We took a slight detour Saturday afternoon on the ride back to Dallas from Jefferson, exiting from I-20 on to Hwy. 31 west at Kilgore. The plan was to check in on a couple of friends on the east Texas BBQ trail, one old and one new.

Our first stop was Hickory Hill BBQ, a fun little joint east of Kilgore on Hwy. 31. We got to know the husband and wife team of Kerry and Kelly Shaw during our East Texas BBQ Tour last February.

Kelly greeted my wife Michele and I with her 100-watt smile, which can light up a room. She caught us up on the past six months at Hickory Hill as we ordered some chopped brisket and hot links. On the Sunday our tour story ran in The Dallas Morning News, people were lined up at the door with the newspaper under their arm, ready to sample the brisket, ribs and sausage at Hickory Hill. Business has been booming in the past six months and Kelly and Kerry recently completed their first year in business.

The second stop of the day was Pat Gee's Barbecue, a joint east of Tyler that I've been visiting since my high school days in the late 1970s. In those days legendary east Texas pitmaster Pat Gee ran the smokers. He passed away in 1999 and his sons have kept the tradition of Pat Gee's alive. On our visit, Arthur Gee was manning the chopping block and brother Billy Walker was on sauce and counter duty. Arthur said they are still getting traffic from our tour story and blogs, including a group last weekend from Dallas that was following our February trip.

When you're on the road, there's nothing better than dropping in on friends to say hello and sample some great smoked meats......

Hickory Hill BBQ, 20101 Highway 31, (903) 566-7923, Tyler. Open Fri-Sun 11am until the meat runs out

Pat Gee's Barbecue, 17547 Jamestown Rd., (903) 534-0265, Tyler, TX. Open Fri-Sun 11am-until the meat runs out.
(Photos by Chris Wilkins)

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