Kamar and Kisha Chambers’s first attempt at running a barbecue joint was a disaster. “We knew nothing about running a business. Knew nothing about barbecuing,” Kamar tells me. The couple had taken over Clyde’s Bar-B-Que in Corsicana in 2009 after Kamar’s uncle and father both lost interest in the restaurant. Kamar burned up a bunch of briskets trying to learn on the job, although they weren’t as burnt as the ones consumed in a later pit fire. He was on a grocery store run at the time, and saw the “ambulance and fire trucks flying down the highway” before he realized where the smoke was coming from, he recalls. The smokehouse didn’t survive. Despite the challenges, the duo managed to run Clyde’s for more than three years—until Kisha suffered a heart attack from all the stress in 2013. “I made the decision that I’d rather have her in my life than have the business,” Kamar says.

They moved on. Kisha raised their kids, and Kamar got a job selling insurance. Without the stress of cooking for a living, he actually developed a passion for barbecue and some cooking skills. In 2016, he started selling barbecue again at local pop-ups, and by 2018, he had bought a food truck. Despite her earlier health troubles, Kisha thought it was time for her and Kamar to pursue barbecue professionally again. “She watched the growth. She’s been there for everything,” Kamar says. Last August, they opened the doors to K&K Bar-B-Que, right in the same building where they had operated Clyde’s.

The simple wood-framed building at 1801 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Corsicana has been an important one in the life of Kamar Chambers. Long before Clyde’s inhabited the location, it was Queen Bee Barbecue. Kamar ate there as a child, and held fond memories of the place. The name of the joint might also be familiar to radio listeners of the mid-1980s from Houston (and beyond). Former KSBJ personality Harley David Belew used the real Queen Bee Barbecue as the inspiration for a series of comedic advertisements for a fictitious version of the joint. There are plenty of racist stereotypes represented in the recordings, which remain available on YouTube. They became wildly popular to share via cassette tape between friends—including, reportedly, by Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, who do their own spin on the ads in a memorable King of the Hill cameo. Though the recordings weren’t about the actual Queen Bee Barbecue joint, the popularity of the fake ads still drove business to the restaurant.

Queen Bee’s Ella Deeds still owns the building, and is the landlord for K&K Bar-B-Que. Its tagline is “We have nothing to hide, so the sauce is on the side,” but when I visited, it wasn’t. Kamar said it was an oversight that sauce came on my spare ribs, but you could still taste the smoky pork beneath it. He switched to hickory, oak, and pecan for his cooking woods rather than the mesquite he was using at Clyde’s Bar-B-Que. The meat has a mellowed smoke flavor now. K&K has also added fried chicken wings to the menu, which are made with the Chambers’s own secret seasoning. When I tried them, they were hot, crisp, and juicy.

Kamar Chambers with his offset smoker behind K&K Bar-B-Que.Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

Chopped brisket was generously portioned atop a stuffed baked potato. There were ample amounts of sauce, butter, and cheese, and eating the whole thing would have put me to sleep. I enjoyed the Pastor Sandwich most. Sliced smoked sausage, chopped brisket, barbecue sauce, dill pickles, and sliced white onion are piled high between a buttered and toasted bun. It’s a filling sandwich, but as Kamar explains, “If I’m gonna eat a sandwich for eight dollars, it better be a good-size sandwich.” The name came from a local pastor who ordered what was then an off-menu sandwich. He praised the sandwich highly, and suggested they put it on the menu and name it after him, so Kamar did.

I missed another off-menu item called Bull-in-a-Box, which combines chopped brisket, beans, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, pickles, onions, and jalapeños into one loaded takeout box. The dish pays homage to Queen Bee Barbecue, where Bull-in-a-Box was the best-seller. Kamar thought it was important to pay respect to the barbecue joint that came before K&K, but he’s also looking to the future.

Kamar and Kisha are helped at the restaurant by their teenage children Marquavious (who goes by Qua), Kyleon, and Miracle. “It’s a family affair,” Kamar says. “We’re trying to create a legacy for our children to leave them something.” He’s also working on his own barbecue sauce recipe, and told me he’d be embarrassed if Guy Fieri walked into the place and learned the sauce was just a doctored-up commercial sauce. I told Kamar I’d come try it when he has the recipe where he wants it. In response, he promised, “it’s on the side from here on out.”

K&K Bar-B-Que

1801 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Corsicana
Tuesday–Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Pitmaster: Kamar Chambers
Oak and pecan in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2020