In honor of the recent launch of North Whitehall Patch and its new editor, Jennifer Rodgers, I have made this my first review of a "restaurant" in the township whose nearly 29 square miles include the villages of Mechanicsville, Orefield and Schnecksville.
I put the term restaurant in quotes because, well, Tex's Smokin' BarBQ is actually a trailer set up along a busy stretch of Route 309 near Shankweiler's Drive-In on property owned by the Hunsicker Funeral Home.
My former editor suggested the place out of curiosity concerning the smoke she would see wafting across the highway from a small wood-burning smoker and from the massive rotisserie, nicknamed "Betsy," parked behind the trailer.
Turns out Betsy is where owner Tex Wells, who wears a cowboy hat and speaks with his native Texan accent, turns brisket, chicken and pork into savory, melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
Every weekend from April through December, Wells buys 960 pounds of meat from U.S. Foods and slow-cooks it at 190 degrees in Betsy's ever-rotating insides. He makes his own rubs and barbecue sauce and uses hickory wood to give it all a nice smoky flavor.
"I had such a hard time finding brisket," Wells said as his reason for starting the family-run business five years ago, after leaving a job as an auto sales trainer in Texas and marrying Barbara "Momma Wells" from Pennsylvania.
Brisket, he said, is beef that comes from under a cow's ribs.
"If it is cooked right, it's the most tender piece of meat you will ever eat," he said. "If not, it can be horrible."
Wells used to cook it in his back yard in San Antonio and take batches to work with him for co-workers to sample. Often, he said, they would tell him he should start his own restaurant.
A recent Friday was my first time there, so I can't vouch for everything on his menu, which includes ribs, sausage and baked beans. But, the $6 regular brisket sandwich I ordered for lunch might have been the best barbecued beef sandwich I've ever eaten. Loads of tender, smoky meat slathered in a tangy but not-too-spicy, not-too-sweet sauce filled the bun.
Jennifer, the new editor, chose a pulled pork barbecue, also for $6.
"My pulled pork sandwich was delicious," she said. "The meat was saturated with sauce in just the right proportion. I even added some of the coleslaw to the sandwich and it was fantastic."
For $2 more, patrons can have "Texas-sized" sandwiches.
Several picnic tables on the rented parcel provided a nice spot in the sun or in the shade of a tree to savor the taste and relaxed atmosphere of an authentic backyard southern barbecue.
Unfortunately, that also meant being exposed to a few pesty yellow jackets, who liked the sweet sauce and my diet soda.
My friends overlooked the uninvited guests in deference to the food.
Jennifer deemed the picnic tables comfortable. She called Tex, who stopped by our table to ask how we liked everything, "a very charming cowboy."
At Tex's Smokin' BarBQ there are no waitresses or restrooms but a jar for tips at the window where orders are placed.
Extra napkins, even Wet Wipes, come highly recommended.
For more details, Tex's Smokin' BarBQ has a smokin' website where you can find the complete menu, hours, directions and a guestbook.
Tex's Smokin' BarBQ
Shankweiler Road and Route 309
- 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Fridays
- 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Saturdays
- 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Sundays