Jorge “Choche” Flores II didn’t expect to employ his parents. But barbecue has become a bigger part of the Flores’ lives since Choche said goodbye to his law office position to open Choche’s BBQ in Eagle Pass. Choche’s mother, Marta, retired after many years of working at the local hospital to help her son cook and serve, and Choche’s father, Jorge, watches the smoker on his days off from the Exxon station where he’s worked for 28 years. When he retires in two months, he’ll spend more time helping his son. “We want to see it grow,” Jorge said.

Jorge and Choche have cooked together for years on the barbecue-competition circuit. “I’m his travel partner,” Jorge said. He would barbecue for the family on the weekends when Choche was growing up, but “[Choche] took it to a different level,” Jorge said of his son’s skills. They would sometimes drive six hours to compete under the CSM Cooking team name. Ribs were their specialty at first; then their brisket improved with help from fellow competitors like Robert Sierra of S&S Pit Crew and Ernest Servantes of Burnt Bean Co., whom Choche considers mentors. As their scores improved, Choche wondered aloud to his father, “Will people pay for it?” Jorge responded, “All you can do is try.” 

In 2019 Choche partnered with a friend in Piedras Negras, Mexico, across the border from Eagle Pass, on a barbecue restaurant called El Granero. He shut it down during the COVID-19 pandemic and opened the Choche’s BBQ food truck in Eagle Pass in 2020. When our Top 50 barbecue list was released in late 2021, Choche’s was listed as one of fifty honorable mentions. “Getting on the top one hundred was what made me think this maybe has some legs,” Choche said.

Of the 100 restaurants we listed, I personally visited 99 of them. Choche’s was the lone location I didn’t get to. At the time, it was open every other weekend, so four days a month. Our reviewer for the area said it was her favorite stop in the region, so even with its limited hours, we gave Choche’s a nod.

It bolstered his confidence, as did the barbecue competitions that followed. CSM Cooking took home grand champion against 151 other teams at the Hill Country State Championship BBQ Cook-Off in Lockhart in 2022. The following May, it did the same at a different competition in Eagle Pass. “The hometown is always hardest to please,” Choche said, but CSM scored first in chicken and brisket and second in ribs, for another grand championship. It was time to expand to a permanent location, and the new Choche’s BBQ opened in September.

To find Choche’s BBQ & Bar, go past the door for the street-facing taqueria and the bakery behind it to find the entrance. It might be easier to look for the two Moberg offset smokers in the back of the parking lot, where Jorge was posted when I visited. Through the door, you might find Choche’s wife, Christa, helping on her day off from teaching, as I did, and Marta scooping some of her potato salad. Choche will be on the block, because he slices every order of barbecue. He also decides when every piece of meat is done on the smoker and moves it to the warmer once it’s done. Choche isn’t yet ready to trust anyone else with his barbecue.

Brisket and ribs alongside smoked pork-rib guisado and aguacate chicken quarters. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Choche sliced off thick slabs of brisket from the fatty side for my tray. The Choice-grade beef isn’t quite the same quality as the Wagyu beef he uses on the competition circuit, but he gets the most out of it. The beef was perfectly tender, with well-rendered fat throughout. I would have preferred a little more smoke, but the bark was flavorful, thanks to the seasoning mix Choche uses on all his meats that has some of that competition-barbecue magic called MSG. Although Choche collects plenty of brisket trimmings, he hasn’t yet jumped into sausage making, which he promises is coming. For now, he smokes all-beef links from Eddy Foods.

The pork ribs leaned on the sweeter side with a brush of barbecue sauce over the finished ribs. These thick spares are cooked long enough to get them nearly falling off the bone. Choche gets in full racks of spares with the breast bone still attached. He trims the racks, cuts them into chunks, and smokes the pieces for a couple hours on a sheet pan. The meat is pulled from the bones, and the drippings are collected to become the base for a smoked pork-rib guisado with tomatillos and onions. It’s the Thursday special, and I was lucky enough to try it. The thick sauce clung to every tender chunk of smoky pork. It’s a dish that demonstrates the potential for a barbecue joint’s meat trimmings. Brisket trimmings get the same treatment on Friday for the brisket guisado.

I often ask when ordering about the one side I should try from the menu. At Choche’s, they said the potato salad, which isn’t the answer I often get. Most of the side recipes were developed by Choche, but his mother makes this one from her own recipe. It’s both fluffy and dense, with a mix of mashed potatoes and chunks. It’s great on its own, but even better alongside the savory pinto beans cooked with bacon and onions.

I was compelled to order the chicken quarter when the options of plain, barbecue, or aguacate were listed on the menu. Choche loved the chicken fajita at the now-closed El Sinaloense restaurant in Piedras Negras because it was coated in an aguacate (avocado) salsa. He makes a version for Choche’s that completely covers the chicken quarter. The creaminess of the sauce was a perfect complement to the salty, smoky chicken. I even dipped my brisket into the sauce, which Choche said is an option for any of the joint’s sandwiches instead of barbecue sauce. Choche’s has a bar that’s open until the wee hours, but be sure to get there much earlier if you want to try the barbecue, as it often sells out well before the evening.

While eating, I noticed a polished smoker named La Toxica, with a metallic, candy apple–red paint job, sitting in the dining room. It rests on chrome rims with gold-sidewall tires and took three years to complete. That was long enough for Choche move on from competition cooking to restaurant life, so it has never been used. Choche said there’s a chance he’ll use it at this year’s San Antonio Stock Show competition, then added, “It’ll be my son’s if he wants to run it one of these days.”

Choche’s BBQ & Bar
1995 N. Veterans Boulevard, Suite A, Eagle Pass
Phone: 830-335-8464
Hours: Sunday and Wednesday 11–midnight, Thursday 11 a .m.–1 a.m., Friday–Saturday 11 a.m.–2 a.m.
Pitmaster: Jorge “Choche” Flores II
Method: Pecan in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2020