Point of order: Interstate 20 doesn't go through Tyler. It skirts north of the city, so saying the interstate delivers anything more than a glancing blow would be a stretch. I've made this drive more times than I can recall in over two decades of living in Texas, but stops in the Rose Capital of America have been rare. So when you, like me, take a trip to Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler, let this be your reminder: There are still 11 or so miles of driving to go after you leave the interstate and make your way into downtown Tyler to the legendary barbecue spot.
We didn't have to wait long for our order to arrive. Sandwiches dominate the menu at Stanley's, but ordering by the half-pound is the way to the classic barbecue hits. We went with a half-pound of sliced fatty brisket ($13.50) and another half-pound of sausage ($8.50), along with a side of red-skinned potato salad ($2.19). We also wanted to try some pulled pork, so we ordered it via a taco for just $3.29.
The moist brisket is just what we had hoped; a generous amount of rendered fat lies just under the obsidian bark and melts in the mouth along with the smoky beef. The sausage is equally impressive. Its casing snaps perfectly with each bite and the ground meat blend spiced with a perfect level of zing. Also, we're aware this is BBQ Road Trip and not Potato Salad Road Trip, but Stanley's red-skinned staple, topped with a pickle and raw onion ring, is damn near worth the drive on its own.
For less than $4, there's no reason not to add one of Stanley's tacos to your order. Our pulled pork sample came on a flour tortilla generously stuffed with juicy and flavorful pork. It was topped with cheese, sliced cabbage, guacamole, pico and salsa verde that made each bite a delight. Two tacos would make more than a hearty lunch for all but the heaviest of appetites.
Just get there early; by the time we left, a line was already forming on the sidewalk waiting for lunch. For locals and visitors alike, Stanley's is an institution that we would love to visit no matter the drive. None of us should be surprised if they're still smoking away in another 60 years.
Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ, 525 S. Beckham Avenue, Tyler. Open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday
Road Trip Details
From downtown Dallas, you're just 98 miles from Stanley's in Tyler, and that can be a sub-two-hour drive. Unfortunately, getting out of a 10-year relationship can be easier than getting out of Dallas to head east. U.S. 80 through east Dallas and Mesquite, in particular, can be a handful, particularly near the I-635 interchange. Interstate 20 and U.S. 175 to the south are serviceable alternatives, but U.S. 175 doesn't pass by Buc-Ees, so chose wisely.
Making A Day Of It
First Monday in Canton is billed as the world's largest flea market, held once a month in Canton. Usually running from Thursday-Sunday (somehow, the Monday has been excluded, although it's still part of the name), the massive array of artists, resellers, and various peddlers is something that truly needs to be experienced to consider yourself a Texan. We swung through Canton via TX-64 on our way back from Tyler, and it's an easy 35 miles that's perfectly on the way.
The only thing better than barbecue and a beverage would be some live music to go with it. Stanley's has you covered. Plan your visit around Stanley's live music calendar and catch local and regional acts as they pass through East Texas. Some shows are free, while others require advance tickets. Just know that some food choices may sell out before your show.