When out-of-town guests visit me in Tyler, and their mouths water for barbecue, my choice, hands down, is Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q. The half-century-old eatery has grown into one of the Rose City’s hottest go-to dining destinations. The joint dishes up a tasteful blend of smoked meats, old-fashioned tradition, and live roots music—plus a slogan I can feel good about: “Be Kind. Have Fun.”
Robb Walsh’s new book, Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey, is full of tasty barbecue recipes. Here’s a brisket recipe, as well as supplementary recipes for mop sauce and barbecue sauce.
We weren’t looking for just any barbecue restaurants. We had no interest in places that used electric or gas-fired barbecue ovens. We were looking for the keepers of the flame—the last of the old-fashioned Southern barbecue pits,” explains Texas food writer Robb Walsh in the preface of his new book Barbecue Crossroads: Notes and Recipes from a Southern Odyssey.
I grew up in a grocery store in Amarillo. My dad and his brother took over the family business from their father when they returned from World War II. In 1962, when I was ten years old, I started going to work with Dad on Saturdays. I carried around a milk crate to stand on so I could work produce or bag groceries, my apron rolled up so I wouldn’t trip on it. The store was a marvelous place for a little kid, but the best part, the heart of it, was the meat market. Central Grocery was known around town for its fine meats, and the star of the operation was the butcher. The butcher was special: He didn’t sack groceries, run the register, trim the lettuce, or stock the shelves. The meat market was off limits to me—its floors were slick, the knives were sharp, and the butcher was not to be disturbed.
In the course of this project, I got to meet some terrific Texas people. There is no single theme, other than the willingness to work incredibly hard for incredibly modest rewards, that connects all the makers of Texas barbecue. They certainly aren’t all the same race, color or creed, the major subsets being African-American, Hispanic, Middle European and cowboy. They don’t all belong to the same socioeconomic level, as some still run tiny shacks on forgotten highways while others have grown into multiunit operators, sometimes fielding concepts removed from their barbecue roots.
When we're hungry, but not in the mood for 'cue in our favorite Hill Country town, we find a booth at Stonewall's Pizza, Wings and Things on Llano's courthouse square (101 W. Main). While there this past weekend, our group indulged in the fried-chicken salad (with honey-mustard dressing), cheeseburgers (delicious, doughy buns; served with battered fries), and a sausage-and-pepperoni pizza (wonderful crispy-but-chewy crust). We topped it off with Blue Bell Cotton Candy milkshakes! Yes, there are healthier items on the menu, including a turkey sandwich that my cousin swears by. By the way: On the edge of town on Texas 29, I noticed what must be a new place that sells bottle trees (anyone been there?). The shop was closed when we passed by, but the displays of colorful glass radiating in the late-day sun had me rethinking my backyard landscape on the drive home.