The first time I drove by Tex on the corner of Semmes and Cowardin I did a U-Turn and pulled in. An hour later, I left excited, full of delicious barbecue and great stories.
"Tex" is hidden jewel on the Richmond culinary circuit. He's a one man show. Equal parts pitmaster and showman, Tex makes it a point to entertain you as well as feed you. When I walked up he excitedly yelled to the four other people "we've got a virgin!".
Before I had the chance to feel awkward, Tex had nicknamed me Shorty and welcomed me to my initiation. He informed me that his smoker was named Bertha, and that they'd been together quite a while. When I asked what was best, he replied, "whatever you want". When I said I wanted to try a couple of things, he smiled, shook his head and gave out his trademark "It's On".
First he started by slicing a small piece of brisket for me...damn. "It's On" Then he told me that he was going to give me five different tastes from his ribs. He explained that he was a trained chef, and that he could make a steak taste different by cutting it with two different knives. After the second rib sample, I didn't question him. "It's On". The ribs, all five tastes, were all well smoked, and true to his word, deliciously different.
After sampling the brisket and the ribs, my mouth was watering. When I asked what kind of sausage he had, he responded "the kind you've never had before". What he meant by that was that his sausage isn't just a smoked sausage, it's what he calls a Tuxedo, a delicious combination of a butterflied smoked sausage filled with diced brisket, sauteed onions, bbq sauce and a little mustard all on a bun.
When he handed it to me, he confidently said "I'm gonna get ya". Holy bejesus was he right. The Tuxedo is one of the better things I've ever put in my mouth. It should get nominated for a James Beard award. After my first bite he saw my eyes light up, howled in laughter and said "It's On!"
Every time I went back to Tex, which was a lot, I would order a tuxedo as a starter. I might change up the main dish from ribs to chicken to brisket, but the Tuxedo was my north star. It let me know that everything was right in the world.
With that said, I don't mean to downplay the rest of his barbecue. It's all great. He prides himself on doing things the right way, low and slow over real wood. Bertha is an old school pit, meaning there's no sensors or gauges on her. He does it all my feel, touch and look. And a thermometer to keep the health department off his back.
Everything he does is incredibly well smoked, flavorful and moist. His chicken may be the best I've ever eaten, and his ribs and brisket aren't far behind. But just as good as the meat is the show he puts on.
I encourage you to go with some free time on your hands, eat a tuxedo and then let another customer or two go ahead before finishing your order so you can take in Tex's humor. He welcomes everybody like they're family, and after a while that's how you'll feel. If you come back often enough, you'll soon learn he's a former Navy pilot and that he was the first black state trooper in the state of Texas. He was also a chef for a while and dabbled a bit in corporate America. I'll leave the rest for him to tell you, but suffice it to say you'll enjoy hearing his stories about his many different careers. What you'll enjoy most are his one liners. Stuff will come out of his mouth that you wish you could write down to retell later. But it's probably for the best that you don't, because your delivery won't be near as good as his.
Since Tex's shop is a trailer, be prepared to eat on or in your car. And don't go to Tex if you're in a rush. You'll spend at least 30 minutes with him, and that's if you're the only customer. But trust me, it'll be time well spent.
Tex is out there on Mondays and Fridays for sure, more often than not on Thursdays, and occasionally on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. After your first trip you'll have his cell phone so you can call to make sure "it's on".