Barbecue

BBQ Road Trip: Sunbird Barbecue Is An Instant Classic in Longview

We may have missed out on some of the menu at Sunbird, but we were in no way displeased.
We may have missed out on some of the menu at Sunbird, but we were in no way displeased. Chris Wolfgang
After spending last year at home, we're ready to gas up the car and go somewhere. BBQ Road Trip is a series in which we take a day trip to visit barbecue spots outside of Dallas just in time for summer road trip season.

The internet is a glorious thing. Thanks to its magical powers, we're barreling down a winding two-lane road somewhere north of Longview. Ranch-style homes sit on sprawling lots, and trees on both sides of the road arch their canopies overhead, forming a verdant tunnel over the blacktop. Trusting in our navigation's guidance, the road ends at U.S. 259, just a few hundred yards south of Sunbird Barbecue, Longview's new barbecue destination.

In the month or so of Sunbird Barbecue's existence, the knowledge of the barbecue excellence served here has spread online far and wide. When we arrived at Sunbird just a few minutes after the 11 a.m. opening, a line two dozen deep has already formed in front of the massive trailer. The first dozen or so in line are granted respite from the summer sun by a pair of folding canopies, while the rest of are subject to the full Texas summer experience, eased only briefly by the occasional passing cloud.

click to enlarge Heed our advice, and get to Sunbird early. Lines are already a staple as locals and visitors alike queue up for the phenomenal fare. - CHRIS WOLFGANG
Heed our advice, and get to Sunbird early. Lines are already a staple as locals and visitors alike queue up for the phenomenal fare.
Chris Wolfgang
If you listen to nothing else we say, please heed this advice: Get to Sunbird early. As the line crept forward, items on the menu board started to sell out. First to go was the turkey, followed shortly by the pulled pork. With just three customers yet to order in front of us, the Dr Pepper pork belly burnt ends that we'd been craving sold out, too.

Don't cry for us yet — we were still able to order a half-pound of Sunbird's stellar brisket ($24/lb), along with a Central Texas-style hot link ($5), a stick of burnt end boudin ($5) and the chili relleno hash brown casserole ($3.50). We found a shady spot to post up while our order was prepared, then took our haul inside the Green Top Market next door to dine in air-conditioned comfort.


click to enlarge Sunbird Barbecue's Bryan Bingham puts his brisket-smoking prowess on full display in Longview. - CHRIS WOLFGANG
Sunbird Barbecue's Bryan Bingham puts his brisket-smoking prowess on full display in Longview.
Chris Wolfgang
Co-owners Bryan Bingham and David Segovia opened Sunbird Barbecue in June, both of them leaving the legendary Bodacious Bar-B-Q on Mobberly Avenue in Longview, which was ranked as one of the state's best by Texas Monthly. Bingham started at Bodacious several years ago knowing nothing of barbecue before rising all the way to pitmaster after learning under the previous pitmaster Jordan Jackson.

Bingham was eager to make a name for himself in barbecue though, and all of his prowess and creativity are on full display at Sunbird. The brisket we ordered should serve as Exhibit A in any arguments about Sunbird's status as an instant barbecue classic. We picked up a hefty slice that almost immediately gave way under its own weight, brilliantly tender and moist.

click to enlarge We'd like to make a case for this picture to appear next to "Central Texas Hot Link" in the dictionary. - CHRIS WOLFGANG
We'd like to make a case for this picture to appear next to "Central Texas Hot Link" in the dictionary.
Chris Wolfgang
Sunbird cranks out a different sausage each week, and the Central Texas-style hot link we ordered was another standout example of the fare. The link oozed with moist flavor and the perfect level of spicy kick, all wrapped in a snappy casing. If the hot link strikes anyone as too hot, the boudin is the ideal counterpoint. The Cajun-style link merged rice/onion/pepper silkiness with chunks of brisket burnt ends in every bite. Don't sleep on the chili relleno hash brown casserole, either. In a land of macaroni and cheese sameness, the cheesy poblano and potato concoction was a unique and tasty discovery.

New discoveries will be the name of the game at Sunbird as each week, Bingham and Segovia come up with something new and inventive alongside the standard barbecue hits.  We wish for two things, both self-serving: a shorter drive and longer hours (we told you we were being greedy). The locals of Longview have themselves a gem, and Sunbird Barbecue is a spot that any community would be proud of.

Sunbird Barbecue, 7486 U.S.-259, Longview, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Closed Sunday-Tuesday

Road Trip Details

Sunbird Barbecue was our longest trip of the summer, clocking in at 129 miles from downtown Dallas. Most of that is spent on Interstate 20, but once you exit the interstate just past Tyler, the U.S. highways and state roads are lightly traveled and enjoyable to drive. Make sure to check out Sunbird Barbecue on social media before you go — we had to reschedule our first planned visit when they closed on a random weekend for an out-of-town pop-up.

Making A Day Of It

If you're going to get wet, you might as well go swimming. And if you're going to drive to Longview, you might as well drive another hour to Shreveport and Bossier City, where casino hotels give you all the flavor of Las Vegas without the plane ride.

For something more low-key, antiquing is supposed to be big in the Longview area. Just west of Longview and on your drive in, the town of Gladewater advertises itself as the Antique Capital of East Texas and a variety of antique malls, independent shops and thrift stores call the area home.
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Chris Wolfgang has been a contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2015. Originally from Florida, Chris moved to Dallas in 1997 and has carried on a secret affair with the Oxford comma for over 20 years.
Contact: Chris Wolfgang