UPDATE: Fatboy's BBQ has moved to a new location in nearby Cooper and opened last April. The new location at 850 W. Dallas Ave. in Cooper gets much higher traffic, but Shannon and Heather will be serving up the same great BBQ. They are open Mon-Fri 10:30am-6 pm. Their new phone number is 903-300-3287.
About 80 miles northeast of Dallas, you'll find some of the best barbecue in North Texas. Fatboy's BBQ is located on a narrow side street in Ladonia, population 691. It's well worth the drive or ride from DFW.
Shannon Bankston and girlfriend Heather Hoff started Fatboy's two and a half years ago. They are both from the area and know the majority of their customers by name. A steady stream of lunch customers came and went as Marshall Cooper and I visited on a recent weekday.
The joint is named after the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, a softail-style cruiser motorcycle. Fatboy's BBQ is described as "Biker owned, biker friendly" on their Facebook page. Both Shannon and Heather ride, though not as much as they'd like since they started the restaurant.
As a result, they started "Biker Night," so they could at least be around bikes even if they don't have the time to ride much. Biker Night will resume again on Saturday March 24 from 7pm-10pm, with music form the Delta Crossroads Band. It's BYOB and they will of course be selling BBQ. You can keep an eye on the Fatboy's BBQ Facebook page for more news and announcements through the spring and summer.
|A pile of pecan wood sits beside the smoker at Fatboy's BBQ in Ladonia.|
|Our lunch at Fatboy's: The sampler platter including seven meats and two sides.|
Marshall and I looked over the menu and gravitated toward the sampler platter. We got an amazing spread of meats (around a pound) and two sides for $11.50, including sliced brisket, chopped beef, pork sparerib, pulled pork, pork sausage, jalapeno sausage and smoked ham. Sides were Texas toast, potato salad and cole slaw, both recipes from Shannon's mom. We ordered an extra rib so we could each sample one.
The meats were bathed in pecan wood smoke, something you don't find a lot these days as joints cook hot and fast to meet demand, resulting in smokeless meats. There are no shortcuts for Shannon, it's old school Texas BBQ. No rubs or mops either. The meats are tender and full of flavor. Though you don't really need it, their BBQ sauce is very good as well, a family recipe from Shannon's dad that adds a little bite and flavor.
Fatboy's also offers a Psycho BBQ sauce, made with Naga Jolokia or Ghost peppers, among the hottest in the world. Of course Marshall had to sample it, I passed. He was blown away how it started sweet but morphed into pure heat. As we visited, a regular customer came by and ordered her "usual," a chopped beef sandwich with psycho sauce and jalapenos. That was impressive.
|Left: Smoke pours out of the smoker at Fatboy's. Right: Pitmaster Shannon Bankston talks BBQ with the Posse.|
|Pecan wood stacked up near the smoker.|
What impressed us the most was Shannon and Heather's devotion to being a great BBQ joint. As we arrived around noon, he was putting on the briskets for the next day. They'll cook until 8 a.m. the next day, a total of 20 hours. With the "hot and fast" revolution hitting some Central Texas joints, this isn't something you're seeing or tasting much these days.
Shannon says they set the alarm for every 3 hours during the night, alternating between him and Heather as to who gets the wakeup call to tend the smoker and check the meat during the wee hours. Fortunately they live next door to Fatboy's.
"People just don't realize how much work goes into it," Shannon says. "But we love doing it."
|Marshall Cooper and Heather Hoff talk BBQ.|
|Customers enjoy their meals at Fatboy's picnic dining area.|
Fatboy's will be moving in early summer to Cooper, a town located 15 miles from Ladonia, between Paris and Sulphur Springs. They'll be moving their current building and smoker to the new site and have high hopes for the future. The new Fatboy's will be located on Hwy. 24, in an area with much higher traffic than they have now. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for news on the move, we'll keep you updated as well.
Fatboy's BBQ, 850 W. Dallas Ave, Cooper, 903-300-3287. Open Mon-Fri 10:30am-6 pm.
|Co-owner and operator Heather Hoff takes a break during a BBQ Thursday at Fatboy's.|
Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse