Red Bryan’s Smokehouse — BBQ, Oak Cliff-Style

by Paula Bosse


by Paula Bosse

Everybody in Dallas knows about the Bryan family barbecue dynasty, which began when Elias Bryan and his wife Sadie arrived in Oak Cliff from Cincinnati in 1910 and opened a barbecue stand. Elias begat Red, and Red begat Sonny. And there was much trans-generational smoking of meat. The Bryans have been a BBQ fixture in Dallas for over 100 years.

Fun facts about William Jennings “Red” Bryan:

  • Red studied botany at SMU, which might explain his initial career as a florist until he was inevitably pulled back into the family business. He opened his first place in the early 1930s in a retired Interurban car, known affectionately as “The Tin Shack.”
  • In the late ’40s, now well established and wanting swankier digs, he commissioned the respected architect Charles Dilbeck to design the new restaurant. (Dilbeck designed some of the most beautiful homes in Dallas, several of which are in Lakewood, but this was probably his first — and only — barbecue joint.)

And the rest is, as they say, barbecue — and Oak Cliff — history.




Red, 1951




Sources & Notes

Postcard (circa 1950) at top from eBay. This is printed on the back:


Ad from 1956.

Much more on Red Bryan’s Smokehouse, with lots of photos of its construction, can be found in the Oak Cliff Advocate article “The King of Oak Cliff Barbecue” by Gayla Brooks, here.

Even more cool stuff, including early photos of the family business, can be found in the Texas Monthly article “Bryan Family Artifacts and Mementos” by Daniel Vaughn, here.

Sonny Bryan’s website is here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.