“My other two boys thought I was washed up,” Roy Hutchins said with pride when discussing the new restaurant he opened with his eldest son, Wes Hutchins, in the town of Trophy Club, about thirty miles northwest of Dallas. The news first broke about another barbecue joint from the Hutchins family this January. I assumed brothers Tim and Tracy “Trey” Hutchins were adding a third location to their successful Hutchins Barbeque restaurants in McKinney and Frisco. But when they filed a lawsuit a month later against their dad and brother demanding a name change, it was obvious the family business was splitting. Tim and Trey dropped the lawsuit just before the Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque opened in June, but that doesn’t mean they’re all one big happy barbecue family.
“Me and Tracy is good, but Dad’s a little more burnt about things,” Wes told me over speakerphone. He and Roy were giving me the background on why they chose to go their own ways. They were out in East Texas in a dually pickup truck they’d borrowed from Trey (who lives across the street from Wes) to haul a load of red oak back from their woodyard in Deadwood, east of Carthage. I asked Roy why he chose a name and logo so similar to that of the original Hutchins Barbeque. “I am Hutchins Barbeque,” Roy said. “Tracy and Tim are little peons.” Trey disagrees, saying, “Dad hasn’t been part of the day-to-day operations [of Hutchins Barbeque] in probably over twenty years.”
What the whole family agrees on is that Roy Hutchins founded the family business in Princeton, east of McKinney, in 1978, under the name Roy’s Smokehouse. It was in a small metal building. For a few years, the family lived in a single room built onto one end of the restaurant. Trey and Wes worked with Roy to open a new location in McKinney in 1991. They changed the name to Hutchins Barbeque and closed Roy’s Smokehouse shortly after. In 1994, the family expanded with a location in Frisco, which Trey managed. “We were the sixth restaurant in town,” Trey said, trying to put the Frisco of nearly thirty years ago into context. In 2002, they collaborated with a legendary former Dallas Cowboy and changed the name of the Frisco spot to Randy White’s Hall of Fame BBQ.
The family opened three more Randy White’s locations, including one in Addison. “In the first six months we lost one million,” Trey said of that location. The family tried to right the ship by switching away from table service to a more traditional serving line, but the joint lost $700,000 more over the next eighteen months, according to Trey, and it closed in 2004. That caused some financial hardships for the family, and as Roy put it, “I was in some tax problems.”
He says his tax attorney suggested he find a new owner for Hutchins Barbeque in McKinney, which was the only location at the time. Tim was in his early twenties, but he was a family member and not part of the previous ownership structure. Tim became the owner and president, and Trey and Wes operated Randy White’s separately. Roy didn’t retire from the business, but he was no longer in control of it.
When a fire shut down the Hutchins in McKinney in 2012, Tim said in an interview I conducted with him and Roy that his focus on the barbecue changed. “I just wanted to put out the best food I could put out,” he said. He revamped the smoking process, and the quality of the barbecue changed dramatically. When D Magazine published my list of the best barbecue joints in the DFW area in 2010, I didn’t include Hutchins, but by the time I published a new Top 50 list in Texas Monthly in 2013, Hutchins had earned a spot (and retained it in 2017 and 2021) thanks to the changes it had made.
By that time, Roy was getting paid 4 percent of gross sales, which continues today. Hutchins Barbeque kept growing, while Randy White’s didn’t. Tim bought his brother Trey out, turned the Frisco location back into a Hutchins Barbeque, and eventually made Trey the vice president of Hutchins. Wes also came back into the fold, working for the restaurant. Several years later, the two sides disagreed about if and how they should expand the Hutchins brand.
“Tim didn’t want to do nothing, and I said we got too good a product,” Wes said. He and Roy wanted to be bullish and open new locations in Trophy Club and on another property between Arlington and Fort Worth that they’ve already targeted for a second Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque. Trey said he and Tim wanted to focus on improving the locations they already had. “Growth is not in our near-future plans,” he said, at least not when it comes to new restaurants.
In McKinney, they’re adding a couple thousand-gallon offset smokers in the pit room. In Frisco, they’re doubling the size of the pit room to accommodate four new thousand-gallon offsets and eight more M&M rotisserie smokers. They’ll add 5,500 square feet in total, which will also include a cold room for sausage making that will have a window built into it so customers can literally see how the sausage is made.
That last detail sounds a lot like the cold room with a big picture window at the Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque. It opened in Trophy Club on June 9. I visited it twice in the past month, and I immediately drove to Hutchins Barbeque to answer the question I think most barbecue fans have: What is the difference between the food at the Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque and Hutchins Barbeque?
One big difference is the wood. Roy and Wes swear by red oak, instead of the post oak favored by Tim and Trey. They get it in Deadwood, which is also the location of their welding shop, which produced the five offset smokers you’ll see in the pit room while waiting in line to order. (They also use five wood-fired rotisserie smokers.) To the menu, they’ve added pork belly burnt ends, a maple blueberry sausage special, and dirty rice. Besides that, the new Original Roy Hutchins looks and tastes like a solid replica of Hutchins Barbeque.
(As an aside, I’ve been asked if this family disagreement is like the one between Black’s Barbecue and Terry Black’s Barbecue that I covered last year. The breakdown in the working relationships of both families is similar, but there’s a big difference between the food served at Black’s and Terry Black’s. This disagreement over the restaurant name more closely resembles the Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs dispute.)
When comparing meals one hour apart at the Original Roy Hutchins and the Hutchins in Frisco, I noted the sliced brisket was superb at both. When I visited a few weeks ago, it was a dollar more per pound at the Original Roy Hutchins, but both deliver on flavor, juiciness, and tenderness. The pork ribs were quite similar, and though the Frisco location was out of the hot links I enjoyed at the Original Roy Hutchins, its jalapeño-cheese sausage was well-made. There was too much black pepper on the smoked turkey at the Original Roy Hutchins, but that should be easy to fix. Somehow, the Trophy Club restaurant has found bigger jalapeños for the Texas Twinkies—arguably the Hutchinses’ greatest contribution to Texas barbecue—but you’ll pay $7 for one instead of $5.50 at Hutchins.
The sides, desserts, and barbecue sauce at the Original Roy Hutchins are dead ringers for Hutchins’ for the most part. “Those were all family recipes that we’ve had since the nineties,” Wes explained, referring to dishes such as his mother’s broccoli salad and Roy’s sweet sauce. The banana pudding and peach cobbler are free for dine-in customers at both. The one edge I’d give to the Original Roy Hutchins is the brisket sandwich lunch special. At $18 for a sandwich, two sides, and a drink, it’ll cost you fifty cents more, but Roy Hutchins will let you get freshly sliced or chopped brisket (instead of the saucy prechopped stuff) for a $2 upcharge. That’s not an option at Hutchins, but it makes for a better sandwich.
There’s also a different logo for each restaurant, but if the letters were any smaller on the “Roy” of the Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque, the word would look like an ink smudge. The Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque also adds to the confusion on its website. The “About Us” page touts the accomplishments of Hutchins Barbeque, and the “Media” section includes positive stories about Hutchins Barbeque—and even some articles about the family feud. Then again, Roy did tell me, “Anything that happened, I done it” when it comes to the Hutchins Barbeque brand, adding, “I’m more passionate about barbecue today than I’ve ever been.”
At least there’s some physical distance between the dueling restaurants. The Original Roy Hutchins Barbeque is 34 miles from the nearest Hutchins Barbeque location, in Frisco. One challenge for the Original Roy Hutchins is the highway construction near the restaurant. When coming in from Dallas, you can’t use the closest exit to the restaurant off Texas Highway 114 because it is closed for repairs. Roy’s not worried, saying, “If you’ve got good barbecue, people will parachute in there to eat barbecue with you.”