Post Oak just opened in Burkburnett in December. That hasn’t stopped the ownership team of Hayden and Cheryl Price and executive chef Russell Prickett from planning second and third locations. They want to expand both the restaurant and the Post Oak brand, and they want to do it fast. “We’ve got the spices to a bottling company, sauces to a bottling company,” Hayden says. “I want to take this thing corporate, to be honest with you.”
The Prices admit they were new to the restaurant business before jumping into barbecue last year. “We both have a love for food,” says Hayden, a Midland native who previously worked in oil and gas. Cheryl, who hails from Tyler, notes “we had always been the consumer” until she quit her job in nursing for barbecue. Prickett is a native of Wichita Falls. He moved away and worked for a beer distributor in the Dallas–Fort Worth area for years before deciding on a different path. Several years ago, over dinner with his parents at Lonesome Dove in Fort Worth, he told them, “I want to cook. It’s the only thing that gives me real joy.”
At the age of 26, Prickett enrolled in the the Culinary Institute of America in New York. After graduation, he stayed in New York to work in the kitchen at Wilde Beest, described on its now-dormant Facebook page as a “modern garden-to-table restaurant based on the turn-of-the-century agrarian model.” The menu included smoked mussels and lamb ribs, but Prickett didn’t really get any professional barbecue experience until the restaurant closed and he moved back home to Wichita Falls in 2019.
“When I moved back, I wanted to stick with fine dining,” Prickett says. That plan changed when he met Caleb Jordan, who was running the Jordan Craft BBQ truck. Prickett signed on as executive chef and part owner, and he served out of the truck until teaming up with the Prices. The trio planned to take Jordan Craft BBQ from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar restaurant and live music venue last July. That partnership fell through within months of opening, and the three moved on to Burkburnett to open Post Oak. (Jordan Craft BBQ is temporarily closed while trying to finalize another location in Wichita Falls.)
Post Oak took over the building that once housed Circle H BBQ. “The building was perfect,” Prickett says. “It was ready to go for us”—except for the smoker, so they hauled in an offset smoker on a trailer from Johnson Custom Smokers in Ennis. The trio has already ordered two more smokers to keep up with demand and their expansion plans. They’ve purchased a larger building in Wichita Falls that will become the mini-chain’s home base. Eventually, all the cooking will be done there, and the food will be sent to Burkburnett and to a third, takeout-only location in downtown Wichita Falls each morning.
There’s a full waitstaff at Post Oak, and the menu is a mix of classic Texas barbecue, a few holdovers from Circle H, and some cheffy touches that nod to Prickett’s background in fine dining. Prickett’s cornbread didn’t catch on, so he brought back the warm Circle H yeast rolls with butter and honey. Collard greens weren’t a hit, so they’ve been replaced with smoked cabbage (which needs a little less salt). For now, the loaded potato salad is a home run.
Some barbecue joints treat pinto beans as an afterthought, but they’re excellent here. The beans have a creaminess and a rich, meaty flavor. The ribs start of as full spareribs, but Prickett cuts off the tips to make St. Louis racks of ribs that go into the smoker. The rib tips are then roasted and made into the pork stock that gets soaked into the dry pinto beans. The same stock is used for the green beans, which I didn’t try. These are thoughtful touches, which make it extra confounding that Prickett buys frozen, breaded okra pellets for the fried okra.
Our barbecue tray was loaded with good options, but nothing stood out as the star of the smoker. Ribs were thick, juicy, and plenty tender. Smoked sausages from Miiller’s in Llano had a good snap to them. Slices of Prime-grade brisket were tender with a well-defined bark. There was a bit of a kick in the spice rub on the well-smoked turkey breast. Prickett starts with salt and pepper, but also adds ancho and chipotle powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and dry thyme to the mix.
An appetizer called the Four Sixes made the biggest impression, and our table fought over who got the next bite. Tater tots (or fries) were topped with chopped brisket (or pork), queso, jalapeños, and barbecue gravy. (Since Post Oak is near the Red River, I wondered if this barbecue gravy had any relation to the brown gravy sauces served further downstream in the Denison area, but Prickett was unfamiliar.) His version is made with a roux-thickened chicken stock and barbecue sauce, and it worked magic on those tots. We also loved the simple dessert of vanilla ice cream with warm chocolate chip cookies, made by server Evelyn “Bertha” Hernandez, who keeps her recipe a secret from the rest of the staff.
Even though he’s still relatively new to barbecue, Prickett says “the fire was where my true passion was.” He also emphasizes how important cooking with all wood is to him. “Everyone else, to me, has gotten lazy and flips the switch and likes to sleep,” Prickett says, referring to restaurants that prefer gas-fired rotisseries. “We’re one of the only pure stick burners left in this region.” At a joint called Post Oak, you know they’re burning all post oak wood.
121 S. Berry Street, Burkburnett
Hours: Daily 11–9
Pitmaster: Russell Prickett
Method: Post oak in an offset smoker
Year opened: 2020