Rating: 4 Opened: 2011 Pitmaster: Israel Campos, age 38 Method: Mesquite; indirect-heat pit Pro tip: Have a glass of iced tea—or a fire extinguisher—handy if you aim to try the sauce.
Israel “Pody” Campos used to live in Austin, where he worked for the Texas Municipal Police Association, training cops all over the state. When budget cuts forced the association to downsize a few years ago, he moved back home to Pecos and took up a job as the chief deputy of Reeves County. He also bought a laundromat and converted it into a barbecue joint that has the intimate feel of a small-town train station. Light streams in through the barred windows, dimpling the wood-paneled walls. Out back, Campos has a somewhat unconventional smoker he calls his “Lazy Susan.” It’s a black vertical cylinder with two rotating middle racks lacquered by years of drippings. We hadn’t seen a setup quite like this before, though as in an offset pit, the heat is indirect. Campos feeds his contraption a steady diet of mesquite but adds cherry, pecan, and oak “like they’re herbs.” In particular he uses cherry to sweeten his ribs, which had a thick crust and great flavor, though they were a tad dry. The brisket, with a nice red smoke ring, could also have been a bit more moist, but a judicious squirt of the sauce helps out. We say judicious because this is a spicy brew, with visible chunks of ghost and habanero peppers. It’s one of the many touches that gives Pody’s a distinctively West Texas feel, along with the frontier lettering on the Western facade and the green chile–cheddar pozole, which is rich and delicious and must be tried.