|Randy Hyden (top) of Hyden Family Barbeque in Teague and brother Kirby Hyden of Kirby’s
Barbeque in Mexia.(Photos ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)
You could call them The BBQ Brothers.
In fact, we will.
Kirby and Randy Hyden, once business partners with a long family tradition of barbecue, now operate separate joints about 15 miles apart.
The Posse first ate at Kirby’s in the summer of 2013 during a tour of Central Texas places that didn’t include Randy’s.
Ever since, we’ve wanted to return and rectify that oversight. It took a while, but this past weekend we finally made the Hyden Family BBQ Challenge Tour to determine which brother cooks the best smoked meat.
Verdict among the 3 Posse members who made the tour: Kirby.
“To me, it’s all about the brisket,” said Daniel Goncalves. “Kirby’s was better.”
|Saturday lunch line at Kirby’s Barbeque. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
Altogether, we drove about 200 miles over 7 hours and ate at three places. The third joint, Alma Smokehouse in Ennis, had only chicken and sausage available when we arrived mid-afternoon. We tried a few bites but should have passed.
Along with eating, we visited Old Fort Parker, which is not far from Kirby’s. In 1836, a young girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured by Indians during a massacre. She eventually became the mother of Quanah Parker, the famous Comanche chief.
At opposite corners of the re-created fort, covered parapets extend beyond the main walls. Slots in the floor allow defenders to shoot down at attackers directly underneath them.
We also got a lesson in wild hog hunting, with dogs.
“We’re the only ones in here not wearing camou,” Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins observed as we waited for our food at Kirby’s. It was just before noon and about 20 people were in line.
Sure enough, one of the guys dressed in camouflage said his group had four feral hogs outside. So we went to take a look, thinking we’d see dead animals.
No. The hogs were alive. They were in cages adjacent to other cages that held the dogs that tracked and subdued them.
We learned that two kinds of dogs are used in a hunt. Bay dogs track the hogs. Catch dogs — in this case a pit bull — grab the hogs by an ear and hold them down until the hunters arrive.
You never know what you’re going to learn on a barbecue tour.
|Our early lunch of brisket, ribs, sausage & turkey at Hyden Family Barbeque. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
Back to the Hyden brothers.
Their grandparents and parents operated barbecue joints in the area. The brothers bought out the family business and partnered for a short while in the 1980s before Randy went his separate way.
“The ’80s in Texas sucked,” Randy said. “The economy was so bad people were eating baloney sandwiches.”
Randy said he “seriously” got back into the barbecue business when he opened Hyden Family Barbeque in Teague in 1997. A few years later, he moved across the street, into the current location.
When we arrived at about 10:30 a.m., the “Open” sign was on. A flyer on the door advertised the “2nd Annual Teague FFA Varmint Hunt.”
A bobcat was worth 45 points, a coyote 25 and a wild hog 5. No trapping allowed.
We didn’t know it at the time, but it set a theme for the day.
At Hyden Family, we ordered a sampler plate of brisket, pork ribs, turkey and sausage.
For a while, we were the only people in the place. Randy came over to our table to talk.
He said a guy recently wanted to buy out his operation and have him teach him how to cook.
“You can buy me out,” Randy said he replied. “But I don’t have have five years to teach you.”
|Lunch at Kirby’s Barbeque consisted of ribs, brisket, turkey, hame & buttermilk pie. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
On the way to Kirby’s, which was a Texas Monthly Top 50 pick in 2013, we did a quick tour of downtown Mexia. There’s a neat old movie theater that is now a church.
When we arrived at Kirby’s just before noon, one of the first things we saw was a sign that read:
“Ribs everyday starting Feb. 5th!!”
The joint used to serve pork ribs only on Fridays and Saturdays. Later, as Kirby cut orders and answered a few questions from the Posse, he explained that going to ribs everyday was an answer to ever-escalating beef prices.
We ordered a sampling of brisket, ribs, turkey and ham and then judged brother against brother.
Beyond brisket, we rated the turkey a tie and gave Kirby a slight edge on ribs. Kirby’s ham, though, had almost no smoke flavor. Randy’s sausage was good, but not special.
Wilkins judged the sauces at both joints almost identical.
“They don’t overpower their meat with rubs and spices,” he added.
Randy Hyden would agree.
“The key is not the seasoning, it’s the guy,” he said.
Hyden Family BBQ Challenge Tour
9am: Leave Dallas
10:30am: Hyden Family Barbeque, 950 Hwy 84, Teague, 254-739-3102. Open Wed-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-2pm.
11:45pm: Kirby’s Barbeque, 216 N Highway 14, Mexia, 254-562-5076. Open Wed-Fri 10am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm.
2pm: Alma Smokehouse, 106 West Interstate 45 Service Road, Ennis, 972-875-2669. Open Mon-Sat 8am-8pm.
3pm: Head back to Dallas
|Randy Hyden works the pits at Hyden Family Barbeque. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
|Kirby’s Barbeque, Mexia, Texas. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|
|Hyden Family Barbeque, Teague, Texas. (Photo ©Chris Wilkins/Texas BBQ Posse)|