A waitress delivers our first course, a four-meat platter at Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

We called it our Denton County BBQ Tour, but it could have just as easily been named the Lake Country Tour.

As we traveled 120 miles in 6 hours to eat at 4 joints on a recent Saturday, we crossed 3 different bridges over Lake Lewisville and drove atop the Ray Roberts Lake Dam.

Seeing the water, the boats, the parks, and the nice shoreside homes was a pleasant respite from the heat, which approached 100 degrees.

And then we met Blake Merrell, owner and pitmaster of Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ in Little Elm, open just a week when we arrived.

Merrell said he once had a boat storage business and transported big motor yachts. Getting a 90-footer from the Gulf to North Texas would cost about $75,000, he said.

He retired a couple years ago, he said, but recently decided to get busy again with a barbecue joint.

Early indications are that he made a good decision. The food -- one week in -- is pretty good and crowds are showing up.

"Last weekend, we did $18,000 in business," he said. It was the first weekend Big Daddy's was open.

The joint is located in a building that was previously a convenience store and gas station.

The Posse sampled brisket, pork ribs, sausage, turkey, and, later, burnt ends and three kinds of smoked cheese. The smoked cheese was so good that two Posse members ordered extra to take home.

We tried three different smoked cheeses, which were amazing
(Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)

"I don't know of anyone else doing that except the guy who taught me," Merrell said of the cheese.

He might be right. Posse member Bryan Gooding, the chicken and sausage king of Oak Cliff, smokes a delicious cheese. But we can't think of anyone else we've run into on our barbecue tours.

Generally, Posse members weren't impressed by Big Daddy's regular brisket, but the burnt ends made some of us reconsider.

"If you ate these every day, you'd be dead in 6 months," Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins said. "They're that good."

Bruce Tomaso said the burnt ends raised the joint's overall brisket score to a "C."

"That rib was pretty tough but it had a really good rub on it," said Guy Reynolds.

We asked Merrell about the ingredients in the rub.

"Pepper," he said, with a smile, unwilling to divulge much else. He did say he cooks ribs with pecan wood and brisket with oak and hickory.

All in all, one week in, we liked Merrell's operation. It's definitely worth a visit if you're near Little Elm.

Our our way out of Lake Country back to Dallas, we made one more stop, Chasin' Tail BBQ in Hickory Creek. The turkey was excellent. Everything else was unremarkable.

Denton County BBQ Tour

Bet The House BBQ, 508 S Elm St., Denton, 940-808-0332. Open Wed-Sat 11am-8pm (or when the meat runs out), Sun 11am-3pm. Website: www.BTHBBQ.com

Texas Smoke BBQ Co., 205 Bolivar St, Sanger, 940-231-6674. Open Mon-Fri 11am-6pm (or when the meat runs out), Sat 11am-3pm.

Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ, 102 Lobo Lane, Little Elm, 972-987-4885. Open Tues-Sun 11am-9pm.

Chasin' Tail BBQ, 8656 S Stemmons Fwy, Hickory Creek, 940-321-0524. Open Tues-Sat 11am-9pm, Sun 11am-7pm. Website: www.chasintailbbq.com

Big Daddy's is located in a former gas station on El Dorado Pkwy. in Little Elm. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)


Big Daddy's Ribs & BBQ owner Blake Merrell holds court with the Posse. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)


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