Editor’s note: The name of this joint has been changed to DBQ since this article was published.
Kyle Lewallen started his barbecue catering company while still a junior at Texas A&M. A few years later he bought a food trailer and parked it just a block away from campus. He couldn’t find cutting boards big enough for his catering operation or the trailer, so he started to fabricate them himself. That spawned a side business of Lew’s King Size Cutting Boards which started to take up more time than Kyle ever imagined. He needed a business partner to help run the barbecue trailer so he brought in pitmaster Derek Barre. Barre now runs the pits and Kyle spends his time making cutting boards.
Lew’s BBQ trailer opened in December 2012. About four months later was my first visit. Every day there are three smoked meat options, and every day ten percent of their profits go to a local charity. Sliced brisket isn’t always an option, and on this day the sliced beef was tri-tip. It was well seasoned, but terribly tough and in need of some serious fat trimming. Any of the meats can be served as tacos, and the chopped brisket was a good smoky filling. A smoked sausage from local Ruffino Meats was serviceable with too-subtle smoke and seasoning. It would be several months until I could get back in town to try the sliced brisket.
The brisket slices were worth the wait. The beef was moist, smoky, and well seasoned. Besides being tender to the point of falling apart, it was great. A crisp smoked chicken thigh was even better. The salty crunch of the skin was addictive and the moist meat beneath was incredible.
I was most curious about the barbacados that I’d seen advertised on their Twitter account. Barre takes halved avocados and smokes them before paring them with smoked meat, beans and sauce. Sadly, it was a Tuesday, and Barre explained that the avocados he purchases at the start of the week aren’t adequately ripe until Thursday when they go on the menu. With such thought put into delivering a great menu item, I wondered where that passion was in the baked beans and potato salad that tasted like doctored versions from a can.
Finally, I was in College Station on a Friday. I skipped over to Lew’s at noon and grabbed a barbacodo fresh off the pit. I actually had to wait about ten minutes for a new batch to finish up. The result was a good ripe avocado that was thoroughly warmed. The flesh took on smoke about as well as a stone. It might not have been smoky, but it sure was good, especially paired with the sliced brisket and new recipe for beans that included a bit of the refried variety into the mix.
The avocado was amplified heavily by some stellar slices of smoked brisket. Getting a bite with a little of each ingredient in the bowl made for a memorable item, and has me targeting return visit on a Thursday or Friday. The brisket was yielding but not over-tender. It had a beautiful bark and plenty of well rendered fat along each slice. With brisket like this, it makes me wonder if Barre needs to deal with that tri-tip any longer.
This latest visit wasn’t all rosy. The cole slaw was soupy and worse than the potato salad from the previous visit. The pork loin was so dry the slices looked shaggy. Each bite had me searching for the bold flavors of the brisket, but to no avail. For better or worse, the Ruffino’s sausage hadn’t changed much from the first visit. No matter, that brisket can make up for a lot.
After three visits over several months I’ve seen Barre’s cooking progress pretty significantly. I still prefer Fargo’s up the street in Bryan, but Lew’s is coming on strong in the B/CS area. With so few good choices for barbecue in College Station, Lew’s is likely the best in town.