|Pitmaster and owner Dirk Miller stands outside Miller's Smokehouse in Belton. (Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
On the looks-like scale, Dirk Miller is closer to Kris Kringle than Tom Cruise.
But the owner of Miller’s Smokehouse in Belton was channeling Cruise from Risky Business when we visited last week during our Heart of Texas BBQ Tour.
For Miller, too, the dream is always the same:
He awakes and the sun is shining through his windows, meaning it’s 8 a.m., meaning he overslept, meaning he didn’t get the pits fired by the required 2 or 3 a.m., meaning disaster for his barbecue joint.
“And I think, well, there won’t be ribs and brisket today,” Miller said.
The Posse has been high on Miller’s since co-founder Chris Wilkins and Marshall Cooper went there in early 2012. Wilkins declared the meats he tasted “nothing short of sensational.”
Other Posse members, on their own, have confirmed Wilkins’ view. But this was our first visit as a group.
“Beer,” a big sign said.
Miller had recently expanded his place, adding more seating and a small bar. We headed there and Miller held court as he contemplated his own late lunch-early dinner from Chick-fil-A.
“We don’t want barbecue, man,” he said. “Anything but barbecue today.”
He estimated that his barbecue business has doubled since early 2012. This year, Texas Monthly named Miller’s one of the Top 50 places in the state.
|Part of our lunch including brisket and Miller's original jalapeno-cheese sausage Miller's Smokehouse in Belton.
(Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
“I never dreamed there were this many people driving around the state eating barbecue,” he said.
Miller said he works about 90 hours a week and hopes he’ll soon be able to cut back to 80 or fewer as he trains new help. One day a week he makes 600 to 700 pounds of sausage.
Being so busy, he doesn’t get much chance to visit other top joints, but he’s curious.
“Tell me about Pecan Lodge,” he said. “Is it really good?”
Yes, we assured him.
Outside, three smokers were lined up in the driveway along with three tall sausage smokers. Two other pits, cooking briskets, were located at his deer processing location nearby.
By phone, Miller was regularly in touch with a son who was monitoring the briskets.
“Don’t let them get overdone,” he’d say.
We ordered a big sampling of brisket, sausage, and ribs.
Wilkins said the sausage was the best he had ever tasted, including Posse member Bryan Gooding’s winning entry in the Blues, Bandits and BBQ cookoff in Oak Cliff last year.
The brisket was excellent, as were the ribs, which Miller did his best to undersell. When we arrived about 3 p.m., he said the place had just sold out of its first round of ribs. The evening batch was on the smoker and he wasn’t sure they would be finished. (Ribs are served only Fridays and Saturdays.)
By the time we ate an hour or so later, though, the ribs were tender and tasty.
Miller said he uses the same rub on brisket, ribs, and chicken.
We asked about the ingredients, not the proportions, and he obliged: garlic pepper, season-all, black pepper, garlic salt.
“I like garlic,” he said.
Returning to his fear of oversleeping, Miller recalled the last vacation he took a couple years ago. Early every morning, as the pits were fired, his top assistant, Robert Reid, had to take a picture and send it to Miller’s phone.
Only when he saw the flames burning could Miller relax.
|Pitmaster Robert Reid tends to the ribs at Miller's Smokehouse. (Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
Heart of Texas BBQ Tour
- 9am: Leave Dallas
- 10:30am: Wright’s Bar-B-Q, 123 Martin Luther King Jr Hwy (Hwy 14), Mexia, 254-562-9042. Open Tue-Sat 10am-6pm.
- 11:30am: Kirby's Barbeque, 4592 Hwy. 14 S, Mexia, 254-562-5076. Open: Wed-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm. (Texas Monthly Top 50)
- 1:30pm: Whup's Boomerang Bar-B-Q, 1203 Bennett St., Marlin, 254-883-5770. Open Thurs-Sat 10am-8pm. (Texas Monthly Top 50)
- 3 pm: Miller's Smokehouse, 208 N Penelope, Belton, 254-939-5500. Open Tues-Thurs 10:30am-6:30pm, Fri and Sat 10:30am-9pm or until the meat runs out. (Texas Monthly Top 50)
- 7 pm: Arrive back in Dallas