Keith Galvan got his start in barbecue, along with his brothers Jamie and Michael, in competitions around Texas. They all had teams of their own but for the sake of sibling civility preferred not to cook in the same contests. They’ve all since moved on. Keith knew it was time when, during a competition in 2018, he heard a judge was worried the meat was still raw because of the pink smoke ring.
He and Jamie both had dreams of running their own joints anyway. Jamie opened Hecho En Texas BBQ in Cameron, about seventy miles northeast of Austin, in January 2020. “Jamie beat me to it,” Galvan said, and he waited until July of that year to buy his food truck. He dubbed it the “G” Wagon BBQ & More, and parked it outside the Dollar General in Little River-Academy, thirty miles from his brother’s place.
After quitting his job as a pipe fitter in May, Galvan is now all-in on barbecue. The “G” Wagon found a new home a couple of weeks ago, and is now open Thursday through Sunday for lunch. Galvan had a metal building constructed on a concrete pad east of town, which will one day house the restaurant’s kitchen. The truck is parked nearby, next to a covered patio filled with picnic tables.
For now, Galvan is smoking on a small offset outside and a larger cabinet smoker inside the truck, both fueled with post oak. He’s hoping a new one-thousand-gallon offset he ordered last year will show up soon because “G” Wagon’s popularity is growing quickly. “The past two weekends have been a blessing,” he said. The work hours are a lot longer than at his previous job, but Galvan said, “I enjoy it. I don’t consider it work.”
The first thing I noticed on the menu was the prices. Spending so much time in big-city joints serving Prime-grade beef, I’ve become desensitized to brisket being more than $30 per pound. Galvan uses Choice-grade beef, and charges $22 per pound. A three-meat plate with two sides is just $20, which is where I started before adding a $4 old-school sausage wrap on white bread. Galvan dresses it with pickles, raw white onion slices, and your choice of mustard or barbecue sauce. Ask for both.
The snap on the jalapeño-cheese sausage was powerful, and cheese gushed after my bite released the pressure. Galvan buys raw original and jalapeño-cheese links from Slovacek’s, a solid supplier for joints not making their own sausage. Galvan said he has a secret for getting those links extra plump. After they’re fully smoked, he blanches the sausages in hot water for a half-minute before transferring them to the warmer.
Galvan applies a simple seasoning mix of salt, black pepper, and garlic to the briskets. They smoke uncovered for five hours before getting wrapped in foil and finished for another four or five hours. It makes for tender, lean slices with well-rendered fat caps. Please allow me a digression to thank Galvan for starting his lean slices at the far end of the lean rather than the middle. A lean slice with a clean cross-section of fat cap is far superior, in my opinion, to a mostly lean slice cloaked in the low-slung fatty portion of the brisket. Try to pick up that slice, and the thin, stringy bits of the fatty brisket half slough off, but not so at the “G” Wagon, where the lean is clean.
My only qualm with Galvan’s brisket is that all the time it spends in foil dulls the seasonings and smoke. A remedy for the loss of smokiness is more difficult, but some extra salt would help it sing. The savory ribs need no help, however. Galvan gives them a big dose of garlic salt. They were perfectly tender, with a great smoky bark. I loved the flavor of the smoke and the pepper on the turkey breast as well, but it was on the dry side.
A side of pinto beans was about as basic as it comes, which isn’t a slight. These are classic Texas barbecue beans, with a bit of onion and the right amount of seasoning. The cheesy potatoes aren’t so simple. “That was a Crown-Royal-at-the-deer-lease kind of recipe,” Galvan explained.
It started when Galvan was tasked with making the potatoes at a steak-and-potato night with some friends who were staying over during deer season. He diced and boiled potatoes, then added salt, black pepper, Cajun seasoning, and a packet of powdered ranch along with a couple sticks of butter. He topped the potatoes with both queso and shredded cheddar, and finished the dish on the smoker. Galvan uses the same recipe at the food truck, and you can count me as a fan.
I wondered if Galvan had some hesitation making his most recent step in building out his barbecue business, as the price of meat remains high. He said he’s not worried. His overhead is low, and he’s not using the most expensive ingredients, so he can keep his prices down. The locals are responding, and Galvan said he’s now trying to convince his wife to quit her job and make the barbecue truck their family business.
They live in Little River-Academy, about fifteen minutes south of Temple, so I didn’t need to point out that the “G” Wagon isn’t exactly on the beaten path. Galvan’s not worried about the small-town location either, saying, “I plan on doing things to bring people to me.”
The “G” Wagon BBQ & More
409 State Highway 95, Little River-Academy
Hours: Thursday–Sunday 10:30–4
Pitmaster: Keith Galvan
Method: Oak in a cabinet smoker and offset smoker
Year opened: 2023