Kelly Evers has experienced the highs and lows of barbecue in nine years as a business owner. In 2015, he and his wife, Melody, opened Creekside Cookers, a Saturday-only barbecue truck in Wimberley named after their competition barbecue team. Evers would fire up the smokers every Friday evening after a week of teaching sixth graders so he could serve it up the next day. It was an exhausting routine, so he went full time into barbecue the following year, giving up his long teaching career and role as a golf coach.

Creekside Cookers outgrew the trailer. Evers sold it in late 2019 when he partnered with an investor to open inside a century-old building in downtown Wimberley. With impressive brisket and pork ribs, the restaurant made it onto our honorable mentions list in the November 2021 barbecue issue. Surprisingly, it closed for good the following month. The partnership didn’t work out, but Evers wasn’t done with barbecue.

After buying a new trailer and changing the business name, Evers opened Kelly’s Hill Country Barbecue two years ago and parked it not far from the old restaurant. “I like this model a lot better because it’s simple,” he said, adding that he now has four employees instead of more than fifty. “With the cost of goods being what they are right now, having as small a footprint as possible is kinda your best model, in my opinion.” (Justin Pearson, the owner of San Marcos Barbecue, will soon test that theory when he opens the new J. P.’s Wimberley BBQ in the former Creekside Cookers location.)

Greg Garrison was running the thousand-gallon Moberg smoker parked next to the trailer when I visited. I was awash in oak and pecan smoke when he opened the doors to show me the briskets. They were about 80 percent done, so Garrison was folding heavy-duty aluminum foil to make boats for briskets to sit in while they finished their cook. This foil-boat method was popularized by LeRoy and Lewis Barbecue in Austin, and allows for the bark on the top of the brisket to get a firm texture while keeping the bottom juicy. “I want a crunchier bark,” Evers said, which he didn’t get with the butcher paper wrap he employed before.

Pork belly burnt-end tacos with apple pecan slaw, beans, mac and cheese, sausage, turkey, and brisket from Kelly’s Hill Country Barbecue. Photograph by Daniel Vaughn

The thick slice of brisket Evers served had that expected crunch on the peppery bark. It was a tender slice, despite its thickness, with a deep smoke ring. The house-made barbecue sauce was a better complement for the smoky turkey breast slices. A side of creamy mac and cheese was decent, though I preferred the savory pinto beans with chunks of tomato, jalapeño, and chopped cilantro.

There isn’t much room for cold storage on the truck, so when the pork rib delivery comes on Friday, smoked pork ribs are available only on Saturday. I was there on a Friday when the pork belly burnt ends (also available Saturday) are the special. They’re smoked, cubed, then tossed in a super-sweet sauce to get a candy-like coating during their second dose of smoke. I tried them in a taco topped with more sweet sauce and a scoop of apple pecan slaw. All the elements together was a bit of a sugar overload, but I enjoyed the decadent burnt ends.

Evers doesn’t make his sausage, but he gets it raw from a producer who uses his recipes. That includes a juicy jalapeño cheese version and a pork boudin, which was smoked until the casing had a good snap. The Friday I visited he was also testing out some smoked and fried chicken wings to see if they would bring in some business during the dinner hours, though he normally closes at 3 p.m. I asked if it was easier to watch a smoker than a bunch of students. Evers assured me that briskets fall in line more readily than sixth graders, and he’d chosen the right path with barbecue.

Kelly’s Hill Country Barbecue
14306 Ranch Road 12, Wimberley
Phone: 512-947-1609
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 11–3
Pitmaster: Kelly Evers
Method: Oak and pecan in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2022