After running Scholl Brothers Bar-B-Que in Paris since 2003, the Scholl family was ready to retire from the barbecue business last year. Coincidentally, Justin Lewis was ready to trade his career in health care for one in barbecue. He and his wife, Erin, figured her hometown was a good place to raise their kids and some cattle. Erin found a position as the assistant district attorney for Lamar County, and Justin sold the barbecue trailer he had in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, to run Scholl Brothers after the couple purchased it.
“Paris is a great town,” Lewis said. “They’ve shown Scholl Brothers love for the last twenty years.” But he noted the food needed an overhaul. “We really changed about everything,” he said, from the recipes for sides to the process for smoking the briskets and ribs. Other changes include gutting and remodeling the kitchen, painting murals on the dining room walls, adding a couple of steel offset smokers, and hanging a plastic cow on the wall that’s become quite the conversation piece.
Four udder-like sauce dispensers hang from the smiling Condiment Cow. To extract the sauce, you squeeze an udder, squirting one of four barbecue sauces into a cup. (I really liked the mustard one.) Thankfully, it doesn’t moo when you squeeze. When I shared a video of it on social media, commenters were either disgusted or amused.
Lewis was hoping the Condiment Cow, who was dubbed Gertie after several rounds of online voting, would stir some reactions when he had it shipped from the Maryland-based manufacturer. Lewis is an Amarillo native and grew up surrounded by the humorous and irreverent artwork, like Cadillac Ranch, commissioned by the late Stanley Marsh 3. Consider the Condiment Cow his tip of the cap to those artists, but mainly, Lewis said, “we want people to remember us, and not just for food.”
My first visit to Scholl Brothers in 2008 was a memorable one. A new Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ list had just been published (back then, barbecue blogging was just a pastime for me), so I cracked open my copy of the magazine and planned to hit the road. I set out on a four-hour round trip to Paris, and came home thoroughly disappointed with the barbecue. Another visit five years later wasn’t any better. When Lewis sent me an email a few months ago asking for another shot, I was dubious, but decided to go anyway. This time, Scholl Brothers delivered.
The $26 Super Sampler might be the best deal in Texas barbecue. It includes four meats, three sides, and a drink. The tray could have easily fed two. All the sides are self-serve, so you can really pile them into the paper boats, which Lewis said was part of the plan. He wants to offer good value along with new recipes. The green beans are stewed with onions and bacon; cotija-topped street corn gets some burn from a hot-sauce drizzle; and the mac and cheese is covered in seasoned and toasted bread crumbs. All were enjoyable. As for dessert, soft-serve ice cream from the machine in the dining room is free.
A couple slices of lean brisket were admirably tender, with a good dose of pecan smoke. I’d have liked a more prominent bark, but Lewis said that will come once he gets the new smokers. The St. Louis–cut ribs were tender and well-seasoned with a sweet glaze. The smoke really came through on the thick slices of turkey breast. I was also impressed with the sweet and spicy pork belly burnt ends, which are the latest addition to the menu. “We’re trying to follow trends throughout Texas,” Lewis said. He’s also added bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapeños and bacon-wrapped sausages bites called Pig Shots.
Lewis said the response from the community about the upgrades has been positive, but he also needed to convince longtime pitmaster Josh Hignight. In 2006, at the age of sixteen, Hignight started as a dishwasher at Scholl Brothers, and worked his way up to pitmaster. After the Lewises bought the place, they sent Hignight out on a barbecue tour to visit some of the region’s best joints. He came back with a renewed energy, and seems to have bought the changes they wanted to make. Thanks to his and Lewis’s work in the pit room, you won’t leave disappointed after a drive out to Paris.
Scholl Brothers Bar-B-Que
1528 Lamar Ave., Paris
Hours: Monday–Saturday 11–8, Sunday 11–3
Pitmasters: Justin Lewis and Josh Hignight
Method: Pecan in a gas-fired rotisserie
Year opened: 2003