Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The World's Largest Free Barbecue

For seventy-five years they've celebrated a reunion in Dalhart, Texas for those with a connection to the XIT ranch. This celebration culminates in a rodeo on the first Saturday evening in August. This rodeo is immediately preceded by what has been dubbed the "World's Largest Free BBQ".

LinkQuintessential Panhandle Scene

In order to get to Dalhart from Dallas, there is a lot of Texas that needs to be covered, and most of it is flat. I headed out on the road accompanied by photographer Nick McWhirter who is a friend, coworker, and the main reason this trip looked so cool. You can check out even more of the photos (all of them great) at this slideshow.

The Perfect Onion Ring

Thankfully there was also some barbecue along the way, and much of it came with some of the best onion rings either of us had ever eaten.

The Red "River"

Unfortunately, we also witnessed some compelling images of the Texas drought. It was stunning, but not pretty.

The Road to BBQ

The roads are even paved with brisket around here.

Where the BBQ Comes From

We also passed our share of beef feedlots. Regardless of your thoughts on the ethical treatment of cattle in these CAFO's, the fact is that your barbecue comes from here. There just isn't much grass fed beef being smoked out there.

Meal at Sutphen's in Borger

Even the combo plates were more spread out in the Panhandle.

Hodie's Bar-B-Que in Dalhart

It wouldn't be a true Texas BBQ journey without some disappointment. Five Hundred miles from my house sits Hodie's which is closed on the Saturday of the XIT rodeo and BBQ. Oddly enough, I knew I'd be back here in a week.

In Line for the 'Feed'

The lines at the event are not short, but they move quickly. Everyone that we talked to did not refer to this as a meal or a barbecue, but rather it was always called the 'feed'. As we lined up like cattle waiting for the trough, it felt appropriate.

The Feed from Above

I took my first helicopter ride. It's a severe understatement to say that I didn't expect helicopter rides at the XIT.

Dump Truck Full of Meat

To keep a steady stream of beef going to each line, the beef is held in a plastic lined dump truck.

The Pits

The beef is seasoned, wrapped in butcher paper and burlap, tied with wire, then cooked for twenty-four hours in pits dug with backhoes.

Choppin' Beef

The meat was better than expected. While not smoky, the meat was aggressively seasoned with salt and cracked black pepper, and was perfectly moist and tender.

A Plate of Feed

Take beef, add applesauce and beans, enjoy.

A Local Truck Driver

We met plenty of bona fide cowboys.

Welcome to the Rodeo

And even saw a few rides the broncs.

"Is it our turn yet?"

These guys were some true road warriors, sleeping at home about 5 or 6 nights a month.

Big Texan in Amarillo

After the event, we made our way back to Amarillo to enjoy the accommodations at the Big Texan Motel. We ate next door the next morning and despite the relentless billboard propaganda, we did not consider tackling 72 oz. of steak.

The best thing to come out of the weekend, besides the photo documentation, was the knowledge that Nick and I could cover 1000 miles in 36 hours and still be talking at the end of the trip. We're already planning the next one. Any Texas destination ideas?

- BBQ Snob

1 comment:

Don O. said...

Awesome roadtrip story and pictures. Looks like y'all had a blast. Thanks for sharing.


Each joint is judged on the essence of Texas 'cue...sliced brisket and pork ribs. Sausage is only considered if house made. Sauce is good, but good meat needs no adornment to satisfy. Each review can only be based on specific cuts of meat on that particular day. Finally, if the place fries up catfish or serves a caesar salad, then chances are they aren't paying enough attention to the pits, so we mostly steered clear.