Wade Brewer’s job in the oil fields thwarted his first attempt at barbecue. He opened Cactus Jack BBQ in his hometown of Buffalo, in the middle of Houston and Dallas off Interstate 45, with a partner ten years ago. He had to leave it after a year because the long hours of his day job were not conducive to running a side business. The drilling eventually slowed, and a new job took Brewer to Houston during the week and back home on the weekends. Then, he said,“I met this pretty gal, and didn’t want to be gone anymore.” That gal is Becky Brewer, and she helped reignite Wade’s barbecue career when they opened W. B. Custom Cooking together last April.
Cooking barbecue didn’t run in the family for Wade. “I never had seen it done,” he said. But he was mesmerized when he watched Jack Summers, his former father-in-law, turn raw brisket into barbecue on his smoker. “Nobody in my family ever did that,” Wade said. “I thought it was the neatest thing in the world.” He named his first barbecue joint after Jack and, years after closing it, negotiated with his former business partner to buy the old pit they used. It now sits under a carport roof alongside a five-hundred-gallon smoker.
There are a few tables at W. B. Custom Cooking, but it’s mostly a takeout joint. The small building sits behind a gravel lot only big enough for a few cars. “We want to be a little hole-in-the-wall,” Wade said. And they’re right on target. The chalkboard menu is simple, with five meats and four sides. The $12 meal deal includes a barbecue sandwich, chips, and a drink. I’d suggest the chopped brisket sandwich, but Becky is partial to the pulled pork topped with some of her fresh, crunchy slaw.
Wade touts his use of upper Choice grade or Prime brisket—and the fact that he doesn’t serve leftovers. “It’s fresh every morning when we start,” he said. Tender slices of brisket have plenty of oak-smoke flavor and are reasonably priced at $23 per pound. “I want to keep it so where the average guy in town can come in and get a lunch and it not be a financial decision,” Wade said.
The Brewers could make a good financial decision themselves by bottling their sauce. I hadn’t tasted a sauce quite like it since attending a community barbecue in Millheim, so I knew it was a sauce with an old soul. When Wade was catering an event in Palestine many years back, an old man told him he needed a better sauce and offered up a recipe. “I’ve added and taken away, but it gave me a place to start,” Wade said. The ketchup-based sauce is light on sugar and heavy on black pepper, butter, and sweet onions. When Wade and Becky got married last November, they handed out jars of the sauce as favors at the reception.
Wade makes a different sauce for his sweet rib glaze. He brushes it on heavily. I told him I’d prefer the spareribs seasoned with just a rub so I could dip them into his house sauce. The customers like the sweet stuff, he told me. I’ll trust he knows what he’s doing for the folks in Buffalo.
The sides are works in progress for Becky, who has a full-time job with the Centerville school district. She’s happy with the slaw, and the Southwestern pinto beans are her specialty, but the potato salad is store-bought, and the baked beans are straight from the can. “We’ve made up a lot of ground, but we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover,” she said, adding that the summer break will allow her to focus more on the joint’s offerings. So far, the Brewers are selling enough barbecue that Becky thinks she won’t have to go back to her day job in the fall.
Between the desserts, it’s hard to choose. The peach cobbler is spectacular, with equal parts fruit and sweet dough. Wade’s mother, Dixie, makes it, along with the banana pudding. The chocolate chip brownies are a great snack on the trip down to Houston or up to Dallas, depending on which way you’re driving. Becky makes them, and she calls them her midnight brownies. “It was normally so late by the time I was cooking them that it was midnight before I’d be pulling them out of the oven,” she said with a laugh.
It’s good to see entrepreneurs like Wade and Becky building a place like this in a small town like Buffalo. “We love what we’re doing for the community,” Becky said. They also offer travelers from Dallas to Houston a solid stop for smoked meats on a stretch of road that’s light on good barbecue. They’re dedicated to improving everything they offer, and they even asked for my unvarnished feedback. Just be aware that they’re taking a break for a delayed honeymoon in late July. Stop by before then to help contribute to the honeymoon fund and enjoy some solid barbecue.
W. B. Custom Cooking
2853 W. Commerce, Buffalo
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11–7
Pitmasters: Wade and Becky Brewer
Method: Oak in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2021