Thursday, August 16

Lone Star Dispatch: Dallas Pig Stands

From the keyboard of guest blogger Daniel Vaughn, whose computer smells vaguely of brisket.

In a current exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, a painting of Pig Stand #2 by George Grosz is on display. The level of detail serves as a time capsule of the cost of barbecue in 1952, when Grosz was in Dallas. A baked ham, barbecued beef, or barbecued pork sandwich would set you back $.35, while just a quarter would get a hamburger or an egg-American cheese-and-goose-liver sandwich. The description of the painting in the exhibit notes that "The experience was novel, and so was the food; the Pig Stand is said to have invented the onion ring, chicken fried steak, and Texas toast." Curiously, these items (all creations claimed by the Pig Stand at least a decade earlier) fail to appear on the hand-lettered menu in Grosz's painting.

"Pig Stand #2," by George Grosz. (Image scanned from exhibition postcard.)

Pig Stand #2 was opened in 1921, shortly after the original drive-in located in Dallas' Oak Cliff neighborhood. For the driver's convenience, the stands were built so close to the road that today, after the city streets have been widened to accommodate additional lanes of traffic, not even a foundation remnant is visible in the original locations. Fueled by the famous Pig Sandwich—sliced pork, relish, and special sauce—the chain's first dozen years enjoyed a growth trajectory matching that of McDonald's in the 1950s.

But the rapid expansion fizzled during World War II. The chain never really recovered after the War, but somehow limped into the twenty-first century. The last two Texas locations of The Pig Stand closed in 2006. Today, if you want an authentic Pig Sandwich, the closest you'll get is a San Antonio location of the former chain that reopened in 2007—and it'll set you back $6.59.

Follow Daniel Vaughn on Twitter at @bbqsnob.