The Brown Pig: Neely's continues 86-year tradition of serving brown pork sandwich
Oct. 10, 2013 at midnight
For 86 years, the Brown Pig has delighted Marshall residents.
But , what is the Brown Pig?
According to Neely's owner Bill Barton, legend has it that the Brown Pig is made with tuna fish because it has the same texture - but it's actually about as far from tuna fish as you can get.
Some people think it's pulled pork, but again they're wrong.
The Brown Pig is made of choice pork that is hickory smoked, then ground to texture. The ground, smoked pork is served on a bun with a secret sauce and topped with lettuce and mayonnaise.
"We have a secret process of browning the pork," Barton said. "It's a very unique taste that caught on. People love it."
The Brown Pig is hands down the most popular item on the menu at Neely's, a sandwich shop located at 1404 E. Grand Ave. in Marshall.
Neely's was established in 1927. Barton's wife's family founded the business.
Mama Neely, as the family refers to the founder, had five sons and two daughters. She raised her children herself.
Her husband's parents, the Neely's, had a recipe for a brown pork sandwich that she started making. The recipe didn't call for pulled pork typically found in many barbecue joints. Instead, it required ground pork that was browned. The texture is similar to tuna fish, but the flavor is something entirely different, Barton said.
"It's a different taste and honestly people become addicted to it," Barton said.
The first Neely's opened on Aug. 15, 1927, in a gas station on West Houston near the old fairgrounds in Marshall. It was originally called "Neely and Sons Brown Pig." Mama Neely ran the sandwich shop.
In the 1950's, her son, James Neely, returned from World War II, married Frances Wall and ran the "Sandwich Shop" with Mama Neely and his wife.
They moved to a place just up the street from the restaurant's current location where Pelz Jewelry is today. In 1961, the business moved to its current location, which had previously been the Circle Diner. Along with the Bob Hope Motel, Neely's became a destination for weary travelers.
Throughout the years, the reputation of that unique Brown Pig taste spread nationwide.
At one point in time, each of the five brothers owned a Neely's somewhere in Texas, Barton said. Today, the family remains active in the restaurant's success, he said.
The restaurant has received some statewide and nationwide notoriety. It has been featured in "Southern Living" as one of the best barbecue joints in the south and this past August, it was featured in "Texas Highways."
In addition to the Brown Pig, Neely's features a Brown Beef sandwich that's made with brisket, a Little Pig Ham sandwich made with sliced pork tenderloin, the Blazing Pig which is a Brown Pig or Brown Beef with a hot link added to it, as well as cheeseburgers, salads and a slew of other items that please customers, Assistant Manager Sandra Walsh said. She estimated that Neely's serves 300 to 500 pounds of meat each week.
Meals cost less than $10 and the average wait time for food is less than five minutes, she said.
The restaurant has a family atmosphere, and serves about a thousand customers each week, Walsh said.
The story of Neely's is really centered around its loyal customers, Barton said.
"A lot of customers tell us about their memories of eating here," he said. "People drive hundreds of miles to eat the Brown Pig again. They make it so worthwhile."
The customers have also helped to make Neely's the oldest continuously operating business in its present location in Marshall, he said. So have the employees.
"I always tell the employees, 'The food only half of it. You make the experience for them,'" Barton said. "Our main goal is not to make money off of Neelys but to make sure it stays here. It is such a part of Marshall. It is a tradition."