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BBQ: The Last Frontier
by Sandra Lewis    Tue, Jun 12, 2007, 05:54 PM
A handful of days ago I traveled to Mt. Pleasant, Texas, for a customer appointment.

The one and a half hour drive was a nice change of pace from my usual, crazy airport-airplane-car-rental-hotel-room-lug-the-suitcase around routine.

With a population of just under 15,000, Mt.Pleasant is definitely one small corner of Texas. I see that many people every day on I-635.

Here's what I like best about small towns and why I was jazzed about this visit: BBQ.

I had done my homework and knew that there were at least two BBQ places that were contenders for a lunchtime visit in Mt. Pleasant. Pat, my easy-going colleague on this journey, didn’t seem to mind that by eight AM and even before my first cup of Starbucks I had our lunch fare identified.

Of course, I let her pick between the two.

Bodacious BBQ it was; an easy choice. It was barely a stone’s throw from our client’s office and he highly recommended it even though he wasn’t able to join us.

It was the early side of lunch when we arrived and with just a couple of other cars in the lot we snagged a parking spot by the front door; thankfully so because we arrived during a gullywasher, one of the many unleashed on North Texas this spring.

We were slightly damp as we wound our way though the food line – most of the sides are made fresh daily on premises at Bodacious Bar-B-Q – and settled in a booth. The place was immaculately clean and tastefully decorated with newspaper clippings of significant happenings, some dating to the early 1900s.

The only other customer in the place at that time struck up a conversation with us after he wondered aloud why I was taking a picture of my food.

It’s a habit, I said.

We chatted off and on throughout the meal with him about the kinds of topics that are easy lanes of conversations between strangers in a small town – the food, where we were from, our reason for being in Mt. Pleasant during this most unpleasant storm, etc.

The brisket, which is the standard by which I judge the quality of all BBQ joints, was a bit on the dry side even with the sauce. So it was a tad disappointing. The sausage, however, was outstanding with a spicy, yet not hot, goodness in every bite. Don’t know where they source it from – wish I did.

And then there was dessert.

As is customary in these types of places, I chose my dessert at the same time I was trying to decide between the ribs and sausage. I picked up a nice chunk of what looked to be homemade peanut brittle. There was no fancy packaging, just a simple, small piece of paper identifying the maker as a small church in Gilmer, Texas.

As a peanut brittle lover, my mom makes it, I couldn’t resist giving it a go.

Crunchy, not chewy, with just the proper amount of stick-to-your-teeth-peanutty-and-sugary goodness. Yes, heavenly.

From the newspaper clippings on the wall, to the fabulous sausage, and the peanut brittle treat, I haven't had a meal in another BBQ place like this one. That is a huge part of the charm and appeal for me.

While the homogenization of the American food scene surges forward with Chili's, Denny's, and Applebee's becoming the Wal-Mart's of the restaurant industry, individually-owned BBQ businesses remain in small towns sprinkled around the states mostly south of the Mason-Dixon line.

BBQ joints like Bodacious may be one of the final mom-and-pop-shop frontiers.

Thankfully so. I would despise the day where my only choice for BBQ would be a deja vu experience of the BBQ place I was in the week before.

So I salute these defenders of individuality and creativity where the BBQ is as unique as each owner's personality. My tastebuds are thankful for the adventure.

My goal is to sample as many of these family-owned oases in Texas as I can in my lifetime.

I’m headed back to Mt. Pleasant June 16th for the Smoky-Eyed BBQ Cook-off benefiting local charities. For just $7 I’ll be able to sample all the BBQ I can eat. Bargain!

Only if, I suppose, I don’t make a stop at Bodacious BBQ and fill up on peanut brittle beforehand.
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Comments (3)add comment
written by Judd D. Bradbury , June 15, 2007

Sharon this is a wonderful article about a great Texas pastime.

written by SV , June 20, 2007

Bodacious Bar-B-Que is an East Texas chain joint, with locations in Tyler, Longview, Kilgore, and other areas along I-20. Doesn't make it any less good, but it is not quite a mom-and-pop shop.

written by Sandra , June 25, 2007

Hmmm, the more appropriate title for this piece would have been "Peanut Brittle: The Last Frontier."

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