Rarely does a beloved bean recipe spur the birth of a barbecue operation. When John Berry’s church asked him to cater a Super Bowl party in 2016, he served barbecue just like he’d regularly made for his family, including a side of his special recipe baked beans. One pun-happy attendee exclaimed, “These are the berry best beans I’ve had!” Within a few months of that gig, Berry had quit his construction job and opened the Berry Best BBQ food truck in Keller, a northern suburb of Fort Worth.
Things continued to move quickly from there. John and his wife, Brandi—who makes the sides and works the counter in between her job at a salon—traded the food truck in for a tiny wooden building in the far corner of a Watauga shopping center parking lot in May. They painted it burnt orange and added a concrete block pit room, where John installed his custom steel smoker (built in Prosper) and piled up some pecan wood. There’s no gas line back to the pit room. “It’s got to be cooked with wood,” he says. The smoke perfumes the large lot, but the building can still be hard to find. It’s worth the trouble in barbecue-starved town.
There’s just a counter inside, so all orders are to-go. In such a small place you’d expect to be able to watch the meat being sliced, but the cutting board is behind heavily tinted plexi-glass. Otherwise, I would have known my order for fatty brisket was going to be lean. The beef lacked juiciness and could have been more tender. The brisket does make a fine sandwich—a monster overflowing with at least a half pound of glorious beef for just $6.50. That must be what they reserve the fatty brisket for.
When I questioned Berry about his large portions sizes, he told me sincerely, “I want to give customers what they really want for a reasonable price,” adding that his customers shouldn’t get hungry before their next meal. Most of them opt for the stuffed baked potato, the Berry Best seller (sorry). It comes packed with any of the smoked meats, but the most popular is the Little JJ Special. Berry named it after his young son, who suggested chopping brisket and hot links together, like they do in East Texas. There’s also smoked bologna, chicken, and ribs to choose from.
Of all the smoked meats, I enjoyed the tender pork ribs most. They’re generously seasoned the night before with Berry’s all-purpose seven-spice rub. It’s heavy on the salt and sugar, making for a sweet rib that is also salty to the bone. The same goes for the chicken, on which the salty rub acts as a dry brine. The pale skin makes it look like a bland bird, but it’s flavorful and juicy.
With a single smoker, it’s hard to figure out where Berry can fit everything. Half of the sides are smoked, which works better on greens than mac & cheese. The smoked cornbread it a tad dry, so dip it in a side of the famous “Berry best beans.” The beans, which come out of a Bush’s can, are doctored up with some barbecue sauce and fortified with lots of rub-seasoned ground beef. They’re sweeter than the pinto beans I’m used to, but it was hard to stop eating them. I also enjoyed the homemade potato salad with big chunks and plenty of dressing.
Berry Best has grown quickly, and for good reason. It’s a good, family-run barbecue joint serving reliable favorites done with care. As they continue to grow, might I suggest a picnic table and a few more napkins in the bag? My trunk took the brunt of abuse from that overstuffed chopped beef sandwich, and I had to scrounge some napkins from the glove box. But I’d be happy to do it again.