Don Baucham played the long game in the desert. He bought a piece of land in Terlingua a decade ago when he was still working an oil-and-gas job in Brazil. His plan was to build a barbecue joint in the tiny town just outside Big Bend National Park, but it was slow going.
In the meantime, Baucham opened DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ in a food trailer there. When I visited in 2019, he told me the water, septic, and power had been set up at the future restaurant site, but the construction of the building hadn’t commenced. “I’ve spent over $60,000 so far, and I haven’t sold a sandwich there yet,” Baucham told me at the time.
Baucham’s perseverance paid off, and he was able to move his barbecue operation into the new building on November 1, 2021. “I was a one-man show that day,” Baucham said. But he kept growing, adding a bar, a dining room, and a stage.
I finally made the long trek down to Terlingua a few weeks ago to see it. When I pulled into the gravel parking lot, the large roll-up doors framed the picturesque mountains of Big Bend National Park in the distance. Perched on a hill in the center of what Baucham called Terlingua’s nightlife district (the Starlight Theatre is just up the street), the view is an upgrade from the food truck days.
No longer a one-man operation, DB’s now has some help in the kitchen and at the well-stocked bar. I even noticed a few bottles of Champagne in the cooler. Baucham said they were from a recent wedding reception, one of a half dozen DB’s has hosted since opening the new place. He said the live music has been popular as well, and bands are easy to book because musicians enjoy hanging out in Terlingua. “They want to get away from the concrete jungle and come out here and get some peace and relaxation,” he said.
Big Bend is currently in the midst of a high season due to holiday travel. Spring break and the dual events of Día de los Muertos and the Chili Cook-off in early November are the other big draws. And while there’s great barbecue to be had up in Marathon at Brick Vault or at Convenience West in Marfa, down in Terlingua, DB’s is the only game in town. “I’m my own competition,” Baucham said. “I look in the mirror every day knowing I’m the one that’s gotta come out here and perform.”
That doesn’t mean he’s complacent. You can still get the same platter of smoky sliced brisket and sweet-and-spicy pork ribs with slaw and potato salad that made DB’s a name, but the menu has evolved since I last visited, thanks in part to increased traffic and more kitchen space.
Baucham has added a giant baked potato, stuffed with chopped brisket and topped with fried onion strings, chopped bacon, plenty of butter and cheese, and pico de gallo. It’s satisfying and delicious. I also loved the new barbacoa tacos. Juices from the smoky, shredded beef cheeks ran down the corn tortillas as I took a bite. They come four to an order, but you can ask for a half order if you just want a taste.
While waiting at the bar, I signed the guest book Baucham laid out for visitors. Baucham said one of the comments he’s most proud of reads, “really pristine bathrooms.” And they are. If you’re familiar with my own barbecue confessional, you’ll know how useful a pristine restroom would have been back at DB’s food trailer. Flipping through the pages, I saw check-ins from Russia, China, Amsterdam, Kenya, and Pakistan. I’m guessing for many folks visiting Big Bend, DB’s might be their first taste of Texas barbecue. I’m happy to know that it’s only getting better thanks to Baucham’s commitment to the ghost town on the Texas border.