Monday, February 3, 2014
Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q (Tyler, TX)
Each time I venture to Lufkin, Texas for work, I swear it'll be my last, but I inevitably end up there again and again. This time I decided to take a new route through Tyler. If I have to make this mind-numbing drive, I might as well put some top tier barbecue on my itinerary.
Stanley's missed the original Texas Monthly list of the "Top 50 BBQ Joints" in 1997, but they acquired a new pit master in 2000 and have been part of each list since then. They also won "Best Pork Ribs" at the 2010 and 2011 Texas Monthly BBQ Festival. With that much street cred, I was sure to find awesome barbecue here.
I didn't have just a ton of time to kill, so I planned my arrival for 10:45am and waited for them to open up shop. There were only a few of us waiting for food at the opening bell, but by 11:30 the place was fairly packed. Getting here early was definitely a good idea.
Stanley's has an array of interesting divorce-themed BBQ sandwiches that sounded very tasty, including The Ex-Wife and The Brother-in-Law. Intriguing as these sandwiches were, I couldn't resist their Four Meat Sampler Plate (all meat, no sides). For my meat-tastic sampler, I picked brisket, sausage, pulled pork, and baby back ribs. I wish more barbecue joints would adopt the all-meat platter. Who needs side dishes anyway?
Customers are encouraged to order their preferred cut of brisket. Naturally I asked for fatty brisket with some extra bark. Score! The slices I received looked absolutely phenomenal. The smoke ring, if you can even call it that, went almost end to end. There was also a layer of beautiful black bark on every edge. I dug in and found plenty of smoke in each bite, as well as a good hit of spices. The meat itself was incredibly tender and juicy. There was no reason for sauce here. Actually, there was no reason for silverware either - just grab a handful and inhale.
Next came the sausage, which is admittedly a little harder to make stand out. There was a good snap to the casings and a mild hint of smoke. I liked the seasoning blend, which had a small bite of pepper without being overly spicy. The sausage wasn't bad by any means, but it didn't wow me either.
Although it's not traditionally part of Texas barbecue, I do enjoy pulled pork from time to time, though mostly on sandwiches. I didn't find any visible smoke hue. This was the only one of my four meats that came pre-sauced, which I think was ultimately its undoing. The pork was a little dry for my liking, and the sauce precluded any hope of pinpointing some smoke. The sweet, vinegary sauce was tasty enough, but I prefer mine on the side.
Stanley's lists their baby back ribs as "double-rubbed," so I expected them to be packed with flavor. I know these were supposed to be baby backs, but they were still pretty tiny, like small buffalo wings. There was a good crust and visible smoke. My first bite resulted in a mouthful of bone fragments, but things got better after that. The sugary sweet glaze was really tasty, though I'm not sure where the double rub was at. The meat itself was tender, but not overcooked. I didn't find as much smoke as I'd hoped for, which could be a result of the hefty glaze.
The brisket was the clear winner today. The other meats had their moments too, but could have been better. Small flaws aside, I'm really glad that I stopped to try Stanley's barbecue.
Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q
525 S. Beckham Ave.
Tyler, TX 75702