Rating: 4 Opened: 2000 Pitmasters: Ricky Mumphord, age 55; Keith Mumphord, age 48; Bubba Barnes, age 61; and Ernest Rucker, age 50 Method: Mesquite and oak; direct-heat pit Pro tip: The chocolate cake with cream cheese icing is made by a local church lady. And it’s divine.
The minute you park, you’ll be drawn like a moth to the glowing fireboxes and pits in the screened-in shed out back. That’s where the action is—and frankly, we wondered how the pitmaster gets any work done, he’s so busy posing for pictures with guests and explaining to newbies how it all works. This is “cowboy-style” barbecue, where the wood is burned to coals, then transferred to large metal pits in which the meat is placed on grates set about four feet directly above the heat. It’s a tricky method. The meat cooks fast—eight hours for the brisket, two for the ribs—so you’re unlikely to find the tenderness and smokiness you get from an indirect-heat pit. But the flavor is good, and in a part of the state where quality ’cue of any kind is scarce, Mumphord’s does a better than decent job. In fact, customers come from miles around to tuck into 30 to 35 briskets a day, more on the weekends. With a mesquite bite mellowed out by oak smoke, the brisket comes off reasonably moist. The pork ribs go quick, but the coarsely grained pork and beef sausage, mildly flavored, with a nice snap to the casing, is a decent substitute. Those in the know order sliced pork shoulder and turkey breast, and the staff always recommends the crisp garlic-buttery green beans. Take their advice. And be sure to stick around for a while, because part of the fun is being there, in the room with its red-checked tablecloths, sports photos, trophies, cow skulls, an ancient icebox, a sword, old firearms and cameras, beer cans, and heaven knows what else.
1202 E. Juan Linn, 361-485-1112. Open Tue–Thur 11–7, Fri 11–8, Sat 11–6.