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Vencil’s Slow Beans

The Taylor Cafe is a tiny beer joint with two bars—a leftover from the days of segregation. It sits on an all-but-abandoned block of Main Street that is now shadowed by a highway overpass. In the 1950s, Taylor Cafe was a rough-and-tumble honky-tonk that catered to itinerant agricultural workers and cotton pickers. There was a fight almost every night, remembers owner Vencil Mares. The cotton pickers are gone now, and there aren’t so many fights anymore, but otherwise the Taylor Cafe hasn’t changed an iota in 50 years. The dean of Central Texas pit bosses, Vencil began his barbecue career at the original location of the South Side Market in downtown Elgin, where he learned to make Elgin sausage. He opened the Taylor Cafe in 1948.

Makes about 6 cups. 

  • 2 c. dried pinto beans 
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 T. chili powder 
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper 
  • 1 c. finely chopped bacon 
  • 1 tsp. salt, or more to taste  

Don’t be in a rush to cook beans, Vencil advises. They taste best when they are cooked very slowly. A Crockpot is really the perfect cooking vessel for home-cooked pintos. Sort the beans to remove any stones or grit. Rinse in a colander, and place the beans in a Crockpot with 6 c. of water. Add the onion, chili powder, pepper, bacon, and salt. Cook on high for 2 hours. Turn to low, and allow to simmer for 8 hours or overnight. Add more water as needed. Variation: Beans and Sausage. At the Taylor Cafe, Vencil serves a bowl of these beans topped with sliced Bohunk sausage and a little chopped onion. You can spike the beans with hot sauce if you like. Serve the dish with lots of saltines. Central Texas Barbecue Taylor Cafe 101 N. Main Street, Taylor 512/352-2828 

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