In 2009 Nick Pencis—a rock and roll drummer, two-time business-school dropout, and owner of Stanley’s—had an epiphany. He had driven all the way to Lockhart to eat at the legendary joint Smitty’s and, in his words, “to try to figure out the true meaning of barbecue.” Walking past Smitty’s floor fire pit, feeling the heat of the ancient ways, he saw the future in the past. He hired a new pitmaster, Jonathan Shaw, rebuilt the kitchen, and bought two new pits. Concentrating on ribs at first, Shaw came up with a piquant eleven-spice rub and a sweet glaze. They won “best pork ribs” at the first Texas Monthly BBQ Festival in 2010. With that under their belt, Pencis and Shaw next vowed to understand the true meaning of brisket. Their fanatical attention results in buttery meat with a thick, peppery black crust that glistens like a city at night. Today, Stanley’s is not just a restaurant but a community hub. Once you settle in, you may not want to leave.
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