I saw the state trooper out of the corner of my eye as he pulled into the gas station / parking lot of BBQ on the Brazos in Cresson, but I kept shooting pictures anyway. I fired off a few more frames, and was putting my camera back in the car before I noticed the trooper’s car behind mine, window rolled down, blocking me in.
“Good morning, trooper,” I offered, “can I help you?”
“Do you work for a magazine for something?” the trooper asked, motioning to the bag of camera gear in my open hatchback.
“Ah, not exactly,” I replied, “but I write about barbecue for the Dallas Observer, and was checking this place out this morning.”
The trooper’s pause bordered on uncomfortable before he decided that I wasn't with ISIS or Jade Helm 15, and said “Ahh, that’s great. So what’s the best barbecue you’ve ever had?” As it happens, the obliging state patrolman was at perhaps one of the best spots in the area.
An easy hour’s drive from Dallas on a Saturday morning, BBQ On The Brazos is well worth the trip. As you head south on Highway 377, the sprawl of Fort Worth is quickly replaced with rolling green hills and countryside. In the small town of Cresson, BBQ On The Brazos shares half the building with a Texaco station and convenience store, next to the Motorsports Ranch. Racers fuel up on pit master John Sanford’s smoked meats before fueling up with race gas and hitting the track. Sanford is at work early, offering breakfast tacos of the standard egg, potato or chorizo variety, plus ones with rib meat, brisket or pulled pork, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturdays, or 6:30-9:30 during the week. The regular barbecue is served from 9:30 until they run out, usually by 2 or 3 in the afternoon.
At the counter inside, John’s wife, Kathryn, took my order: a half pound of brisket, a link of regular sausage and two ribs. “Oh yeah,” she said, “you want the trinity.” She spoke the language of barbecue, and I knew I was in for something good. At the cutting table behind her, John went to work, giving me a mix of lean and moist brisket, then hacked off two meaty ribs from the middle of a rack, before slicing a link of sausage and adding it to my tray. I also ordered a side of potato salad, and John finished off the tray with some dill pickles, onions and a slice of white bread.
There are three or four tables downstairs, but a set of stairs heads up, where another half dozen tables are available, along with a covered patio that overlooks the racetrack. I sat outside, hoping to watch some racing action, but the morning’s activity was confined to motorcyclists lapping at the far end of the compound.
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Fortunately, the meats in front of me kept me thoroughly entertained. The brisket is the star, with a thick, peppery bark, with a little bite of spice that reminded me of the brisket at Pecan Lodge. The lean slices from the flat still had a healthy layer of fat on them that melts in your mouth, while the chunks from the point were simply divine. The ribs had a light glaze that gave off equal parts sweet and heat, while the meat itself was moist and smoky. The sausage was my third favorite meat, but on this tray, that’s no slight; it had decent snap, and the medium grind of the meats was nearly perfect.
I am often asked (not just by cops) where to go for good barbecue. BBQ On The Brazos is going on my list of recommended spots, even given the distance from Dallas. Sure, you could get up around 10 a.m on a Saturday morning, and stand in line at Pecan Lodge, whose line will be 40 deep before you get there, and possibly spend an hour waiting. That’s not a criticism; their popularity is well-earned. But you could hop in your car and drive the hour to Cresson, and get nearly the equal at BBQ On The Brazos. If I lived in Fort Worth, I’d eat here often, and even living in Dallas, I’m convinced it’s worth the drive.
And if you run into Trooper Williamson in the parking lot, you can tell him I sent you.
BBQ On The Brazos
9001 E. Highway 377
Hours: M-F 6:30-3, Sat 9-3 (or until sold out)