On our way to Jefferson to last Saturday, we discovered an interesting new BBQ joint on Hwy. 154 about three miles west of Gilmer in the Kelsey bottom. Tuel’s M&ET Barbeque was just about to finish their fourth week in business the following Tuesday.
Tuel’s is a family affair, run by pitmaster Ryan Tuel and his folks, Linda and Ronnie. They built an impressive facility in the woods west of Gilmer, on a bluff overlooking to the former railroad bed of the M&ET, aka the Marshall & East Texas Railway. Thus the homage to the abandoned rail line in the restaurant’s name.
Before we ate, Ronnie Tuel took me to the back window overlooking the meadow where the railroad once ran. You could clearly see the railroad bed, though the tracks were long gone.
The railroad once ran 96 miles from Marshall to Elysian Fields beginning in 1908, but ceased operation in 1917 once timber resources along the line were depleted. Here’s a history of the M&ET on Texas State Historical Society website.
But on to BBQ.
Since the primary objective of our journey was a late lunch at the newly reopened Joseph’s Riverport BBQ in Jefferson, we ordered a snack. That means a couple of ribs and a slice of brisket.
Due to a big catering job (good for any new restaurant), they only had chopped beef so we happily settled for that along with spare ribs. Unlike some east Texas joints, this was served with sauce on the side rather than directly on the meat, which gave us a chance to sample the chop for taste and texture, nothing hidden.
Ryan’s background is in meat sales and butchering, experience gained in over ten years in the business. He took a big chance, quitting a secure job to open the restaurant of his dreams.
“It’s all about the meat,” he says.
The ribs were cooked very well, tender with good smoke and rub but not overcooked. Contrary to popular belief, “off the bone” ain’t a good thing folks. The brisket was a little harder to judge since it was chopped, but we detected a good looking bark and decent smoke.
For $11.59, you can get “The Will,” named after Ryan’s brother. It’s a sample of all four meats they serve – brisket, ribs, sausage and pulled pork, along with two homemade sides and white bread. I know what I’m ordering the next time we stop by.
Ryan’s sauce was really good too, the result of several years of experimentation to get it just right. After we ate, I went for a pit tour. He cooks the honest way, using red oak, which is plentiful in the area.
I look forward to a return visit, but if you’re nearby stop and say hello to the latest real deal Texas BBQ joint in east Texas.
Tuel’s M&ET Barbeque, 4369 Hwy. 154 West, Gilmer, 903-725-0247. Open Mon-Sat 11am – 8pm.
Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse