“I started messing up meat in 1995,” Leonard Guillory told me when I asked about his start as a barbecue entrepreneur. The native of China, Texas, moved about fourteen miles east to Beaumont for high school and loved the locally made beef links. Later, in Houston, he drove trucks for years while saving up to open a barbecue joint of his own.

In 2017, Guillory’s Bar-B-Que opened in a food trailer parked in a shopping center in the Alief neighborhood of Houston. Two years ago, Guillory moved across the street into a brick-and-mortar location, with the goal of focusing on the Beaumont-style links from his youth.

The food trailer was too cramped for sausage-making, so Guillory had been hauling links from joints like Gerard’s Bar-B-Que, in Beaumont. With a full kitchen in the new restaurant and help from his son, Leo, he got to work on his link recipe.

It began with notes he’d taken more than twenty years ago. Guillory’s brother knew a guy who had offered to show them the process: Big Foot was his name. “He was probably about this tall,” Guillory recalled, holding his hand far above his head. “No front teeth, and a chain-smoker.”

Leonard Guillory (right) with his son and employee, Leo.Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

In his booming voice, Big Foot told the brothers, “The way you learn how to do links is you gotta make them yourself.” Maybe Big Foot was just being thorough, or maybe he took advantage of the free labor, but he kept them at his house in Beaumont for over thirteen hours, grinding, seasoning, stuffing, and tying links until they got the hang of it. The origin of Big Foot’s recipe is unclear—Guillory isn’t even sure of his real name—but Guillory said he had worked at many of the barbecue spots around town.

I called Robert Patillo, who owns Patillo’s Bar-B-Q, in Beaumont, to ask about Big Foot. “Our grandmothers were best friends,” Patillo told me. He remembered James “Big Foot” Montaque well. Montaque served in the Marines and worked for Bethlehem Steel, according to his obituary from 2003. Patillo said he paid Big Foot to paint his restaurant a few times, but he didn’t work in the kitchen, though Patillo said Big Foot’s reputation for making links was well-known.

Back in Houston, Guillory was trying to dial in his own Beaumont-style links with Big Foot’s recipe from years before, but time had fogged his memory. “The first batch I made was so salty I almost fainted,” Guillory said. He overcorrected on a bland second effort. The third batch was overcooked. “I probably lost a few link customers, but I finally got it right about six months ago,” Guillory said, adding, “You need more than a recipe.”

He had to get the grind and the time and temperature of the smoking right, so he called Leonard Broussard of Broussard’s Links + Ribs, in Beaumont, for advice. There was a missing ingredient Guillory couldn’t figure out. Once he pinpointed mustard powder, Guillory knew he had the links he wanted to serve.

If you’ve been to Broussard’s, these links will be familiar. They’re denser than Patillo’s. Guillory said he doesn’t use white bread in the mix like Patillo, and while the links are all beef inside, he mentioned beef casings have been impossible to source, so he uses pork casings instead. The links are hand-tied and smoked. The red juice and fat pooled in my styrofoam take-out container were a good sign, and the links had all the garlic and spices—like paprika, chile powder, mustard powder, black pepper, and garlic—that brought me right back to Beaumont.

“The majority of these Houstonians, they don’t understand a Beaumont link,” Guillory said. But he gets plenty of homesick customers who hail from the Golden Triangle. For Houstonians, he offers the barbecue basics of brisket, pork ribs, and more typical sausage, along with smoked boudin.

Guillory has served skinless baked potatoes loaded with sour cream, shredded cheese, saucy barbecue, and green onions since the food trailer opened. One day a customer asked if Guillory could split a link of boudin lengthwise and top it the same as he did the potato. Thus loaded boudin was born, and Guillory’s is the first version I’ve encountered.

I got just one link, but you can double up. I loved the combination of spiced, porky rice with the sweet and smoky chopped brisket. Guillory said his favorite is the smoked sausage option, which gets you a double dose of Beaumont: Zummo’s smoked sausage on top of boudin from DJ’s Original Boudain.

Guillory doesn’t make desserts, but the joint carries a full case from Houston bakery Mama Mims. I got the Sock-It-to-Me pound cake with candied pecans, which was a winner.

While waiting for my order, I noticed a sign on the wall that read, “Please be patient. There’s like 3 of us.” But there’s actually just two. Guillory has had a hard time finding employees, so for now it’s just him and Leo doing all the cooking and serving. Do be patient: a short wait for these links and loaded boudin will still be a whole lot shorter than a drive to Beaumont.

Guillory’s Bar-B-Que
11851 Bissonnet, Houston
Phone: 832-421-5595
Hours: Tuesday–Friday 11–8, Saturday 11–9
Pitmaster: Leonard Guillory
Method: Oak in a rotisserie smoker
Year opened: 2021