Friday, August 29, 2014

Smoked meatloaf is a hit at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger

The Posse samples various smoked meats at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

In the 5 years the Posse has been on the hunt for the best smoked meats in Texas, we've met lots of people chasing their barbecue restaurant dreams, including a preacher, a city councilman, and former corporate consultants.

Jay Coin, the owner and pit master at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger, is our first former undertaker.

Texas Smoke was the second stop of our recent Denton County tour. We traveled 120 miles in 6 hours and ate at 4 places.

Coin's place, located in a rustic building downtown, is decorated with old photos and signs, along with sports jerseys and a football helmet from Sanger High School. "Purple Pride," a sign said. There's also the requisite mounted deer head.

It reminded us of Buck Snort BBQ in Van Alstyne, also located in an old downtown building. Buck Snort, where you can eat a free buffet on your birthday, is run by Jim Smith, a former Van Alstyne city councilman.

The smoked meatloaf, bottom right, was a huge hit for the Posse at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins)

Coin, 38, said he was in the funeral business for about a decade. He started Texas Smoke in a trailer about a year ago, moved to a building at the first of this year and more recently moved again to his current location.

"What do I need to do to get better?" he asked us at the end of our interview.

Posse member Ahna Hubnik told him his smoked meatloaf, an unusual offering, was great. "You can't beat that," she said. Coin said he cooks it about two hours.

Posse members Jim Rossman and Bruce Tomaso told Coin he needed to bolster the spice he used in the rubs for his brisket and pork ribs.

The brisket was cooked perfectly, but needed much more flavor, they said.

Earlier, Posse members Michael Meadows and Gary Barber commented that Coin's barbecue sauce went very well with his brisket. Tomaso also liked the meatloaf and the regular sausage.

Coin said he buys his sausage -- regular and jalapeño -- commercially, but someday wants to make his own. He said he's having more fun now than in his previous vocation and business is going well.  He said he sells 10-12 briskets a day.

"It keeps me out of the funeral business," he said.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website:

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website:

Texas Smoke BBQ Co. pitmaster and owner Jay Coin visits with the Posse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Ribs and brisket at Texas Smoke BBQ Co. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Texas Smoke BBQ Co. is located on Boliver St. in old downtown Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Behold the Fried Rib from Pecan Lodge -- You need to try one

The fried rib from Pecan Lodge in Dallas. (Photo by Jim Rossman/Texas BBQ Posse)

It’s not often that I’m surprised by the menu at a BBQ joint.

I’ve been to more than a few dozen places and didn’t think there was much else you could do to a pork rib, but I was wrong.

One day last month I was eating at Pecan Lodge in Dallas when I spied a new entry on their menu board. It was a fried pork rib and I had to have one.

The rib was a very large and meaty. It was lightly battered and then deep fried. The crust was crunchy, but not very thick. The fried rib was then dipped in BBQ sauce, plated and then topped with bleu cheese and some green onion.

It was a glorious mess.

I wanted to run back and order a second one, but the thought of my upcoming annual physical kept me in my seat. I’d really forgotten about the rib until the Posse’s recent Denton County tour, when I remembered and told the others.

I’ll have to get back and try the rib again. I asked Pecan Lodge if the rib was a regular on the menu and was told, “we have them on a pretty regular basis.”

Certainly worth a try if you see it on the menu.

Pecan Lodge, 2702 Main St. Dallas, 214-748-8900. Open: Tues-Thur 11am-3pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 11am-3pm. Website:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Barbecue photography the old-fashioned way

Posse member Bruce Tomaso lends a hand with a reflector as photojournalist Guy Reynolds focuses in on Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ owner Blake Merrell in Little Elm. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

If you follow this blog, you know it regularly features great barbecue photography. Several Posse members are photographers and they bring their equipment -- all kinds of equipment -- when we go on tours.

Our recent Denton County tour, though, saw the most unusual piece of equipment yet. Guy Reynolds used a tripod mounted Graflex to shoot portraits of some of the pitmasters we visited.

On other tours, Guy has used his digital cameras, but he says he wanted to try something different this time. Here, Guy explains his mission:
I brought along my vintage '50s Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 camera to shoot portraits with film just for the challenge of it.

Using a view camera requires a tripod and a dark cloth over the shooter's head in order to compose and focus the image on the ground glass at the back of the camera. The subject has to remain still during the interval between the settings being made and the film holder being inserted. This can easily be 30 seconds and many pieces of film are wasted.

The old camera was given to me several years ago by Bill Weisner, of Bill's Records and Tapes, because he had no use for it. It's a very difficult beast to use so I don't very often but the results and hard to beat.

The bigger the negative, the better the image - as far as sharpness goes when making enlargements. That's the same with digital file size: the more megapixels the better end results. 4x5 negatives can easily make prints 30x40 without the quality falling off to much. That's not possible with a 35mm negative, which is about 1/12 the size.

I only had 8 pieces of film loaded to do shots at our stops so there's not much margin for error. And there may not be any worthwhile. It's a risk limiting the number of takes that much. Unlike the instant gratification of digital, I won't know what I got until the film is processed and I have to take it to a lab for that. The film costs about $4 per sheet and processing is another $6 so it can get expensive real fast.

Just call me crazy but I still enjoy the craft of photography.
Blake Merrell, Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ in Little Elm. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Cody Smithers, left, and Shawn Eagle of Bet  the House BBQ in Denton. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Jay Coin, Texas Smoke BBQ Co. in Sanger. (Photo ©Guy Reynolds)

Guy Reynolds puts a 4x5 film holder into his Crown Graphic camera before photographing Texas Smoke BBQ Co. pitmaster & owner Jay Coin in Sanger. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bet the House BBQ in Denton gets high marks from the Posse and football guru Rick Gosselin

The Posse digs into a platter of smoked meats at Bet the House BBQ in Denton. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Rick Gosselin is one of the foremost football experts in the country. When he says the Dallas Cowboys offense is not yet ready for the regular season, as he did this past weekend, fans -- and the Cowboys -- should take serious notice.

The Dallas Morning News columnist also knows barbecue.

A couple weeks ago, he emailed us about a new place in Denton, Bet The House BBQ, where he had just eaten.

"Brisket was awesome," he wrote, encouraging us to visit the place.

Bet the House's fatty brisket. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
"You won't be disappointed."

As it happens, Bet The House was already on our barbecue radar. We had it slated as the first stop of a Denton County tour, which we made Saturday. We covered about 120 miles in 6 hours and ate at 4 places.

Gosselin was right. We weren't disappointed by Bet The House.

"That brisket is awesome," Posse member Jim Rossman said, sampling a fatty piece with nice crust.

Later, after the fatty morsels were gone, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins tasted one of the lean pieces.

"That's a test of a good brisket, man," he said. "That lean's been sliced for 15 minutes and it's still good."

Nine of us made this stop of the tour. We also sampled pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey, a beef rib and two kinds of sausage.

James Osborne, making his first trip with the Posse, especially liked the turkey and both sausages, regular and jalapeño cheddar. Posse veteran Ahna Hubnik singled out the beef rib. Several of us commented about the nice tangy taste of the pulled pork.

The one shortcoming: pork ribs. We thought they could have been cooked longer, have more smoke flavor and a more robust rub.

"Not a lot of flavor profile going on there," Rossman said of the ribs.

Bet  the House co-owners Cody Smithers, left, and Shawn Eagle. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

When we talked to co-owners Shawn Eagle and Cody Smithers, we discovered that we might have been lucky to be eating any barbecue at all from their joint, a store front in a small strip center a few blocks from the main square in Denton.

They had a fire the previous day in the detached smokehouse at the rear. So, instead of their normal pit, they had to cook at home on portable pits.

"Now, it's got a little character on it," Smithers said, pointing to exterior smoke and heat stains on the smokehouse. They hoped to have the regular pit back in action soon.

Eagle teaches at Ryan High School in Denton and Smithers works in marketing at The Morning News. (Full disclosure: Some Posse members had previously tasted their barbecue when they catered  at the newspaper.)

Bet the House is located south of the Denton town square on Elm St..
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins)
The Denton Record-Chronicle did a story about Bet The House in June, shortly after the place opened. After cooking together as friends, then doing some catering, Eagle and Smithers are pursuing their barbecue dream, with the help of a small KickStarter campaign to raise money for some basic supplies.

"We've sold out all but three days of the first two months we've been open," Eagle said.

In future posts, we'll write about the other stops of our tour.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website:

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website:

Bet the House has a small indoor dining room along with outdoor tables. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Posse member Michael Meadows shows off a newly-acquired beef rib. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

BBQ lovers wait to order Saturday lunch at Bet the House BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ten 50 BBQ in Richardson shows promise in first week, but Franklin, it's not...

Large pallets of wood wait their turn in the smoker  (Photos by Jim Rossman)

After an extensive remodel of a K&G Men's Wear on north Central Expressway in Richardson, Ten 50 BBQ, owned by Chili's founder Larry Lavine, finally opened this week to long lines and daily sellouts around 2:30p.m. each day.

I watched a few accounts of Monday's opening day, including a good writeup by Kellie Reynolds in the Dallas Observer. It was a quote in her story that caught my attention.

"Franklin's in Austin is the gold standard and we think we've matched that," Levine told Reynolds. "We've got a phenomenal product."

After reading the quote, I had to find out for myself, so I set out for Richardson after the lunch rush on their second day of operation. I also visited Thursday with Posse members Gary Jacobson and Phil Lamb and some of my other meat-loving friends.

I'm glad I waited to sample the meats twice before posting. Tuesday's visit was good, but Thursday's lunch was better.

Comparing yourself to the number one BBQ joint in the world is a lofty goal, and while the meat at Ten 50 shows promise, they're a ways from matching the quality of any of Aaron Franklin's offerings.

Lavine certainly built a nice place. Ten 50 has seating for 275 (don't worry about having to reserve a table for 10 or 12...they have plenty of very long tables). The layout will look familiar if you've ever been to a Hard 8 BBQ -- smokers outside, meat kept on outside warmers, cut to order and then taken indoors for sides and drinks.

Ten 50 uses oak to cook their briskets and there are pallets of wood all over the place (great sign). Two large red Oyler smokers are wood-fired and it looks like there's more than enough capacity to serve all day, even though it's lunch only for now. I hear dinner service is coming soon.
Ribs are cooked on hickory. I got these cooking facts from the Observer's story.

They offer grilled steaks, cooked over oak charcoal, which is burned from oak logs on-site. Ten 50 is built to handle large crowds and I found there to be ample staff who were very helpful.

The meats were promising, but all had room for improvement.

How was the meat?

The brisket was cooked perfectly and had a nice smoke ring, but I didn't detect much in the way of a rub on my first visit. The fat was well-rendered and tasted great with the meat, but I did wish it was a little saltier.
The second try was much better. I got more than one slice of beef and there was ample crust that was well-seasoned. The consensus at the table: brisket was the star today. Moist, good crust and very well-rendered fat made for great brisket. It's not Franklin good, but it's solidly in the top tier of DFW brisket.

Ribs on both visits were small. Almost "babyback small." They did have a sweetness to their crust and tasted pretty good. I just wish they were bigger, although this is a nitpick, as you pay by the pound here. We all wished there was some more flavor here. After the initial twinge of sweetness, the taste just faded away.

Sausage comes in two varieties, a traditional sausage from Elgin, TX and a jalapeno-cheddar from Tyler, TX. Both were cooked well. The Elgin sausage was the better of the two. The jalapeno cheddar might have too much of a cheese flavor going on. Neither was especially greasy.

Turkey looked great in the warmer, but the piece cut for me came off the bottom (no skin) and it was a bit dry and lacked flavor. I also tried the Jalapeno Torpedoes which is chicken and cheese, stuffed in a jalapeno wrapped in bacon and grilled. They were pretty good, but needed a hit of sauce to make them sing. They were plenty spicy though.

Speaking of sauce, I tried their traditional sauce and it was good. Very strong molasses taste, but a good balance. I didn't get to try the vinegar-based Carolina sauce.

Two oak-fired Oyler smokers handle the briskets.

One thing struck me when I was looking for a table -- on the fist visit it was really cold inside the restaurant.

I'll certainly say Ten 50 has a fantastic air conditioner, but looking out across the room, most of the rolls of paper towels were blowing like flags in a stiff breeze (no joke).

Besides the ample A/C, there are very large ceiling fans helping move the air. This is great when it's hot, but when you're holding an open tray of sliced meat, it tends to cool it off and dry out in a hurry. I switched tables three times before I found a spot not in a noticeable breeze and my meat was still cold before I finished lunch. I never thought I say this, but I wish it was a bit warmer and less windy at Ten 50.
The second visit was much better. The ceiling fan was spinning much slower. No stiff breezes.

Overall I'm glad we've got a new joint open north of LBJ. I can tell the people at Ten 50 are serious about what they do and I can see the potential. All the pieces are in place, now they just need to dial it in a bit.
This is a great place to bring guests. Nice and large, soon to be open for dinner, full bar with plenty of local beers on tap and above average to excellent meats.

Ten50 Barbecue, 1050 N Central Expy, Richardson, 972-234-1050. Open 7 days a week 10:50am-9pm.

Oak logs were burning to make charcoal.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Poll: What are your top 5 Texas BBQ joints?

A father and son wait to order at a Texas barbecue joint. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

It's hard to say what's a more emotional subject for Texans, barbecue or politics.

Over the years we've tried to keep the Posse blog free of partisan politics, there are plenty of other places on the web where you can endlessly argue that subject. But when it comes the BBQ, strong loyalties and opinions have been shared between writers and readers on the Posse blog over the past five years.

Nothing gets BBQ fanatics going like a list of the "top" BBQ joints in Texas. We saw this once again when Gary Jacobson wrote More evidence that Lockhart has lost its barbecue magic last week. He shared the top five lists of several of the Posse members who went on our recent Houston BBQ tour. Some of our readers agreed, others didn't. That's how Texas barbecue goes.......

Just for fun, here's a chance to pick your top five favorites. We listed 26 top Texas BBQ joints (in alphabetical order) to choose from. If some of your favorites aren't listed, just add a comment to this blog post & we'll add it in the final results.

survey solution