Headed Out West

When the 2017 Texas Monthly Top 50 list came out, I knew I wanted to attempt all 50, but with the added Yeti BBQ Passport as an incentive I wanted to get it done within a year.  Never did I imagine so many people would complete it so quickly. I’m starting to doubt I’ll get one of the prizes, but I still want to knock it out in a year.  In order to get to some places, I have decided to make it fun for the family as well and plan getaways and activities near BBQ.  I was perplexed on how I could convince my family to head out towards Pecos, TX to visit Pody’s, but an episode of The Texas Daytripper answered that for me, and the answer was Balmorhea State Park which is about an hour south of Pecos.  As we planned the trip we planned more activities, which included Big Bend, Alpine, Marfa and Fort Davis.

Stillwater BBQ

 We left DFW and headed west at 8 AM on a Saturday.  Our first stop was in Abilene, TX where we tried Stillwater Barbecue.  We arrived about 11:15 with only 2 people ahead of us.   I ordered brisket and pulled pork for myself with a side of macaroni and cheese.  Stillwater has a policy that kids eat free!  They get one meat and one side.  My daughter chose ribs.  She was given two large spares and I couldn’t believe they were free.  When I asked the slicer about the policy his response was, “The owners are big on family.”  I was thrilled with this policy and their focus on family.  This feeling lasted 30 seconds because as we sat down, blaring on the speakers was the song “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw.”  Smh.  I started with the pulled pork and it was cooked perfectly.  Nice spice, tons of moisture and melted in my mouth.  Next I tried the brisket.  I was very disappointed as it was tough and dry, and had a strong smoked flavor.  It reminded me a lot of smoked venison jerky.  I tried a bite of my daughter’s free ribs and was disappointed as well.  It was way too sweet with little pepper to balance it out.  I finished my meal by making a “fold over” with the remaining pulled pork.  I hate being critical and it may have been an off day, but I’ve been to a lot of places not on the Top 50 that are better than Stillwater.

Kokernot Field, Alpine, TX

We finished our drive and made it to Alpine, TX (our home base for the trip) where it began to rain, cancelling our Star Party at the nearby McDonald Observatory.  Not able to convince my family to eat at Come and Take it BBQ in town, I decided to call it a night and get up the next day to visit Marfa and Big Bend.  Marfa was a neat little town. We had breakfast at Squeeze Marfa, visited Hotel Paisano, Jet Rink’s little Reata from the movie Giant, El Cosmico, and Prada Marfa 36 miles outside of town.  

Set from Giant

From there we went a 100 miles south to Big Bend National Park.  Since my girls had no desire to hike we opted to take the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.   This drive starts about 15 miles into the park and goes on for about 40 miles where you turn around and go back the way you came.  The views were breath taking. 
Santa Elena

As we started back, the rain came in and it too was beautiful.  We watched waterfalls form off the sides of the mountains and could see the rain literally come at you.  As were in the final mile of the trip we came to a complete halt as the water had taken over the road.  We had no clue how long we would be stuck waiting for the water to recede.  Luckily an hour after the rain stopped the park Ranger from the other side said he thought it was safe, but we had to cross at our own risk.

I've waited longer for BBQ

Hungry and not wanting to chance the next storms coming up making it worse we darted across with ease.  Once out of the State Park, we hit up the Ghost Town of Terlingua, visited the Starlight Theatre and hung out on “The Porch”.  This was the most laid back place I’ve ever visited.  People from all backgrounds gathered around drinking beer and enjoying the views and each other’s company.  Some college girls taught my daughter to hula hoop and once she got it down, the place erupted in cheers. It was a fun moment for all of us.

The Porch

Day 3 led us to Balmorhea State Park.  For those who don’t know, this is a spring fed pond that was turned into a pool with fifteen million gallons of water coming up from the ground to fill the pool then flowing into man made canals to provide irrigation for nearby crops.  With crystal clear water, this is one of the best swimming holes in Texas.  You can hang out in the three foot side of the pool or head out toward the high dive and jump into thirty feet of water.  With fish galore (some of the species only exist in this park) you can also scuba dive if you are licensed.  

After three hours of swimming we were beat and made our way to Pecos, TX to try Pody’s BBQ.
We arrived to Pody’s about 5 minutes before their 6 PM opening and the line was about ten deep.  Once the doors opened and we were allowed inside, the line wrapped throughout the restaurant. Pecos is an interesting town as it has been taken over by oilfield workers.  Pody’s too was also overrun by oilfield workers and the place got loud quickly.  My wife said she couldn’t remember a time where she was at a restaurant (or any place for that matter) and she was the only female.   We ordered the Texas Trinity and a pulled pork sandwich.  The brisket was very moist, but had zero smoke flavor, and the ribs were smoky and sweet but were over cooked and fell apart.  The sausage reminded me of the commercial Eckrich brand and the BBQ sauce tasted like it came from Arbys.  Like Stillwater, the highlight of the meal was the pulled pork even though it was over peppered.  This trip I was not good for BBQ.  I hate being negative in reviews, but I can’t lie either.  I personally have no clue how the Top 50 list is narrowed down, but after this trip I believe there is an effort made to make sure all regions of the state are covered.  There are just too many other places I’ve been to that are better than the two I tried on this trip.  Then again with any list, it’s based on opinions.

I won’t call the trip a waste, because I had the time of my life visiting spots in Texas I might not normally have if it were not for the BBQ Passport.  


The morning we decided to head home I had finally found some good brisket.  
When leaving Bamorhea the day before we had stopped at The Juan Carrasco Mercantile and grabbed a few of their homemade burritos on the way out.  One of the three I got was a smoked brisket.  I warmed it up for one minute in the hotel microwave and it was awesome.  Nice smoke, soft tortilla and a fantastic salsa verde on the side.  The next time I’m in town I’ll get these again.

A Must Stop of Burittos

Have you been to any of these places?  If so let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments!

Guns Up!