James Reed and Brian Shields both had long tenures at good jobs when they teamed up ten years ago for a barbecue competition. Their team name was Stiky Ribz, a moniker they revived for their new food trailer in Forney, about 21 miles east of Dallas. They’re all in on the barbecue business, having left their jobs last summer; their wives, Jennifer Reed and Katrina Shields, also joined the operation. The decision seems to be paying off. They started serving diners last September, and already they’re renovating a building next door that will become their permanent location. “We have completely outgrown this trailer,” Shields said.
Between catering jobs and the trailer, their one offset smoker is at capacity. More are on the way. Forney High School runs a welding program that builds smokers—I reached out to the school for pricing, but haven’t heard back—and will deliver the first of two 1,000-gallon offset smokers to Stiky Ribz within the next few weeks. That should help them serve longer on weekends, when they usually sell out by about 3 p.m.
Folks come for the generous portions, including the towering half-pound sandwiches stacked with meat. “We use a measuring cup to mold it,” Shields explains as he gently lowers the cylinder of meat onto a waiting bun. I ordered the pulled pork, which was juicy, smoky, and went well with the sweet sauce. The same sauce is used to coat the pork-belly burnt ends, a Thursday special. I would have preferred that they allow the glaze to set on the burnt ends, but they were tender enough.
I joked with Shields that I expected the ribs to be sticky, given the truck’s name. “Pork is already sweet enough as it is,” he says. The ribs were well cooked, and I liked the texture. The seasoning was well balanced between salty and sweet, but I wanted some bark and a little smoke flavor. The thick slices of brisket had a great bark. Prime briskets are used, and the meat was tender and juicy, if in need of more salt.
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Shields and Reed sell out daily, meaning leftovers aren’t on the menu. A side of meaty beans starts with a fresh brisket chopped in the morning and added to canned beans that are doctored up. All the other sides are made fresh each morning too. The potato salad is so rich with egg it tastes like a deviled egg. Shields says it’s a simple mixture of potatoes, pickles, eggs, mayo, mustard, and seasoning. The mac & cheese is incredibly creamy. As for the slaw, Shields suggested adding a scoop of it on top of the pork sandwich, but I’d already finished mine.
The best bite might have been the sliced turkey breast. It had a deep smokiness and a good dose of pepper. Either the brining, the slow smoke, or both made it reminiscent of ham. I’ll have to return for the other specials, like barbecue nachos on Fridays and Sundays or the popular beef short ribs on Saturdays.
The folks at Stiky Ribz are excited to get out of the trailer and into brick-and-mortar. They see big things to come, given their proximity to Interstate 20, just a quarter-mile away. “Our TxDOT signs are ready to go on 20, but we’re not ready,” Shields says. They’ve still got a renovation to finish, a parking lot to pave, and the two new smokers to be delivered. Until then, they’ll have fresh barbecue and sides for anyone who already knows the way.