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The Grove Smoke Shack

At the Grove, a new development on the south side of Tyler, a small wooden building is sandwiched between crisp white structures. I could see the smoke rising above the shiny metal roof from the parking lot, so I assumed it was the barbecue joint. It was called the Smoke Shack, after all. It’s part of a larger collection of venues at the Grove, which also includes the main restaurant, a bar, a takeout market, and an event space….

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Pat Gee’s Barbecue

The hand-painted wooden sign reads “Pat’s Barbecue,” but everybody calls it Pat Gee’s after its late founder, Mack Henry “Pat” Gee, who opened this barbecue shack east of Tyler, deep in the piney woods, sometime around 1963. Pat, his wife Vida, and their seven children lived just up the hill from the small, wooden building. “We all worked here at one point,” Billy Walker told me during a recent trip. He works here now with…

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Hickory Hill BBQ

It was a phone call that brought me back out to Hickory Hill BBQ. It sits along a stretch of State Highway 31, right on the western edge of the East Texas pine curtain. I’d driven by it a few times, but always found it closed, then owner Kerry Shaw called to alert me that I was missing out on the best barbecue in the world. “We’re trying to be number one in the world.”…


Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue

Owner Nick Pencis isn’t going to take it anymore. For years he felt compelled by regional tastes to serve lightly seasoned briskets without a speck of fat on them. But when he renovated his restaurant in 2012 (adding a new bar and patio along with an impressive pit room), a few of the menu items got a makeover as well. The brisket now receives a more aggressive dusting of salt and coarse black pepper, and…

Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue

On a trip down to Nacogdoches, the family stopped for ‘cue in Tyler at Stanley’s. I’d visited once before with a friend and found many faults with Stanley’s although it seemed to have potential. After meeting owner Nick Pencis at the Gettin’ Sauced event in Austin, he urged me to return and try some of the recipes he had tweaked, most importantly the brisket. It has improved but there are still some issues. Again, I…

Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue

The four meat sampler plate should become a staple of every self-respecting BBQ joint. The idea of piling a plate with multiple proteins, and diggin’ in without the distractions of cole slaw, pinto beans or anything else to slow down the ingestion pleases me. The folks over at Stanley’s seem to agree with me. A friend from LA wanted a taste of some good Texas ‘cue so we headed out to East Texas in search…