Barbecue is best served roadside--a hot mess of meat marinated in exhaust and sizzling hot from the sun-baked asphalt below. It's as much cult as it is culinary.
With the rich aroma that wafts from its half-barrel barbecue, Bob's Texas Barbecue, a wooden trailer covered with cattle brands that resides in a gravel parking lot on the side of State Street, seems like the real thing.
The menu is suitably sparse. All Bob's rocks is brisket, pulled pork and ribs, served on a sandwich or on a plate. No namby-pamby free-range Cornish hens or pancetta allowed.
The Texas Ranger plate ($10) comes with several thick slices of brisket, Texas toast and choices of sides. I went with beans and cheddar mashed potatoes.
My order was ready and steaming on a Styrofoam plate within five minutes, and I took a seat at a picnic table draped with a checkered tablecloth beneath a metal carport to dig in.
On its own, the brisket was finely prepared, tender enough to be easily cut with a plastic knife, and rubbed with spices for a rich smoky flavor. I asked co-owner Karen McPherson what gives it the standout flavors, and like any real barbecue proprietress, she laughed at me.
"It's top secret," she said.
Her husband Bob McPherson told me though the spices may be a family secret, the flavor comes from paying close attention to the process.
"The pit master gets too far away from the pit, and next thing you know, the roast tastes like crock pot roast beef," he said.
No matter the meat, barbecue's main event is sauce. That's what you lick off your fingers so people know you mean business. Two squeeze bottles sat before me: regular and kicked-up.
Sadly both of the sauces were underwhelming. Kicked-up wasn't remotely spicy and was nearly indistinguishable from the regular. Both provided sweetness but not much else. Additionally, both had the thicker, gelatinous consistency of store-bought sauce, though Bob assured me they're made in-house.
The beans were prepared ranch-style, more savory than sweet, with hints of black pepper and cumin. They were a plainer balance to the sweetness of the barbecue sauce. The mashed potatoes were thick and dry, with a slightly sour flavor from the cheddar. The hefty slice of white bread also on the plate was unremarkable, but it served its starchy absorbent purpose well.
As good as the brisket was, the sauce hampered the total package. I didn't even need a napkin at the end. But as far as gravel lots go, Bob's is still top-notch.