Link to the Past

Southeast Texas’s garlic bombs are still going strong.

A Southeast Texas garlic bomb.

Beaumont’s Pear Orchard neighborhood was a lively place in the fifties. The traditionally African American part of town was home to workers from nearby refineries, and its churches and barbershops served as gathering spots. To make a little extra money, some barbershops would build a lean-to that was joined—or “joint”—to the main building, where beer flowed and a jukebox played. Thus the shops became juke joints, also called lounges, at night. A draw at many such places was a brick pit used to cook a feisty kind of sausage that became popular all the way to Houston.

Known as “juicy links,” “homemade links,” “garlic bombs,” or “grease balls,” these Beaumont-style all-beef sausages feature coarse-ground brisket or shoulder clod mixed with chunks of fresh garlic, paprika, chile powder, and lots of trimmed fat. The beef casing is usually too tough to chew, so the proper technique is to squeeze the filling onto a slice of white bread, fold it over, and use it to sop up the fragrant ooze of orange fat that seeps onto the plate. If you’ve ever eaten Cajun boudin, you recognize the procedure.

Broussard’s Links + Ribs
Leonard Broussard learned how to make beef links from his uncle and opened this takeout joint in 1993. 2930 S. 11th, Beaumont, 409-842-1221. Tue–Sat 10:30–8.

Patillo’s Bar-B-Q
This is the oldest black-owned barbecue joint in Texas, opened by Robert Patillo’s great-grandfather, Jack, in 1912. 2775 Washington Blvd, Beaumont, 409-833-3156. Mon 10–4, Tue–Fri 10–8, Sat 10–6.

Sonny’s Bar-B-Q II
Watch for the “Home of the Spicy Pig Feet” sign at this nondescript house on a thoroughfare. 2197 Washington Blvd, Beaumont, 409-212-9950. Tue–Sat 10–6. 

Gerard’s Bar-B-Que 
Joseph Gerard began selling beef links at his barbershop/beer hall, the Dragon Lounge, in 1970. Son George makes them now and mans the brick pit at this 1975 joint. 3730 Fannett Rd, Beaumont, 409-842-5069. Mon–Sat 10–11.

Jaws Bar-B-Que
Punarbassi Sandy, known to locals as Miss Sandy, emigrated from Guyana in 1980 and opened Jaws the following year. 1448 Rev. Dr. Ransom Howard, Port Arthur, 409-985-6601. Mon–Sat 1–9.

Nick’s Pit
The business cards at Nick’s proclaim Port Arthur as the “land of the links.” These smoky, spicy sausages do not disappoint. 2548 Gulfway Dr, Port Arthur, 409-983-5718. Tue–Sat 11–8.

Byron’s Gourmet Bar-B-Q
Byron Johnson learned from his grandfather at Beaumont’s Silver Dime Beer Parlor. He uses a whopping six pounds of fresh garlic for every hundred pounds of beef. 2101 W. Little York Rd, Houston, 713-290-0870. Wed–Sat 11–7 (but may close early).

Powell Bar-B-Q
Owner Felix Powell grew up in Beaumont and opened this place in Houston’s Sunnyside neighborhood in 2006. Pitmaster Wayne Lemon uses the beef link recipe of legendary Houston sausage guru Harry Green. 4101 Clover, Houston, 713-731-9630. Wed–Sat 11–9.