised too. The Funkytown Fuego was even spicier with notes of chili powder. Both links were juicy with a great smoke flavor.
They produce a large variety of smoked meats out of a small, five-hundred-gallon offset smoker made locally by El Cucaracho. Weaver prefers oak in the firebox but sometimes mixes in a little pecan wood too. Thomas Loven helps run the pit and works the block during service as well. Weaver said they smoke all the big meats first, and they all come off by 2 a.m. to make room for the turkey, pork ribs, and sausage. “I could make a little more food, but then I’d compromise on the quality,” he said. So be aware that they may run out of your favorite cut.
Ashley makes the sides, and none of them taste like afterthoughts. “I put so much effort into all the meats, I gotta equal that on the sides,” Weaver said. The Flamin’ Hot street corn gets a layer of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, cotija cheese, cream, and cilantro. Simple pit beans are topped with Fritos and shredded cheddar, and there’s even a broccoli salad with grapes for those who need something green. “One thing that slows us down a little bit is all the garnishing we do on sides,” Weaver admits. If you want to keep the line moving for those behind you, you could do a lot worse than a scoop of the excellent loaded baked potato salad.
The lines get long, and service can be slow. The barbecue isn’t handed to you when you pay because they’re building all those trays in a tiny enclosure that used to be a bar. It took more than twenty minutes for my tray to come out of the kitchen. Ashley has told Weaver it’s time to find a food truck to give them more space. “She’s been the driving force behind this whole thing,” he said.
Until they get the truck, Dayne’s will operate only on Saturdays. They’re pulling a temporary permit every week in their current arrangement, but having a food truck (which will be parked at Lola’s) will eliminate that requirement, and they’ll start serving on Thursdays and Fridays too. For now, Ashley will keep working toward her college degree, and Weaver will keep driving for Uber, which he said is a great way to bring in extra income with flexible hours. But soon Fort Worth might be fortunate enough to have a few more opportunities each week to try some of the city’s best new barbecue.