The smell of oak and pecan drifted over the parking lot of the Crest Infiniti dealership in Frisco. Inside, the Rotary Club was meeting in the large room up front. Earnest Morgan guided customers back to the service department, where his Earnest B’s BBQ is located. The dining room/waiting area was packed on a Thursday for lunch, but not all of the customers were there to buy a car.
A sign reading “Home of the Texas Style Ribs” hung over the counter. I thought it redundant given that we were in Texas, until I learned about Earnest and his wife Cicely’s Mississippi roots. They once had as many as five locations of Earnest B’s Barbecue in and surrounding their hometown of Amory, in northeast Mississippi. Earnest also sold cars for a local dealership there. He did well enough for Crest Infiniti to recruit him to the new store it were building in Frisco in 2015. He closed the barbecue joints and moved to Texas to focus on cars, but it was lonely. His family hadn’t yet moved to Frisco. He also felt a bit out of place as an African American in a Dallas suburb that is just over 8 percent Black (compared with 37 percent in Amory). “I would go get coffee, and I didn’t see anybody Black,” he said, so he took it as a challenge to meet people.
After my own forty-minute conversation with Morgan, it was easy to see why he succeeded. He has a natural ability to connect with people. He put himself into the top 6 percent of salespeople nationwide at Infiniti, earning an award of excellence from the company. He started a ministry at Empowerment Church in Frisco. As the pastor, he recruited congregants, many of whom were his customers. Despite his success in car sales, he left his job to run the church full-time in 2018. It was going well until the coronavirus hit, sending his ministry online. That’s when Cicely suggested that they get back into the barbecue business on the side. They bought a food truck and starting smoking Texas-style ribs again.
In 2020, the murder of George Floyd sparked protests around the country, including in Frisco. Earnest said he felt an unexpected calling watching the protests, and that was to bring his barbecue to the Frisco police. “My whole life I knew what injustice was, but I knew God wanted me to help Frisco as a city,” he said, adding that his adopted city “doesn’t get better as it grows if you don’t address certain things.” Earnest B’s BBQ fed two hundred at the police department, and then nine fire departments in the city the following week. Not everyone in his church or personal life agreed with the move, but he had a message to share: “Go serve love.”
Earnest is now heavily involved in Frisco’s chamber of commerce. He serves on several local boards, is a member of the Rotary Club, and gives the invocation before city council meetings. Earnest was also named Frisco’s citizen of the year at a ceremony in March. That’s quite an achievement for someone who moved to the city just seven years ago.
The leaders at Crest were impressed by their former employee, and asked him to come take over what they called the Crest Bistro inside their Frisco service department. It had been a nice amenity for customers waiting on their cars, but from a food standpoint it was an afterthought. Earnest B’s BBQ opened with a regular schedule starting last December, serving breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday.
I’ll admit the main reason I tried the barbecue was skepticism. Radio station KTCK “The Ticket,” in Dallas, played advertisements from the dealership, where the owner touted its incredible new pitmaster. I couldn’t take a car salesman’s word for it, so I had to taste it myself. I expected concession stand–level quality, but Earnest and Cicely won me over with their hospitality and their barbecue. I opted for a potato stuffed with smoky chopped brisket and topped with queso and Earnest’s mother’s special-recipe Mama’s Sweet Heat Sauce. It’s certainly sweet, but Texans won’t find much heat. The sauce was great for dipping the smoked chicken into, as well as the crunchy onion rings.
As the sign above the counter says, the Texas-style ribs are the star. The St. Louis–cut ribs are seasoned with a complex rub and smoked until tender. They would have been impressive even if I hadn’t ordered them inside a car dealership. If you’re not a fan of onion rings, try sides of Cicely’s classic potato salad and sweet baked beans. And don’t pass on the complimentary lemon squares she gives to every customer.
I went in expecting a gimmick, but instead found ribs worth recommending, and more important, an incredible story of a barbecue evangelist trying to improve his new home. It might not entice you to buy a car, but Earnest B’s BBQ should be enough to get you in the door.