If the Texas BBQ Posse has a fault, it might be it’s bluntness. We talk bluntly — positively and otherwise — about our favorite food, barbecue.
So, on a recent Saturday while I was telling Michael Wyont, pitmaster and owner of Flores Barbecue in Whitney, how much the Posse liked everything he served, I added that at least one of us could have used a little vinegar sauce on the side with Wyont’s wonderful pulled pork.
“You can go to Carolina, get you some, and bring it back,” Wyont said.
Boom! Bluntness, it seems, is not the sole domain of the Posse, especially when, like Wyont, you follow the Texas creed of no-sauce.
Flores Barbecue, located an hour or so south of the Dallas area, was the first of three stops on this meat-eating journey into central Texas. Other places visited were Guess Family Barbecue in Waco and Green’s Sausage House in Zabcikville, east of Temple.
The Posse contingent started 11 strong, including long-time members who are retirees from — like me — and former employees of The Dallas Morning News, and newbies like Jason Shane of HangryQ.com, who shot video.
But the weather — it rained on and off all day — and a related equipment failure on my car cut our numbers. Only Morning News photographer Tom Fox and his brother, Tracy, made it to all three places. Tom drove 333 miles roundtrip from his home in Arlington. From my house in Austin, the trip to Flores is about 140 miles one way.
As usual, Posse co-founder Chris Wilkins, set the itinerary. He had wanted to get the group to Flores since he first visited the joint a couple months ago. He loved the food and the prices: $20 a pound for brisket and beef ribs, $8 a half-pound for pork ribs and pulled pork, $12 for a two-meat plate with two sides.
“That two-meat plate is a steal,” Wilkins said, noting that the plate includes a half-pound of meat.
We sampled brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, jalapeño sausage and a beef rib, served on Saturdays.
“That’s crazy good,” Posse member Jim Rossman said of the beef rib.
“It’s not often that you eat pulled pork and go, wow!,” Wilkins said. He was also fond of the jalapeño corn side dish, calling it one of the best sides he has ever had at a barbecue joint.
“Did anyone have anything that wasn’t outstanding?” Bruce Tomaso asked the group after we ate.
“No,” was the unanimous answer.
Even the homemade tortillas, served instead of the white bread that many places offer, drew praise.
“Those are the best tortillas I’ve had in my life,” said Brandon Lesley, creative director at Funimation, who was making his first trip with the Posse. “Nice and soft. Not dry.”
Flores, named in honor of Wyont’s mother’s maiden name, is a relatively new operation. Wyont and his wife, Hali, opened a trailer in San Marcos in 2016, moved it to Whitney at the end of that year and into the current building, a former bar, in mid-2017.
Texas Monthly included Flores in its Top 50 list of the best joints in the state that year. The Posse would put Flores in its Top 10. It’s that good. On barbecue tours, Posse members are usually pretty disciplined about how much they eat at any one place. At Flores, some of us broke that rule.
Wyont says that some days his place is very busy and sometimes not. On the day we visited, there were 12 people in line at 11:15 a.m., a few minutes after opening. Just before noon, there were about three dozen people eating in the dining room and at tables outside, and only seven people in line. Can’t imagine what that line would have been if Flores were located in Dallas or Austin.
Our next stop was Guess Family Barbecue in Waco, a trailer operation located about a block from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Market. As you might surmise from the popularity the couple gained with their TV show, Fixer Upper, parking was tough. We found a spot on a side street a couple blocks away.
Walking into Guess, the first thing you notice is the lettering on the end of the serving trailer:
The Same Kind
You might dispute the slogan’s accuracy, but it’s certainly catchy.
Guess, open for about two years, is truly a family operation. When we arrived about 1:30 p.m., Sara Guess was there with her two children, Elliot, 7, and Emmi, 3. Reid Guess was in a nearby garage working on a pit he was building for a customer.
When we ordered a big sampler plate of brisket, ribs, pulled pork and jalapeño sausage, Elliot and a friend were helping behind the counter.
“He likes the business side of things,” Reid told us later about his son. “He’s all into marketing and advertising.”
“He’s been doing this since we started,” Sara said of her son.
Note to Aaron Franklin: Keep an eye on Elliot Guess.
Ryan Amthor is one of the pitmasters at Guess. From this location near Magnolia, he also helps cook for three other Guess trailers around town. The pit is literally fired around the clock, Amthor explained, with different items going on and coming off in regular rotation.
On the menu board, the chicken and turkey offerings were already crossed out. “Our chicken and turkey are really good,” Amthor said. “But our first three customers today bought me out of them.”
On barbecue tours, the order of hitting joints can be important. Such was the case with Guess. The food was good, but most of the meats did not quite compare to those we had just eaten at Flores.
The exception was the sausage.
“That sausage is the bomb,” Posse member Michael Meadows said.
“The last place, the meat and the cheese were separate,” Tom Fox said. “This place, it was like they were all together.”
If you’re not a sausage fan, it may be a little hard to understand exactly what Tom was getting at. But if you are a fan, you’ll know.
“Flores probably had Guess on the other meats, but this is good stuff,” Wilkins said. “This is the best barbecue anywhere around here (Waco), no question.”
When Reid Guess finishes with the pit for his customer, he plans to build three 1,000-gallon pits for a bricks-and-mortar location that the family hopes to open in Waco at the end of this year or early next year.
The Posse is already planning a return trip.
As we left Guess and started out of town, it began raining heavily. I turned on my windshield wipers and a wiper blade flew off onto the road behind us. After I pulled over, Meadows, who was riding with me, and I both ran back. Michael found the blade, thankfully. And it snapped right back into place. But we both got soaked.
Dripping wet, we decided to call it a day. Wilkins, driving another car, circled back to pick up Meadows and return to Dallas. I headed to Austin.
That left the Fox brothers as the only ones continuing on to Green’s.
Both Tom and Tracy were born in Minnesota. They called Zabcikville a throwback and compared it to a small Minnesota town where a bar and/or a store would be the center of activity.
The fare at Green’s is different, not typical Texas BBQ. The brothers ordered deep fried boudin balls made with pork meat, rice and pepper jack cheese. And, they tried the sausage burger, which is served like a hamburger in a basket, with a large sausage patty spilling slightly out of the bun, garnished with mustard, pickles and chopped onions.
“The mustard makes it taste like you’re eating a hamburger,” Tom said.
Tracy said biting into the boudin ball was like biting into a Cadbury egg. Crispy on the outside and gooey in the center.
Later, I called owner Marvin Green and told him I was sorry to have missed his place. He said Green’s makes 12,000 to 15,000 pounds or so of sausage a month, and supplies a few barbecue joints in the area, including Cyclone Corral BBQ.
The Fox brothers said there was plenty of room to sit down and eat at Green’s, but there was a steady line of customers getting food to go. Both the Texas A&M and University of Texas football teams were playing at home that night. In our conversation, Green said his place gets business from tailgaters at both schools.
On the way back to Arlington, Tom and Tracy stopped at Health Camp in Waco, a local institution serving malts, shakes and burgers.
“We both got large vanilla malts,” Tom said later when he gave me his report on Green’s. “After a day of eating meat, we had to get something to put out the fire.”
And so it goes on the Texas BBQ Trail.
Heart of Texas BBQ Tour 9/8/18
9am: Leave DFW
10:45am: Flores Barbecue, we visited the old location in Whitney, but Flores Barbecue is now at 4801 Edwards Ranch Road in Fort Worth, 254-580-3576. Open Thurs-Sun 11am-4pm.
1:30pm: Guess Family Barbecue, 324 S. 6th Street, Waco, 254-313-3436. Open Wed-Sat 11am-4pm.
3:30pm: Green’s Sausage House, 16483 State Highway 53, Zabcikville, 254-985-2331. Open Mon-Fri 6:30am-6:30pm, Sat 7am-5pm.
4:30pm: Head back to DFW