Earnest and Cicely Morgan caused a stir in Frisco when they began serving a full barbecue menu inside of a car dealership. We covered their unique location last summer, but by this year they had outgrown their counter in the service center waiting area. Customers coming in just for barbecue were having a hard time finding parking on the busy car lot, so the Morgans searched for a permanent home. A Dickey’s Barbecue Pit location near Toyota Stadium closed earlier this year (the third in Frisco to close since 2016), and Earnest scooped it up.
The restaurant was fully furnished, and the decor was already barbecue-themed, so the Morgans had little to change. They mounted a new sign outside, added some window decals, and hung their many framed accolades before opening in late October. Earnest said he also removed the smokers that were under vent hoods in the kitchen and replaced them with deep fryers, which he didn’t have at the dealership. The equipment was in place to introduce Frisco to a taste of his Mississippi heritage.
Before moving to Frisco in 2015, the Morgans operated five locations of Earnest B’s BBQ between Tupelo and their hometown of Amory, Mississippi. A few more hours in the car will get you to Belzoni, Mississippi, the Catfish Capital of the World (a disputed title). Earnest said finding a catfish restaurant in Mississippi is as easy as finding a barbecue joint in Texas. And in Mississippi, the restaurants serve fried catfish whole. That presentation is not unheard of in Texas, but Earnest wants his restaurant to make it more mainstream. It also helps draw in customers from Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, who prefer their catfish whole. Another reason is even simpler. “Man, I just love catfish,” Earnest told me.
We sat across from one another at the restaurant with a golden fried whole catfish (head off) straight out the fryer laid before each of us. Earnest demonstrated his method for eating them, which starts with a generous dousing of hot sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. From there, you can use a fork or your fingers (this is a barbecue joint after all) to peel the steaming hot fish from the bone. “It separates so easy. It’s so easy to eat,” he said, holding up his fish. When one side is clean, flip it over to peel the other side. A dip into Cicely’s homemade tartar sauce is optional, but Earnest warned me not to miss bites from the gills, or from the crispy tail, which cracks like a kettle-fried potato chip. “All the flavor flows all the way down to the tail,” he explained.
The whole catfish aren’t massive. The filets we’re used to eating come from the bigger fish, and the smaller ones are fried whole. Yes, it’s easier to eat a fried filet, but with breading just on one side of the whole catfish the flavor isn’t overwhelmed by it. For now, it’s only available on Friday and Saturday. “I’ve been open a month and I’ve ran out of catfish every weekend that I’ve been open,” Earnest said. “If I get a lot more response on it, I can bump it to every day.”
Catfish isn’t the only thing the Morgans have added to the menu now that they have a larger kitchen. Smoked and fried chicken wings, a kids menu, and a full line-up of appetizers are new. I enjoyed the smoky rib-tip appetizer with Cheddar cubes, pickles, banana peppers, and crackers. On Friday and Saturday, Earnest also puts on a few racks of beef short ribs. They’re huge, and sell for $33 a piece. You’ll forget the price when pulling shreds of juicy meat from the bone. I’d say they’re the best barbecue item on the menu. Try them with a few shakes of the Mississippi-style barbecue sauce. It’s sweet and spicy with a modest vinegar flavor. “You can put it on any kind of meat,” Earnest said. “You can put it on salads. I stopped using vinaigrette.”
Earnest B’s tagline is that they’re “Home of the Texas Style Ribs,” which is a holdover from their time in Mississippi. I asked Earnest to describe Mississippi-style barbecue, because of all the southern states (does Florida count?) I think its barbecue is the least heralded. “Anything to do with pork, we majored in it,” Earnest said. His most popular item was always a pork sandwich, which he still serves. It starts with smoked pork shoulder that’s chopped instead of pulled, and topped with a thick and sweet barbecue sauce (his mother’s recipe) and slaw on a buttered bun.
The pork was a hard sell at first when they came to Dallas. “I couldn’t give pork away,” he said. “Nobody wanted no pork in Dallas.” Earnest was used to seeing a protein ostracized. Mississippi’s version of pot roast might be famous, but most of his hometown customers didn’t have any idea what brisket was when he added it to the menu. He said customers were quicker to order pig snoots and pig feet than brisket. Earnest admits he didn’t really know how to cook it well either, but he’s gotten better while in Texas. Just ask one of his new customers. When Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons recently came in for a meal, Earnest asked him to sign his number-eleven jersey. Next to his signature Parsons wrote, “Best BBQ in Dallas.”
Earnest B’s BBQ
6065 Sports Village Road, Suite 800, Frisco
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 10:30–8
Pitmaster: Earnest Morgan
Method: Hickory and pecan in a gas-fired rotisserie
Year opened: 2021