Waking up before the sunrise is not part of my regular routine. The short list of things that would ever lead me to get up before 8 am include gracious rides to the airport for close friends who are too cheap to use Uber, or if I’m lucky, heading to the airport for my own exciting vacation. Few things can break my routine. But this past Saturday, I woke up at 4:30 am. No, it wasn’t a classic case of insomnia nor was it to make green Jello shots for St. Patrick’s Day. At 5 am on Saturday, a group of friends and I hit the road for Lexington, Texas.
The 2010 US Census lists 1,282 residents in the tiny town of Lexington. This small dot on the map is just about three hours from Dallas and about 50 miles Northeast of Austin. It’s one of those towns you really need to go out of your way to get to. But since 2003, the town has seen a substantial population boost every Saturday morning. The large spike is thanks to a Texas-sized obsession with meat.
Texas is serious about barbeque. Ask anyone from the state, and they’ll argue that Texans do BBQ better than anyone else in America. Texas Monthly, a popular state magazine, even staffs a full-time BBQ writer. Their list of the Top 50 BBQ joints is a highly-anticipated summary of the best spots in the state, and the 2017 list was topped with a BBQ joint which was in the top rung of Texas BBQ for over a decade: Snow’s BBQ. My friends and I had to take the journey south to experience the legend.
Snow’s BBQ only opens its doors on Saturdays at 8a.m. and closes when they run out of meat. Usually, the meat is gone by noon. Knowing we had a small window of time, our group left Dallas at 5 am and arrived just before 8 a.m.
Snow’s is tucked away a few blocks off the Highway 77. We parked and grabbed our numbers in line– 94 through 97, not a bad spot to start for the morning. Kerry Bexley is the owner of Snow’s and he plays the part of ringmaster throughout the morning circus. Upon opening the doors, he told the ever-growing line to expect a wait based on serving about 40-50 diners per hour. The restaurant provides a great deal of to-go orders for locals and regulars who call earlier in the week, and Bexley provided his card to those who wanted to skip the line on their next trip.
And so, the wait began.
We came prepared with a selection of beer curated for the festivities. Guinness was a must for St. Patrick’s Day, and we also brought along “the National Beer of Texas,” Lone Star, along with a stellar, time of day appropriate beer– Brunch Money from Denton’s Armadillo Brewery.
I missed the first of several Lone Star handouts provided by Snow’s. This was one of the several generous provisions provided by Bexley during the morning. He is an ever-present master of ceremonies, providing free beer, running a raffle to cut to the front of the line and a merchandise raffle. The line moves at a slow but steady pace. Our quartet used the time to enjoy the beers and meet some fellow BBQ lovers.
Around 10:30 am, we entered the inner sanctum. The array of meats is served by four lovely ladies who provide insane skill in cutting just the right amount of meat ordered. A pound here, two pounds here . . . they slice with astounding accuracy.
Sadly, by the time we ordered, the chicken was out for the day, but our other options were still available. Our tray of BBQ wonder included brisket, pork shoulder, regular and jalapeno sausage, and banana pudding. The ladies confirmed our choices, though we did get an eye brow raise when we ordered just one banana pudding. We doubled the order, it was a wise choice.
Put your trust in the ladies of Snow’s BBQ, for they shall lead you to the promised land of a great meal.
The restaurant itself has seating for about thirty folks, but the interior was a ghost town due to the gorgeous weather. The ideal spot for dining is outside under a simple metal roof, right next to the pits. Snow’s BBQ has the open kitchen concept down. We took a spot at a picnic table with some folks we met in line and enjoyed the ability to gaze upon the large pits where all the magic happens.
The BBQ pits are overseen by Tootsie Tomanetz, a woman in her early 80s who lovingly shows patient love and care for the meats. Tomanetz is a Texas BBQ legend, and her mastery of art of BBQ led to her nomination as a James Beard Semifinalist for “Best Chef: Southwest” this year. She is always happy to pose for a picture and we enjoyed chatting with her when she had a spare moment.
Snow’s has quite a reputation, so the anticipation was at a fever pitch when we finally sat down for our meat brunch. The verdict was unanimous from our group: epic. Tomanetz uses a wet rub for the brisket, cooking it indirectly with oak wood. We opted for the moist brisket rather than the lean, and the first bite was pure BBQ bliss. The brisket is incredibly tender and the simple treatment brings out the full flavor of the meat itself. The crust is tasty but doesn’t overwhelm the natural beauty of the melt-in-your-mouth meat.
The sausage had great flavor and though a little dry for my taste, it was perfectly complimented by the not-too-spicy barbeque sauce provided on the tables. This is the kind of sausage that makes for a great sandwich, but since we opted to avoid bread, the bare bones option did the trick. Snow’s also offers complimentary beans, which is confounding. I would pay good money for their beans, expertly cooked with just enough smoke and spice to create the ideal side for the meat.
The banana pudding was a great dessert, not too sweet and just the right mix of bananas, pudding and vanilla wafers. By avoiding the temptation of being ultra-sweet, the mellow pudding complements the smoky BBQ. Banana pudding is a comforting end to any meal, but the banana pudding served as a short break from the pinnacle of meat perfection: pork shoulder.
Pork is not my favorite meat and 9 times out of 10, I avoid it on a menu unless it is highly recommended. Pork is a delicate meat and under the wrong supervision, can end up either undercooked or bone dry. We heard buzz about the pork shoulder up and down the morning line, so we opted for a full pound.
In retrospect, we should have gotten more.
The pork was served in small cuts which reminded me of a well-cooked pot roast portioned out of a slow cooker. The crust surrounding the cut was nice and crisp, which made me tentative about my first bite. But oh, that first bite. The pork melted in my mouth like the brisket and the tenderness was unlike any other pork I had ever eaten in my life. This is the game changer of Snow’s. I have never (and most likely will never again) taste pork this monumentally delicious. Tootsie must be practicing some sort of voodoo back there in the pits, and I’m all for it. The pork shoulder provided the culmination of my meal, perfectly providing a memorable last bite of the BBQ adventure.
Don’t think twice. Set your alarm so you can arrive in the quaint little town of Lexington by 8 am. Meet some new friends, feel no guilt about drinking before noon, and enjoy one of the best meals you’ll ever have. Snow’s BBQ is proof that Texans have a true reason to brag about their BBQ.