Once every four years Texas Monthly releases its mouthwatering list of the state’s 50 best barbecue joints, and this time fewer East Texas establishments made the cut.
Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler once again landed among the top as it extended its streak to five consecutive 50 Best BBQ Joints lists, but it wasn’t the only mention by the barbecue-loving magazine. Texas Monthly also released a list of 50 honorable mention barbecue spots, which included Bodacious Bar-B-Q in Hallsville, Joseph’s Riverport Barbecue in Jefferson and Slaughter’s BBQ Oasis in Sulphur Springs.
Barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn and 35 taste testers traveled to 411 Texas barbecue joints to determine this year’s list. Seeing Stanley’s name on that list once again was exciting, said Tamara Bethancourt, Stanley’s employee relations manager.
“I think for Stanley’s, and not just Stanley’s but Tyler as a whole community, it’s exciting to see us on the list. It’s exciting to see Tyler in magazines,” Bethancourt said.
Over the years, Texas barbecue has gotten a whole lot better and Stanley’s barbecue has continued to improve as well, said Daniel Vaughn, Texas Monthly barbecue editor.
“It’s just one of those barbecue places,” Vaughn said. “It’s pretty rare in the fact that it just continues to get better list after list.”
To be chosen as one of the top 50 barbecue joints in Texas boils down to having really strong barbecue, he said. There are things to consider as tie breakers like sides and desserts, but the main focus is a great platter of brisket, ribs, sausage and any other specialty item a place has.
Along with their barbecue, Stanley’s has also continued to improve their environment, making it a fun place to go eat, he added.
“To me, it’s just the most fun place to go eat barbecue in Texas, especially when they’ve got a live show going on,” Vaughn said.
There is a long history behind Stanley’s that makes people proud to work there and to visit, Bethancourt said. Stanley’s was opened in 1960 by J.D. Stanley and taken over in 2006 by Nick and Jen Pencis after Stanley’s death.
Stanley’s is a place that is not just community strong now, but has always been, she said.
This year, honorable mentions were done differently, Vaughn said. Typically, it is given to a joint that did a specific dish very well, but this year it’s a continuation of the next best 50 barbecue joints in Texas.
Gabriel Ritter, owner of the Bodacious in Hallsville, said it was an honor to be among the top 100 barbecue joints in the state.
“We put in a lot of hours over here,” Ritter said. “We pretty much dedicated our lives to this job so for somebody to take notice, we’re proud of that.”
Pitmaster Bryan Bingham worked at the original Bodacious location on Mobberly Avenue in Longview before venturing out to start Sunbird Barbecue in May with David Segovia.
Bodacious on Mobberly landed in fourth place in Texas Monthly’s previous list, though Bingham was not surprised his new spot did not make the list this time around.
“We were pretty certain that we didn’t meet the criteria as far as how long we’ve been open,” said Bingham, whose Sunbird was part of Texas Monthly’s BBQ Fest Oct. 10 with Riverport at Stanley’s.
Bingham said he was not upset about not making the list, though he would like to get the nod in the future. His focus, though, is producing good barbecue.
“Our biggest priority is literally putting out the best food that we can for our customers and doing something different out here in East Texas,” he said. “We really just want to put East Texas and Longview on the map, and it gives us motivation to really push ourselves to do that.”