Something moved Mike Thomas to purchase his first barbecue pit at the State Fair of Texas in 1988, and Kaufman County should be grateful for that. His backyard hobby slowly became a passion, and, after losing his telecom job in 2003, he set up a roadside brisket stand, which morphed into a food truck and ultimately a real building. Unassuming at first glance, it’s welcoming on the inside, with Texana kitsch and corrugated metal walls. A bustling lunchtime crowd tucks into Thomas’s masterfully executed fare. His brisket—under a simple salt-and-pepper rub—is magnificent, boasting a thick bark halo after eighteen hours of cooking.