Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Checking out the smokers at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff

One of the coolest things at a BBQ cookoff is the opportunity to check out everyone's smokers and cook setup. Here's a quick tour of some of the teams the Posse is competing against here at Possum Hollow Camp near Graham.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Monday, May 23, 2011

Smokin' Possum Cookoff a character-building experience for the Posse

We're still processing everything we learned at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff. It will take a while.

We had fun cooking just outside our cabins at Possum Hollow Resort on Possum Kingdom Lake over a nearly weather-perfect weekend.

As for our results, however, the best thing we can say is that it was a character-building experience.

Our first entry into the world of sanctioned barbecue competitions was a crash course in harsh reality. Cooking to maximize the impact of that one bite a judge takes of your food is not the same as cooking for friends and relatives in your backyard. And it's not the same as turing out good barbecue day after day at a joint.

We thought we knew that going in. Now, we really know.

There were about 17 entries in each of the three meat categories -- chicken, ribs and brisket. We didn't place in any, and the places went down to #10.

The really character-building part of the experience, though, came when the I.B.C.A. judge read the order of finish for the rest of the field. We were second to last in each category. That's consistent, if nothing else.

Thankfully, the judge read only entry numbers and not team names.

She also said that one of the chicken entries was raw -- NOT OUR's -- giving us the opportunity to instantly create a new team motto: "Better than raw."

The best part of the weekend was visiting with other cookers, like Brett Davenport of Burleson, who built his own giant smoker that can cook 32 briskets at once. The rig, complete with automatic awnings that shield cookers from sun and rain, weighs about 9,000 pounds.

Saturday evening, well after the judging, we visited with Troy and Amber King, married cookoff veterans from Wills Point who compete separately. Sometimes Troy does better and sometimes Amber, they said. Troy took first in chicken, Amber fourth in brisket.

They passed along some cooking tips and rub recommendations. And they both said that they wouldn't cook their competition barbecue for a meal at home. The taste is too loud, trying to attract the attention of a judge who takes just a nibble. That makes it difficult to eat much more than one piece.

"Competition is all about one bite," Troy said.

"You couldn't eat a whole sandwich made of my brisket," Amber said.

For now, we'll take some comfort in that.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Saturday, May 21, 2011

It's turn in time at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff

Gary J's famous chicken & ribs have been turned in to the judges, now it's down to the biggie - brisket. That's a 3 p.m. turn in time.

Marshall cooked three briskets to choose between for our entry. Out of that we'll enter just seven slices for the judges to taste test. Win or lose, we've had a great time last night and today. What an amazing day out here at the second annual Smokin' Possum Cookoff.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Fear & Loathing at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff at Possum Kingdom Lake

It's less than 11 hours til our first check in time at the Smokin' Possum Cookoff. This is the second year for the competition, which has been named as a Texas state championship by the I.B.C.A.

We're missing two members of our cook team, Bryan Gooding and Gary Barber, who were key members of the award winning run at last year's Blues, Bandits & BBQ Festival in Oak Cliff. This is our first cookoff since then.

We're cooking ribs, chicken and brisket against a tough field of seasoned competitors. We'll be live blogging during the day, for better or for worse. Either way, the Posse is having a great time being part of the Texas BBQ competition circuit.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Posse favorites: Beef ribs at Lockhart Smokehouse

Beefed Up Wednesday is something you're going to want to check out at Lockhart Smokehouse in Oak Cliff. Posse member Jim Rossman came back after a recent lunch raving about the beef ribs, a menu item available only on Wednesdays. And Jim eats there one or two times a week.

Not a lot of joints serve beef ribs, though I've tried them at several places including Louie Mueller BBQ, Gonzales Food Market and Smoke in Dallas. The ribs from Louie Mueller have been amazing every time I tried them and Gonzales was really good as well. I probably won't order the beef rib the next time I dine at Smoke, it was underwhelming compared to Mueller and Gonzales.

A group of ten from the DMN headed over the viaduct today to find out for ourselves. Arriving at 11:30 am, the line wasn't long yet and we got down to business.

The rib is giant, almost making you think of prehistoric days. They normally cut if from the bone for you, throwing some sweet pickles and white bread on top. It looked great.

Irwin Thompson ordered his "animal style," ie: still on the bone. It was fun to watch him devour one-plus pounds of meat off that big rib bone.

Bottom line, most of us have been here numerous times and this is one of the best things we've ordered at Lockhart. It was cooked perfectly, with good rub, texture and smoke. One rib could easily feed two people, unless you come in with a huge appetite.

Open only three months, Jeff and Tim are understandingly still knocking out some of the kinks of starting a BBQ joint from scratch. However, Beefed Up Wednesday will keep you coming back for more......

Lockhart Smokehouse, 400 W. Davis, Dallas, 214-944-5521. Open every day from 11am till they're done.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Monday, May 16, 2011

The first families of Dallas BBQ meet up at The Great Posse Smokefest

A spouse of one Posse member likened The Great Posse Smokefest this past Saturday and Sunday to a sleep-over for 10-year-old boys.

Yes, I did take my pillow and, thankfully, got to use it for an hour and a half.

The smoking of meat started Saturday evening, continued all night, and culminated in a party for Posse members and friends, totaling more than 50 people.

The highlight, other than the fellowship around the pits, was early Sunday afternoon when the owners of the Pecan Lodge -- Justin and Diane Fourton -- met the owners of Lockhart Smokehouse -- Jeff and Jill Bergus -- for the first time.

Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins took a wonderful photograph of the new First Ladies of Dallas BBQ.

The food got strong reviews. Justin's brisket -- he smokes with mesquite wood -- had a rub with some pop. The Lockhart sausages were great.

Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper's brisket -- he uses hickory wood -- was as solid as ever, although now, thanks to Justin, he is thinking about trying to add some more kick to his salt and pepper rub. My chicken turned out well but my ribs were mushy.

Wilkins' pork butt wasn't ready when we started eating at about 2:30 p.m. on Sunday so we left it on the pit. Four hours later, he pulled it. A dozen or so people, each armed with a fresh fork, dug in for samples. It was excellent.

Oh, yes, Suzi Woo's strawberry pie was terrific. She is the wife of Posse member David Woo.

The first Smokefest was a wonderful time. We plan to do it again.

Photos by Chris Wilkins, Suzi Woo, Mike Gibson & David Woo

Myron Mixon may conquer the world, but there's no way it's real Texas BBQ

Gotta love the title of Myron Mixon's new book, Smokin'. One word that conjures a thousand pictures.

And the self-proclaimed "winningest man in barbecue" even weighs in on our recent debate here about wood versus gas.

"Can I smoke food on a gas grill?" Mixon asks rhetorically midway through his opening chapter.

"You bet your ass you can," he answers.

Mixon's credentials are impressive, as he lets you know in a short section called: "How Much Have I Won?" No self-esteem issues with Myron. Of course, anyone who has watched him on TLC's BBQ Pitmasters already knows that.

He cites more than 1,800 total barbecue competition trophies, 3 world championships, 11 national championships and 30 state championships, singling out Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Illinois, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Notice anything missing? Yep, no Texas.

Mixon does offer many good tips and interesting recipes in his 170-page book. Don't open your smoker unless you have to, he says, because of the problems it causes in trying to maintain a constant temperature.

I'm going to try his bacon-wrapped chicken breast soon, though I'll skip the Coca-Cola marinade.

I'll also pass on his "world-famous cupcake chicken," no matter how many contests it has won. Chicken thighs in an aluminum cupcake pan? It just ain't right! And I'll skip the MSG he slips into some recipes.

His brisket recipe -- "preferably wagyu" -- is most revealing. Cook at 350 degrees for about 4 hours, covering with foil just past the midway point. Then let the it rest at room temperature for another 3 or 4 hours. Pour the saved, re-warmed juices over the meat before serving.

Low and slow, the Texas way? Forget about it. For Mixon, it's all about playing to the judges' taste -- maybe that's lack of taste -- and winning.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

We love the smell of hickory smoke in the morning

It's 11 a.m. on a beautiful day for The Great Posse Smokefest in Dallas.

Everyone has had a nap -- some longer than others -- and we feel rejuvenated after a night of fellowship around the pits.

Most of the meat is done and resting. Chris' pork butt still has some time to go. Justin's brisket, which looks absolutely beautiful, is finishing.

We just loaded the chickens on the Jambo.

For now, we can relax and enjoy the smell of hickory smoke.

Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

Justin Fourton of Pecan Lodge is in the house

It's now 4:49 a.m. and Justin Fourton, owner and pitmaster of the Pecan Lodge has joined the party at the first Great Posse Smokefest.

Justin and his wife Diane, aka: The Boss Lady, serve what many consider to the the best brisket in Dallas. We started with a tour of his awesome mobile pit as he got the fire up to temp.

It's now 5:30 a.m. and we're talking BBQ technique and getting as many of his secrets as we can. Brisket and biscuits for breakfast before too long.....

Photos by ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse

It's 3:39 a.m. at The Great Posse Smokefest, time to wrap the briskets

3:39 a.m.: Marshall is butcher paper wrapping the briskets, ribs go on at 6pm. The beer is still cold & so is the night.......

Photo by Chris Wilkins

Marshall Cooper explains the temperature variances of his competition-tuned Jambo

When the temperature gauge says 250 degrees, that's the grate temp for the center third of the pit, Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper says, based on three months of test cooks.

The left third of the cooking chamber, away from the firebox, is 10 degrees cooler, and the right third, nearest the firebox, is 25 degrees warmer, perfect for chicken and pork butt.

Cooper fired the pit at 6:30 p.m. with three 22-inch hickory logs and has added a log an hour. It's 2:30 a.m. and the gauge is a steady 250.

"This cook is going damn good," Cooper said, sitting pitside and sipping Maker's Mark under a nearly full moon. "Jamie Geer knows what he's doing."

Geer, a Texas legend, engineered and built the pit.

Photos by Chris Wilkins

Welcome to The Great Posse Smokefest

It's 1:30 a.m. on Preston Crest Lane. The Jambo J-3 is locked in at 250 degrees. Five briskets soaking up clean hickory smoke.

We've got a half-dozen racks of ribs in the brine, waiting to be rubbed and put on the smoker at 6 a.m. or so. A couple of chickens, and pork butt, too.

Justin Fourton, pitmaster of the Pecan Lodge, plans to arrive at 4 a.m. with his pit. Later, Jeff Bergus, owner of Lockhart Smokehouse plans to arrive with some of his original Kreuz Market sausage.

Welcome to The Great Posse Smokefest. We hope to have fun and compare notes with some great pitmasters about cooking real Texas barbecue with real wood.

We'll keep you posted throughout the day.

Photos by Michael Ainsworth & Chris Wilkins

Friday, May 6, 2011

The wood versus gas BBQ debate continues as we analyze a Southern Pride recipe

Southern Pride makes gas-fired commercial smokers, which burn a little wood for flavor, and offers cooking tips to its customers.

For one of its larger machines, the XLR-1400, which has a capacity of 72 briskets, the recipe for "Texas style brisket" says cook 12 to 14 hours and use a total of two 4-inch by 12-inch logs.

That's for a "heavy smoke" taste, the recipe says.

A couple weeks ago, we got into a good discussion on this blog about real Texas barbecue and whether it could ever be cooked with gas. We still say no and offer Southern Pride's recipe in support.

More than 850 pounds of brisket, 12 hours, two sticks, lots of gas. That's not Texas BBQ.

Baby J McKenzie, who runs Baby J's in Palestine, told us on a recent tour that he uses a cord and a half of wood a week.

What Baby J uses in a week would supply an XLR-1400 -- cooking once a day, 365 days a year -- with "heavy smoke" flavor for about a year and a half.

Photo by Chris Wilkins

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A grim indictment of the lack of BBQ choices in Dallas

I just bought a copy of the Barbecue Lover's Guide to Austin, by Gloria Corral.

Daniel Vaughn, the BBQ Snob, reviewed it a couple weeks ago and he's right. The 174-page paperback is skinny on critical guidance.

But if you live in Dallas, like some of us in the Posse, it's also evidence of our lack of barbecue choices.

Corral has write-ups on nearly 60 places within the city of Austin. Subtract the chains (anything with more than one outlet, which knocks out County Line, Bill Miller, Cartwright's and PoK-e-Jo's, among others) and there are still about 35 joints, from Franklin to Old School BBQ's yellow bus. Most of them look like places we'd love to visit. And Corral is already working on a second edition so there could be more next time.

I asked Posse pitmaster Marshall Cooper how many non-chain barbecue places there were in the city of Dallas. He checked his D Magazine iPhone restaurant app -- D Recommends -- and came up with fewer than 10.

That can't be all of them, can it? Cooper said.

Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins checked Vaughn's more definitive listings on the Full Custom Gospel BBQ site and came up with three dozen or so in Dallas, or roughly the same number as Austin, still an anemic number considering the difference in the sizes of the cities.

"Daniel gave a bunch of them only one or two stars," Wilkins reported, wondering if a joint should be counted if it is totally bad. We'll save that argument for another day.

We've debated in the past why Dallas doesn't have more genuine joints. Some of our reasoning: The chains smother the little guy. Tough city regulations. Lack of a food trailer culture (though, that may be about to change). Dallas diners don't know the difference.

And to be fair, there have been some encouraging signs in the past year or so with the opening of several new places, like the Pecan Lodge, Lockhart Smokehouse and Luckie's.

But shouldn't the city of Dallas have more?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Barbecue Chronicles: Back to East Texas where we find proof that wood rules

It had been a few months since the Posse’s last barbecue tour. So, we reminded ourselves to be conservative and not overeat at the first stop.

“I’m just going to have one rib,” said tour veteran Marshall Cooper as he drove east from Dallas on I-20.

His passengers laughed.

“Well, if they’re good I might have four or five,” he conceded.

In the end, somehow, Texas barbecue always manages to bring out the truth.

For this chapter of our barbecue chronicles, we traveled 290 miles over 10 hours on a beautiful spring Saturday that was chilly when we started and warm when we finished.

We ate at five places in East Texas, including four of Texas Monthly’s Top 50 joints in the state: Stanley’s in Tyler, Stacy’s in Jacksonville, Baby J’s in Palestine and Cripple Creek in Athens. We had been to Stanley’s before, but not the other places.

Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins, a photo editor at The Dallas Morning News who planned the itinerary and served as chief navigator, also left some room for serendipity.

“I know we’re going to find something,” he said. “Keep an eye out for smoke.”

Our first stop was Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q, located near the medical center. The Posse, a dozen strong, converged in four vehicles, just after 10:30 a.m., a half-hour before the doors opened. Tour veteran Jim Rossman, a tech expert for The News, cut a fine figure riding solo in his wife’s red Miata. A big guy, he looked like a teen-ager who had outgrown a childhood toy. To fit, Rossman rode with the top down.

“It got a little cool on the way over,” he admitted.

Also on the tour were veterans Bruce Tomaso, Ahna Hubnik and Gary Barber, who all work at The News, and Gary’s brother, Michael, making his first trip. For the Cooper family, barbecue is a family affair so Marshall, a commercial real estate broker, was joined by his wife, Sheilagh, and their seven-year-old son, Mark.

Two other first-timers made the trip: Phil Lamb, an attorney, and Chris Post, a banker. They are regular readers of the Posse’s blog www.texasbbqposse.com.

Stanley's in Tyler

The last time we visited Stanley’s,
about a year ago, the ribs were sold out by 11:30 a.m. and we didn’t get any.

“Sold out,” of course, can be a relative term in barbecue. Before our first visit, pitmaster Jonathan Shaw had cooked only a half-dozen racks. Since then, Stanley’s ribs have won a Texas Monthly competition and Shaw is cooking a lot more racks.

“We won’t run out on you today,” Shaw said as he greeted us outside while we waited for the place to open. Owner Nick Pencis was away on a catering job.

Along with the ribs, we were anxious to sample Stanley’s turkey breast, the favorite from our first visit, and the Brother In Law sandwich, a Stanley’s specialty made with chopped beef, sausage and cheese.

We ate outside on the big patio. “A great spot to start the day!” Sheilagh Cooper said.

Post said he never would have thought to combine the sandwich items and he liked the turkey so much that he bought a pound to take home.

The ribs, finished with a glaze, were nicely tender and had a slightly sweet taste. Marshall Cooper admitted eating four, “maybe five.”

Rossman called the ribs the best he had eaten in months. He ate five and most of a brother-in-law sandwich. Then he went back and bought a rack of ribs to take home.

Before moving to Dallas, Rossman said he lived in Tyler for 10 years, less than a mile from Stanley’s. He worked for the Tyler newspaper, but never ate at Stanley’s. “I’m kicking myself if it was always this good,” he said.

As we were leaving, we asked Shaw how he was able to keep the turkey breast so moist. He said he puts them on the pit after most of the other meats have come off. He cooks them for about three hours at 300 degrees, until the internal temperature reaches 165.

“We use a little more mellow fire because we don’t want too much smoke on them,” he said.

Oh, yes, one other important development. Stanley’s now serves Big Red on tap.

Stacy's in Jacksonville

From Stanley’s we drove south, through town, and got caught a mid-day traffic jam in southern Tyler. “The traffic is as bad as Plano,” Wilkins said. “It wasn’t like this when I was growing up here.” Wilkins now lives in Plano.

Stacy’s Barbecue is located in an old house, near a shopping mall on Highway 69 in Jacksonville. As we walked through the front door, we saw a small jar of ashes on a shelf. A note said: “Ashes of unruly customers.”

Nearby, a sign read: “This is not Burger King. You don’t get it your way. You take it my way or don’t get the damn thing.”

We liked that attitude, but the meat under whelmed us.

“I just don’t know how brisket can look that good and taste that bland,” Tomaso said. Lamb echoed the sentiment.

After we ate, owner Ron Davis showed us his two, nearly 30-year-old gas-fired pits, which, he said, can cook a total of up to 100 briskets at a time. He said he doesn’t use rubs or seasonings. “We throw some hickory on for flavor,” he said.

Davis said Stacy’s, named after his father, once used only wood, but that meant staying up most of the night tending the fire. If the pit crew lost control of the heat, there were problems.

“One day the briskets would be like charcoal and the next as raw as can be,” Davis said.

It’s much easier cooking with gas, he said. Set the temperature, go home and sleep. And, he said, his customers like the food.

We found Highway 79 and headed southwest to Palestine.

Baby J's in Palestine

There, just outside of town, we ran into the most unusual pit any of us have seen. A giant black metal box on short stilts with a smokestack reaching 20-feet high, located just out the side door from Baby J's Bar B Que and Fish.

With a flick of his wrist, Jeremiah "Baby J" McKenzie toggled one of the huge counterweights and a door magically lifted, exposing eight rotating cook racks filled with chicken and ribs.

An identical cooking chamber was on the opposite side. "That's just heaven," said Marshall Cooper, clearly smitten with pit envy. In Cooper's case, that takes some doing. He owns a Jambo J-3.

McKenzie calls this unique smoker Big Baby. He can load 10 logs at a time in the converted firebox underneath.

"This had gas when I got it," he said. "We don't want gas."

Nearby was another pit, unused this day, housed in a trailer. “Danger men cooking,” said a sign on the side.

You gotta love barbecue humor.

McKenzie then led most of the Posse on a slow procession to the parking area in front of his building where a more conventional, tank-style pit was smoking away.

"The big one don't pass my test on brisket," Baby J said. "For chicken, ribs, it's perfect. But for brisket, this one here made my reputation."

He removed a padlock from one of the cooking chambers and started unwrapping a couple of the foiled briskets.

"This still has about an hour or so to go but you can get an idea," he said as he cut samples and passed them to reaching hands.

The pieces were hot, dripping in juices, and a little more than one bite in size, which made for some interesting contortions as we tried to eat without burning our mouths or getting grease on our chins and clothes.

"Outstanding," said Lamb. "Can I buy half of that brisket?"

Baby J nodded yes. He explained that he cooks his briskets for 18 hours or so, never allowing the temperature to go above "boiling."

"I never get in no hurry," he said.

McKenzie, the youngest of eight children, therefore Baby J, said he learned his craft from relatives at family gatherings and has been cooking since he was a kid. (He said he turns 39 this month.)

He started his joint in 2007 and made Texas Monthly's Top 50 list in 2008. He closed for a while but opened again last year.

Enticed by his brisket samples, we anxiously went inside and ordered from his menu.

Post called the pulled pork “exceptional, very smoky and surprisingly moist.” Lamb called the catfish the best he had ever tasted, unexpected on a barbecue tour. “But you learn to take what the tour gives you,” he said.

The brisket was tender but not as tasty as what we had right off the pit. McKenzie said he uses a machine to slice an entire brisket at once and then lets the slices sit in a secret broth -- “Baby Juice,” he called it – before they are served.

The ribs were tender and tasty. The pies were wonderful.

“Who made the pies?” asked Hubnik after eating a slice of coconut cream.

“They’re homemade,” Baby J said.

“But who makes them because I want to hug her,” Hubnik said.

“She’s not here,” Baby J said.

Later, his wife, Linda, the pie maker, arrived and Hubnik delivered her hug.

Baby J also offered samples of his sausage, chicken, ribs right off the smoker and beef jerky, all very good. The ribs were better than those we had ordered earlier.

“You’re like a crack dealer,” Rossman told McKenzie as he took a sample of the jerky. Wilkins and Lamb each bought some to take home.

For a decade, McKenzie has also been pastor at One Way Apostolic Church in Palestine.

"Do you ever use barbecue in your sermons?" we asked him.

"Yes," he replied. "I say in the Christian religion, you can't be fast. You gotta go slow. When you go fast, you mess up."

We could have stayed longer, but we finally said good-bye to Baby J and headed north on Highway 19, toward Athens.

Butt Nekkid in Montalba

In a few minutes, as we passed Montalba, Wilkins spotted smoke on the side of the road. He had been crying wolf all day long with false sightings of cool joints, but this was the real deal.

"We probably should turn around,” Wilkins said. Wheelman Marshall Cooper, leading the Posse procession, obliged.

And so we pulled into Smokin' Jay Galloway's Butt Nekkid BBQ.

"We don't put anything on our brisket except smoke," Galloway said, explaining the name.

Open about a year, Galloway said he cooks every night and sells out every day. He offers a chopped beef sandwich special with chips and a drink for $5, sales tax included.

He was out of ribs when we arrived about 4:30 p.m. We ordered some of his brisket and sausage and decided it would be nice to visit again when he still had ribs.

The joint itself, with its loose brick entryway and hand-strung, lighted "BBQ" sign, is unique. Some would call it cute or quaint. Sheilagh Cooper called it "eclectic." Tomaso said "faux rustic."

However you describe it, it's one of a kind.

Cripple Creek in Athens

Our final stop was Cripple Creek BBQ in Athens, where the specialty is hog wings, a unique cut of pork that Rossman described as a “meat lollipop.”

We each had one. The meat itself was bland. No smoke. But the sauce – Mae Ploy – was great.

“I drank that sauce,” Marshall Cooper said. Several in the Posse bought bottles to take home.

Calling out Texas Monthly

Driving back to Dallas on Highway 175, we were stuffed, but also reflective about what we had learned on our tour.

"Someone needs to call out Texas Monthly on its Top 50 BBQ joints," one Posse member said.

We were discussing the huge difference in taste between the gas-fired joints (Stacy’s and Cripple Creek) and the wood-fired (Stanley’s and Baby J’s). To us, the gassers didn’t come close. Yet they all were Top 50, according to Texas Monthly. How could that be?

"They should have separate lists," someone said.

"They shouldn't include the gas guys," another said.

"They should at least tell you when the place uses gas," another said.

None of the criticisms came lightly. We consider Texas Monthly's once-every-five-years ranking the bible of Texas barbecue. But we also think that real Texas barbecue means wood-fired.

The day after our tour, the Coopers asked their son, Mark, if he had a favorite place.

"I liked Baby J's but the ribs were salty and didn't have much flavor,” Mark answered. “I liked Stanley's ribs best, but they were a little sweet.”

No mention of the gas-fired joints. Even for a 7-year-old, wood rules.

East Texas II BBQ Tour itinerary April 16. 2011

9 a.m.: Leave Dallas
11 a.m.: Meet at Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q, 525 S. Beckham Ave., Tyler, 903-593-0311. Open Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Sat 11 a.m.-til the meat runs out.
1 p.m.: Stacy's Barbecue, 1217 South Jackson Street (Hwy 69), Jacksonville, 903-56-1951. Open Tues-Sat 10:30 a.m.-7 p.m.
2:30 p.m.: Baby J’s Bar-B-Que & Fish, FM 2419 at U.S. 287, Palestine, 903-729-8402. Open Tues-Sat 11 a.m.-8 p.m.   (Note: this joint is now closed. 7/14)
4:30 p.m.: Smok'n J's Butt Nekkid BBQ, Hwy. 19 at FM 321, Montalba, 903-373-2956. Open Wed-Sun 10 a.m.-7 p.m. or when the meat runs out.   (Note: this joint is now closed. 7/14)
5:15 p.m.: Cripple Creek BBQ, 500 S. Palestine Street, Athens, 903-677-4226. Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9.
7 p.m.: Back in Dallas

Story by Gary Jacobson
Photos by Chris Wilkins