Plenty of meat markets proclaim that they carry locally raised meat. At the new Heritage Butchery & Barbecue in Denison, that ethos is actually on display. Customers waiting in line for barbecue can peer through a large window into the chilled cutting room where whole pigs from Prairie Farmstead in nearby Sherman and lambs from the Noble Institute (just across the border in Oklahoma) are broken down. When I visited, manager Pete Gonzales and his crew were trimming down an Angus rib section from River Creek Ranch, which raises cattle in Sherman and San Saba, getting the ribeyes ready for the case. Next week will bring another whole beef carcass, maybe Wagyu from G Five Cattle in Sulphur Springs or grass-finished beef from Prairie Farmstead. Most everything Heritage carries—honey and produce included—is from within 250 miles of the Texoma region, where Heritage opened in November.

Gonzales learned the meat market business in McKinney, during a decade working for Local Yocal Farm to Market. He says he fell in love with whole-animal butchery there, and learned to cook barbecue while running its short-lived food truck that pre-dated Local Yocal BBQ and Grill. For more than a year, Gonzales has been plotting to open his own place that brings together both raw and smoked meat. Displaying the process from carcass to meat case was important for him. “I wanted to show that side of a butcher shop,” he said, so he and his investors, Brad and Stephanie Hammett, found a building in Denison that could house it all. The former burger joint along the Texas Highway 75 service road had the space, but delays on the cutting room cooler held off the opening. The progress they’ve made over the last few months was hindered a bit by last week’s ice storm, so I stopped in just after the thaw to see the operation.

The meat counter opens at 10 a.m. Tuesday though Thursday so retail shoppers can beat the barbecue customers coming in for lunch. On Friday and Saturday, eggs, house-made bacon or sausage, and biscuits are on offer as early as 7 a.m. for breakfast, but I didn’t make it until lunch. Gonzales joked that he’d rather customers buy their raw goods first, while they’re still hungry, then look over the barbecue menu, so I followed orders. The steaks in the case were from River Creek’s grain-fed Angus herd. Gonzales puts them on display for a couple days, then vacuum seals whatever doesn’t sell and moves it to the freezer. That’s where I found a 25-percent-off ribeye from one of River Creek’s Wagyu crossbreed cattle.

With the market still so new, Gonzales is balancing customers’ requests with what his farmers and ranchers can offer. It’s not like the meat case at the Walmart next door where you can find the same ribeye every day of the year. Each week, Heritage brings in a new whole carcass that’s broken down into roasts, steaks, and ground beef, and the ranch it comes from can change weekly. It’ll get a Wagyu cross from River Creek Ranch this week, and then that supply will be on hold until April. “The freeze that just happened really pushed them back,” Gonzales said, so he’ll look to G Five for a Wagyu carcass the following week. The grass-fed cattle won’t be fat enough until spring, so you can understand why there isn’t more than one or two options for beef in the case. The price of every beef cut will also change based on the animal it came from—like $54 per pound for G Five Wagyu ribeye versus just under $32 a pound for River Creek’s Angus ribeye—so predictability for customers will be a challenge.

A spread of pork ribs, sausage, chicken, and sides.
A spread of pork ribs, sausage, chicken, and sides. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Over at the barbecue counter, don’t expect briskets from the same cattle that are in the case—the volume of barbecue sales is just too high. But the restaurant doesn’t skimp on quality. Gonzales and his pit hand Arthur Finney load the M&M rotisserie smoker with briskets from Hartley Ranch over pecan and oak. The pork ribs come from Pederson’s Natural Farms in Hamilton. I preferred the sweet and savory ribs, which had a good bark. The fatty brisket was enjoyable, while the lean was improved with a dunk in the house-made mustard- or tomato-based barbecue sauces.

I originally asked for kale and cabbage slaw, which cooks dress just before serving to keep the vegetables crisp, but the smoked mac and cheese was calling me. It’s ultra creamy and cheesy, with just a hint of smoke and a crunchy topping of panko bread crumbs. Chunks of smoky pork flavored the collard greens nicely, but the pinto beans were overwhelmed by the stewed barbecue meat mixed in. I wanted more beans with my beans. I could have tried all the sides and every smoked meat with the “Big Hurt” platter (the only combo plate on the menu), which serves six to eight people for $185.

The smoked sausages on the barbecue menu are the same ones that can be purchased raw. That’s the best way to try the carefully curated beef and pork selections found in the raw meat case. Gonzales uses the trim from the beef and pork to make a deeply flavored andouille sausage and a chipotle-and-jack-cheese sausage, both of which are plenty juicy after getting smoked. The burger special—also a mix of ground Wagyu and Angus beef trim—was tempting, but I had my eye on another dish.

The smoked and fried boneless chicken thigh comes on a griddled bun. The chicken sits on a layer of thick-cut, house-made pickles and comes with an Alabama white sauce that is properly thin. I loved it. The Bell & Evans chicken had a seriously crunchy and well-seasoned crust. The half chicken, which is also generously seasoned and smoked, and comes out dripping with juices. Its $12 price tag shows why Heritage can’t fill the smoker with the same meats it sells raw. The five- to six-pound whole chickens in the case from Shady Grove Ranch in Jefferson averaged $30 per bird.

As the volume of retail cuts sold at the store rises, Gonzales will be able to offer more options. He’ll also have more trim to utilize, so the team at Heritage is dialing in the recipes for salamis and summer sausages. They’ll sit next to the smoked ham steaks, tasso ham, and beef bacon already packaged for sale. They’ll also have more of the popular beef cuts like the roasts, picanha, and tri-tips. Why Gonzales can’t sell more of the bavettes and flat-iron steaks is beyond both of us. But as he learned at Local Yocal, “whenever the restaurant would struggle, the butcher shop would bring us up,” and vice versa, he said. Having both the retail and restaurant options will help Heritage’s success in Denison, but it’ll need to find locals who are willing to pay extra for those locally raised meats.

Heritage Butchery & Barbecue
211 N. Highway 75, Denison
Phone: 903-287-9390
Hours: Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–8 p.m.; Friday–Saturday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.
Pitmasters: Pete Gonzales and Arthur Finney
Method: Pecan and oak in a wood-fired rotisserie
Year opened: 2022

Correction: The original version of this story misidentified Prairie Farmstead as Prairie Creek Farms.