|A customer walks into Casstevens Cash and Carry BBQ in Lillian. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
Casstevens Cash and Carry is a BBQ joint I had been wanting to visit for several years. Located in an old Diamond Shamrock gas station in the tiny unincorporated town of Lillian, Casstevens made the Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list in 2008.
That's as good as it gets for Texas barbecue restaurants, unless of course you make their prestigious top 5. Just ask Kerry Bexley at Snow's BBQ in Lexington. Once they were named top joint in Texas in 2008, life was never the same.
Here's what Texas Monthly had to say about Casstevens in 2008, "Though several tables have been added since we last wrote about this obscure gem at a Diamond Shamrock station (there’s no sign outside to advertise the unbelievably good ’cue within), it’s still hard to snag a seat at Casstevens. The reason? Mesquite-smoked meats, including thick hunks of brisket that are generously rubbed with garlic, salt, and pepper before they’re left to blacken in the two huge pits for fifteen hours."
During our Brazos and Beyond BBQ Tour in 2010, Posse member Bryan Gooding gave me some major grief after we drove right by the turn for Casstevens, starting the tour instead at the Red Chew Chew BBQ and Grill in Cleburne, which turned out to be a mistake if you wanted even semi-memorable BBQ. As the Posse's tour planner, I fortunately redeemed myself at the next stop, the Loco Coyote Grill in Glen Rose.
I still remember Bryan telling me that we just passed right by the turn for a Texas Monthly Top 50 joint and here we were, instead, eating "roast beef" at our first stop. It can be demanding planning our BBQ tours, the Posse is a tough crowd and its members tell you exactly what they think.
Since then, I'd always wanted to get to Casstevens, especially with its lofty Texas Monthly seal of BBQ approval.
It's a hard place to get to from Dallas, located on the west side of Joe Pool Lake about 15 miles northeast of Cleburne. You have to go southwest on Hwy. 67 toward Glen Rose, then go back north toward Fort Worth on Hwy. 287, then take a couple of FM roads west to get there.
|Our meal of brisket and sausage. The place only has ribs on Friday and Saturday. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
We arrived around 10:45 am, the first of three planned stops that day. Unfortunately it would be downhill from there. The next stop, Rock House BBQ in Hico was no longer open and the Smoke Shack in Hamilton would rank one star if we were judging on this trip.
Casstevens cooks BBQ the honest Texas way, still cooking with mesquite wood on two custom-built tank smokers on wheels. The bigger of the two smokers was still belching smoke as we pulled up. We had high hopes they still had Top 50 game, despite some tough reviews I had read while researching this trip.
Unfortunately, the reviews were true. This is not Top 50 BBQ in 2013. The brisket had potential, with good smoke and nice appearance, but it was somewhat dry with less-than-rendered fat. Since this was a late breakfast and we were hungry, the sauce and bread came out almost immediately.
The sausage was average commercial fine grind, cooked o.k., but nothing special, either. They have ribs on Friday and Saturday, so we'll try to return for another visit on our next trip to Loco Coyote.
Casstevens underwent an ownership change within the past two years and the transition was rocky, according to the guy working the counter, who was not the pitmaster. He assured us they are on the way back up, which would be a great thing for the Texas barbecue scene...
Casstevens Cash and Carry, 11025 E. FM 917, Lillian, 817-790-2545. Open Mon-Sat 10am-8pm, Sun 10am-6pm.
|Two custom-built smokers at Casstevens Cash and Carry in Lillian. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|