Barbecue has enjoyed a renaissance in Texas, and the trendy phenomenon has yielded two related byproducts. Like it or not, barbecue has become city-fied, and the price has risen substantially.
But neither has encroached on Lee's Bar-B-Q in Haslet — not yet, anyway. If you last walked into owner, operator, pitmaster and busboy Clarence Lee's operation on a slow afternoon in 2003, when the joint made Texas Monthly's Top 50, you'd find it largely unchanged in 2016.
"Start changing things up and you'll likely change yourself right out of business," Lee says.
The classic red-and-white checked tablecloths and the concession stand menus over the counter give the feel of some bygone good-ol' days. Lee's is a perfect spot for your next post-little-league sandwich run, and it has been for 28 years.
And then there's the meat. Cooking low and slow on Lee's Oyler rotating rotisserie-style pit gives his meat a more subdued smoke flavor than some may be used to from a hickory cook. It leaves the meat to do the talking, and with just a splash of Lee's sweet, tangy sauce, it's just right.
The brisket gets a fair little smoke ring, and it was moist on this most recent visit, but the sausage and hot link were probably better. Some sides may be canned, but lunch (or dinner) at Lee's is a no-fuss, no-frills engagement. It's one of the last remaining barbecue places diners can escape from for less than a 10-spot.
Or you can go for the Full House ($13.49): Brisket, ribs, sausage, hot links, two sides and a heavily buttered and lightly toasted piece of white bread await. Lee's unapologetically serves smoked bologna as well, as others have moved in a more "craft meat" direction in recent years.
"Those things are all nice," he says. "There's a new barbecue crowd and a new way of doing things in this business. If you're accustomed to that, if you're looking for that, I'm sure it's good. But this is what I know and this is what folks come back for."
Truth is, Lee added bologna to the menu a few years back because of customer requests, as he's done recently, too, with pulled pork.
It might be wise to get a taste of Lee's before the atmosphere of the area changes anymore dramatically than it already has, with all the development knocking on Lee's back door in the Alliance Gateway area. Fair warning, you do have to pass up Sonny Bryan's Fort Worth/Keller location on the way to Lee's, always a tall task no matter where your GPS is set to, but keep the faith. Lee's is well worth a try.
Lee's Bar-B-Q, 103 School House Road, Haslet, 817-439-5337. Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.