Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The power of return customers on display at Kirby's Barbeque in Mexia

A customer arrives at Kirby's Barbeque in Mexia. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Luckily, we got to Kirby’s Barbeque near Mexia about 11:30 on Friday morning. So, at noon, while the line of lunch customers was building, we were already eating some excellent brisket and some very good ribs.

At one point, Posse veteran Bruce Tomaso counted 20 people waiting to order at this rural barbecue outpost about 90 miles south of Dallas.

Considering that Big D is roughly 150 times larger than Mexia, population nearly 8,000, Tomaso calculated that an equivalent line at Pecan Lodge would number 3,000.

That drove home a common theme during our 10-hour, 318-mile Heart of Texas BBQ Tour.

“In this part of the world, if they don’t come back and see you, you don’t stay in business very long.” Kirby’s owner and pitmaster Kirby Hyden said of his customers.

We heard the same sentiment at our next stop, Whup’s Boomerang Bar-B-Q in Marlin. “Keep them coming back,” said owner Ben Washington as he explained why he included the word “boomerang” in his joint’s name. We’ll tell you more about Whup’s in another post.

At Kirby’s, they’ve been coming back since 1991, when, after working for his father a bit, Hyden opened his own place. A few years ago, he moved from Mexia to the current location a few miles south, near the Limestone County Airport.

Customers wait in line to order at Kirby's Barbeque on a recent Friday. (Photo ©Daniel Goncalves/fotobia.com)

Hyden said business has picked up this year after his joint made Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list.
“It kinda put us on the map, finally,” he said.

The Posse, seven strong, ordered a sampling of brisket, ribs, turkey, sausage, and, yes, ham.

“The fatty brisket is about a good as you’re going to get,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said.

Kirby’s only serves ribs on Fridays and Saturdays. Bryan Gooding said the ribs were very good, but would have benefited from a tastier rub. The turkey was tender, the sausage okay and the ham – uncommon barbecue fare – tasty. We found ourselves wondering why more joints don’t offer ham.

Hyden said he mainly cooks with green post oak wood and adds a little hickory when he can get it. "I find that green burns a little slower," he said.

While we ate, waitress Debra Farris said we’d be making a big mistake if we didn’t try the buttermilk pie. So, we ordered a couple pieces to share.

“I might drive here just for the pie,” Tomaso said after he ate a bite of warm pie.

Thank you, Debra.

Sherry Jacobson, a friend of the Posse and a constructive critic, suggested recently that we include a new bit of advice for readers. Specifically, she asked, is a joint, by itself and not part of a tour, worth the drive from Dallas?

For Kirby’s, yes.

Our lunch of sliced brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey and ham at Kirby's Barbeque. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Heart of Texas BBQ Tour
  • 9am:  Leave Dallas
  • 10:30am:  Wright’s Bar-B-Q, 123 Martin Luther King Jr Hwy (Hwy 14), Mexia, 254-562-9042. Open Tue-Sat 10am-6pm.
  • 11:30am:  Kirby's Barbeque, 4592 Hwy. 14 S, Mexia, 254-562-5076. Open: Wed-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm.  (Texas Monthly Top 50)
  • 1:30pm:  Whup's Boomerang Bar-B-Q, 1203 Bennett St., Marlin, 254-883-5770. Open Thurs-Sat 10am-8pm.    (Texas Monthly Top 50)  
  • 3 pm:  Miller's Smokehouse, 208 N Penelope, Belton, 254-939-5500. Open Tues-Thurs 10:30am-6:30pm, Fri and Sat 10:30am-9pm or until the meat runs out.  (Texas Monthly Top 50)
  • 7 pm:  Arrive back in Dallas
Total trip: 10 hours, 318 miles

5 comments:

  1. Wow you should have tried the chicken....yummo!! The food and SERVICE is always wonderful....Sheila Winn Groesbeck

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  2. It's ALL good, but for my co-workers and I, we LOVE the turkey sandwiches with a piece of buttermilk pie. We are very honored that Kirby's is so close and the staff working there are great!! Thanks Kirby, we love you! Judy Lewis, Groesbeck

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  3. The buttermilk pie is the best dessert I've had in Texas so far. Definitely with the drive and the people working there are tremendously wonderful.

    Moustache

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  4. I was there in June of 2013 the food was outstanding. My brother Jim Basden of Groesbeck
    is a long time friend and customer of Kirby's.

    Bill Basden----Portland Oregon

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  5. Kirby and I were room mates @ Sam Houston State in 1974. Back then we would eat anything that wouldn't snap back ! Congratulations Kirby on turning out some great BBQ.

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