A Race to the Finish in West Texas: In Pursuit of the Best BBQ and Bone-In Ribeye
I hadn't gone shooting since I was a kid, so the instructor's saying the shotgun "will kick a bit" was good to know.
Overhead, the sky was deep blue. You could hear traffic from the interstate a few miles away, but otherwise the air was hot, still and quiet.
I moved the barrel of the shotgun to follow the skeet as it arced in the sky. The puck seemed to move in slow motion when it reached its highest point. That's when I slowly squeezed the trigger and...missed.
Luckily I had a full box of shells and the afternoon to spend on the beginning of a fun four day trip in West Texas that started at the Wildcatter Ranch, a working ranch on top of a plateau overlooking the small town of Graham, an hour from Fort Worth and Abilene.
The trip was about barbecue and bone-in ribeye steaks, West Texas style. I only had a few days to cover a lot of territory and a lot of eating to do.
Besides skeet shooing, there's archery, horseback riding and river rafting. Not a dude ranch, the rooms are nicely supplied with Western memorabilia, cable TV and Wi-Fi but the grounds are scruffy, reminding you this is a working ranch and I definitely knew I wasn't in the city when I saw the warning signs outside my cabin--"DANGER Rocks Snakes."
We discovered a gem of a restaurant on a dusty, god-forsaken highway, Hashknife on the Chisholm Trail in Peadenville (population 6, no fooling', that's really the whole population) at the junction of Highways 281 N. and 254.
A must-stop for any encounter with old school 'cue is Harold's Pit Bar-B-Q.
The restaurant has the feeling of a rambling, Texas roadhouse. Just the sort of place you want to sit and spend time talking, drinking and eating 'cue.
As explained by Joe's son, Josh Allen, the general manager, the brisket stays in the smokers 12-16 hours depending on the size of the cut. Slow cooking is the best way to coax out the meat's deep flavors.
If I lived in the area, I would happily make Sunday brunch at Perini's a weekend tradition.
Around the corner from Stockyards on North Main, Cattleman's Steak House opened just after WWII. The dark wood interior and long bar announce Cattleman's as a great place to hang out. A casual, friendly, a no-tablecloth kind of restaurant. The kind of place where strangers will reach out to one another with "Where you folks from?" as if everyone in the restaurant could be a neighbor, no matter where they are from.
Part of the restaurant, Booger Red's Saloon has a long bar where half the stools are topped with saddles so even a barfly can ride the western spirit without walking outside.
To round out the menu there are Mexican tacos and country cafe fried pickles, cheese sticks, onion strings, okra and corn as well as a variety of green salads, potato salad, cole slaw, red beans, mac n' cheese, green beans, french fries and rocky mountain oysters again, called "calf fries" here.
Like so many restaurants in West Texas, Riscky's Steakhouse is a big, casual, friendly place to eat a bunch of food, hang out and have a cocktail or a few bottles of Shiner Bock.
Was this good houskeeping or a sly marketing ploy to attract more customers? You could smell that delicious barbecue aroma for miles around.
The bistec ranchero was pounded thin and charbroiled on a gas grill. The enormous steak arrived at the table covered with caramelized onions and, if I wanted (I didn't), jalapeno peppers. The bistec came with a good sized helping of rice, refried beans, tortillas and a salad. All for $10.99.