Tolar, Texas, also known as the middle of nowhere, BFE, the boondocks, out in the sticks, etc. — you get the point. All are reasonable terms to describe this one-horse town south of Granbury, but that doesn't mean they aren't clued in to the hottest food trend in North Texas. We're talking about smoked meat, like that found at nine-month-old Boatman’s BBQ.
Located on U.S. 377 between Granbury and Stephenville, Tolar is a long way from the beaten path, but fall is a great time for a weekend road trip, so if you head south to the hills, keep an eye out for the bold "BBQ" painted in red on the stone, late-1800s building on the highway. Once your eyes are caught, the sultry smell of meat will catch your nose. At too many barbecue joints, that smell is a vicious lie, and you end up with a disappointing plate of mediocre meat. Luckily, nothing at Boatman's is even mediocre.
What you will find is some very good meat, smoked daily. It's a family operated business, with Darrell Boatman and son Darrell Jr. manning the post-oak-only-fueled pit while wife and mom Candi whips up freshly made sides. Situated on a beer-friendly patio in the back is their custom made R & O pit from Granbury. Ask to see to the pit and you’ll be baptized in wonderful, smoky meat cologne, guaranteed to attract the lovely ladies. It’s science.
When asked what Boatman’s motivation was to open a restaurant in a town where the ratio is one stop light to one barbecue joint, his answer was as simple. “We’ve always cooked for fun and for family and friends and decided to take it a step further. I think being open here for nine months is a good sign, and we typically sell out of brisket by 4 p.m.” Considering the small population of the area, they’re cooking four prime briskets every day and are open for dinner. Both very bold business moves for new entrepreneurs in the barbecue scene.
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One of the frustrating aspects Boatman deals with is customers who come in for brisket only. After discovering they’re sold out, they leave rather than order other items off the menu. “I just wish they would try our other products. We’ve received a lot of praise for all our food and we rely on the local support to grow,” Boatman said. (At 20, Darrell Jr. is still learning how to master the pit. He's off to a good start — he leaves a 1-inch layer of fat for proper rendering — and will only get better in time.)
Meat is sold by the pound, but the barbecue plates are a steal. You can get three meats with two sides for $12.50 — remember this is prime brisket, and ribs do not cost extra. Boatman’s next move is tinkering with sausage recipes in hopes of beginning to make his own, but he knows the time involved is intense and needs to perfect his current operation first. He wants to learn Austin smoked-meat king Aaron Franklin’s secret (who wouldn't) and would like to see lines outside his restaurant one day. We know Austin has a lot to do with both, but if Boatman's BBQ keeps it up, it may become another fan favorite among the fine Dallas/Fort Worth folk. It's a lot closer than Austin for weekend excursions, too.