The Posse first visited Smoke Sessions Barbecue about a year ago, when Jim Rossman saw a Facebook post about a new trailer operation located in a feed store parking lot between Rockwall and Royse City, east of Dallas.
Jim was impressed with the overall offerings, calling the brisket “superb” and the beef sausage “outstanding,” in his story introducing readers to DFW’s newest barbecue joint.
One year later, Jim and Posse member Mike Stone joined me for a return visit to Sessions, which recently moved to a new location across I-30 in Royse City. Mike lives nearby and goes to Smoke Sessions on a regular basis. We missed owner/pitmaster Chad Sessions on this visit but caught up later in an email Q&A.
All the meats were nailed. This is some of the best brisket you’ll have in the DFW area. Despite seriously increasing the quantity of meat he’s cooking over the past year, Chad has maintained top quality across the board.
Here are Jim’s thoughts a year later: “I’ve been to Smoke Sessions twice now and every item on the plate is top notch. The new location is easy to get to, but large enough to relax and enjoy your meal.”
Mike shares his impressions. “I’ve always felt great fatty brisket is the highest form of food there is and Sessions definitely does it justice,” Mike says. “The burnt end they handed us while waiting in line was a powerful combination of smokey meat and perfectly rendered fat and salty spices. The brisket was just as tasty and the jalapeño cheese sausage is a must have when you visit.”
After our visit, Chad Sessions reflected on the past year in an email Q&A, sharing words of wisdom he has picked up along the way:
Q: When did you officially open for business in the original location?
A: The first time we served the public was at the Rockwall Founders Day Festival on May 19, 2017. We officially opened up on four days later in the lot of Holt Ranch and Feed in Royse City and quickly outgrew the area we had available to us there. Almost one year to the day we moved to our current location and opened for business on May 18, 2018.
Q: We really like the new location. Do you plan to stay there for a while or is a brick & mortar in Sessions BBQ’s future at some point?
A: We’ve been working hard to take our business to the next level in the form of a brick and mortar location, but like great BBQ it requires time and patience. We want to make sure that we are absolutely ready for the next step. We’re committed to product quality and great service, and we do not want to hastily make decisions that may cause either of those two core commitments to suffer. We are trying to nail down a location that works with our vision, and hope we get to that point in the near future.
Q: How’s business in the new location? You seem to have loyal repeat customers from what we saw.
A: We have been blessed with a loyal customer base who shows us continuous support. The new location is proving to be a bit busier than the last. We now have more seating, as well as enough parking to handle the volume of customers that come to visit. It’s also big enough to host events like our one-year anniversary party, where we had live music and beer on tap for anyone who stopped by.
Q: You’re in a great DFW area for top tier BBQ, i.e., most of your competition is chains, etc. Did this factor into your original decision to open up there or was it more about coming home to Rockwall?
A: As my wife and I got older, we decided we needed to be closer to family after spending our 20s in the San Marcos area. My family lives in Rockwall County and my wife’s family is in Justin near the Texas Motor Speedway. Family was the primary reason for coming back to the DFW area. Knowing when we moved we were going to start our business, we ended up in Rockwall due to the lack of competition. This is a quickly growing area and is tremendously underserved when it comes to great Texas barbecue.
Q: After only a year in business, how does it feel to get the stamp of approval from Daniel Vaughn & Texas Monthly? Congrats on getting named to their 2018 Top 10 newcomers list.
A: Thank you, it feels great! I had pretty good confidence in our product and our business, but when Daniel showed up around our fourth or fifth month of business I was shocked. Our business was still very slow and had not taken off. I didn’t think we would even be on his radar to be honest. Getting great feedback is what keeps us going, Obviously the opinions of Daniel, the Posse and other media is great, but even more important is the feedback and opinions of our everyday customers. Knowing that the community, our everyday customers, love us and what we are doing is what makes the long overnights and crazy hours worth it.
Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in the first year of business?
A: The first year of business has taught me a lot. Cooking everyday gives you the opportunity to fine tune your skills, experiment, see what works and what does not. Making the transition to a one-thousand gallon pit was a challenge, having never cooked on one. I learned quickly that cooking on something that big is a bit different than smaller rigs. I’ve learned how to cook efficiently in winds, rain, sleet, hail, and heat. I am continuing to learn how to be better every day. I have certainly learned a lot more than that, but we could talk about this all day. The first year had been a rollercoaster of learning to adapt and change to grow with the ever-growing pace of business, as well as for personal growth.
Q: Do you have any advice for folks thinking about jumping into the BBQ business?
A: Only two things: 1) DO NOT HALF ASS IT! There is a new BBQ place opening up on every corner every day. If you want to succeed, and not be just another BBQ place that everyone drives by, you must be dedicated to using high quality ingredients, cooking with your best efforts, learning from your mistakes and most of all putting in the work. 2) Cooking BBQ on the weekends is completely different to doing it every day and making a living at it. You don’t just get to sit back and drink a cold beer while watching the fire every day. It’s a grind of cooking all night, serving customers all day, cleaning up, cooking more, paying bills, fixing problems. . .Although we love what we do, there is much more to it than just cooking up some brisket for your family. It’s a ton of work and you might have to be a bit crazy to want to keep up with it all.
Smoke Sessions Barbecue, 7126 Farm to Market 548, Royse City, 817-319-1080. Open Tues-Sun 11am-til the meat runs out.