The oldest town in Texas has been experiencing quite a few firsts recently. The first craft brewery in Nacogdoches, Fredonia Brewery, opened in 2016, as did Front Porch Distillery. There’s a wood-fired coffee roaster, Nine Flags, that’s only been around since April 2018, and Red House Winery came a month earlier. Parked beside the winery is the city’s first food truck, Brendyn’s BBQ, serving craft barbecue to smoked meat fans who grew up on chopped beef po-boys. Has Nacogdoches gone hipster?
Owner and pitmaster Brendyn Todd experienced his barbecue awakening at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, a city where food trucks abound. He planned his own barbecue trailer back in Nacogdoches, but the business model wasn’t legal, so Todd did some barbecue catering when he wasn’t managing the local Chick-fil-A. Eventually, the catering gigs began to mount up. “The barbecue got bigger than I could handle with two jobs, so I jumped ship,” Todd said. He bought a food truck in anticipation that the city would reverse their food truck ban, so when the law was revised in January, Todd was already in position to open. He’s been serving barbecue from the truck ever since.
When Red House Winery opened in March, they asked Todd if he wanted to use their parking lot as a home base. He’s there most days, but sometimes does pop-ups at Fredonia Brewery or elsewhere around town. I found him on a Wednesday, when he just serves lunch. Figuring it would be a slow day, he didn’t cook chicken or ribs, leaving the menu pretty sparse. I tried everything else including the off-menu espresso brisket. Todd adds finely ground coffee beans from Nine Flags to his normal rub of salt, black pepper, and red pepper. After eating it side-by-side against the regular brisket it seems to take on more smoke (or maybe I just picked up that extra roasted flavor from all those coffee beans). I really enjoyed the unique, bold flavor. Todd said he had considered scrapping the regular version of his brisket in favor of the espresso one. He should.
I’d never had apple slices on a barbecue sandwich until I tried the Pig Apple. The crisp slices of tart Granny Smith apples protected the bottom of the brioche bun as pulled pork and a crunchy vinegar slaw were piled atop. Todd said the got the idea from a fried pork chop sandwich with green apples he ate in Tennessee. I might not have worked so well with a sweeter apple, but the tartness of the granny smiths complemented the juicy pork and mustard sauce drizzled on top. I also liked the basic slaw, which still had some crunch left in it. It was a pleasant surprise of a sandwich.
The large chunks in the potato salad were held together loosely by a mustard-and-mayo dressing. Hunks of smoked pork shoulder were also mixed in, but they seemed like more of a distraction than a bonus. I preferred the jalapeño cream corn. Brendyn’s might be the first barbecue joint in Texas I’ve visited without beans of any sort on the menu. There also aren’t any desserts. “I’m a pitmaster, not a baker,” Todd said, but some peach cobbler would have went well with the bottled Peach Coke.
Yes, there’s such a thing as Peach Coke. It’s not sold much in Texas, but Todd convinced a distributor to keep the Walmart up the road stocked so he could serve it in the trailer. It’s the only remnant of peach flavor left at the business after he had to abandon his plans of smoking with the fruit wood from a local orchard. It got too expensive, so he’s now fueling the trailer-mounted reverse flow smoker with oak wood. It gives a good smokiness to the zesty links from Zummo’s in Beaumont.
Todd has brought by-the-pound, craft barbecue to a city known more for overstuffed barbecue potatoes and saucy chopped beef sandwiches. “I figured if I could say I had the best barbecue in the oldest town in Texas, that’s like a marketing goldmine,” he told me. A better marketing move would be to serve his full menu every day, but even with the limited offerings, it’s the best barbecue I’ve had in town.