6685 Eastex Frwy
Beaumont, TX 77706
Open M-Sat 11-9, Sun 11-3
Update: Thanks to alert FCGBBQ reader @GoBearsGo95 I learned that Willy Ray's is no longer. They haven't so much CLOSED as rebranded when they widened their menu and hours last month to become Jackk's Diner. The same ownership remains.
2012: "Museum" was printed on a small sign above what looked like a closet door at the back of Willy Ray's. After seeing the sign we couldn't resist, but wondered how many hadn't even noticed the unceremonial entry. Inside the door was a long glass case and a narrow walkway along its length. Inside was a series of impressive carvings of important religious buildings in history. Along the front of the case was a series of dioramas telling the stories of the Bible. We learned from the the current owners of Willy Ray's that they all were carved and painted by a former owner of the building, and they've been preserved as the building changed hands. It was without a doubt the oddest display I'd ever seen inside a barbecue joint, but trumped a collection of old hats or license plates any day.
Unfortunatey, the diorama collection was the most memorable thing about the joint. Texas Monthly had put this place in the 2008 Top 50 BBQ Joints issue, but they must have had a different experience. The carrot souffle they loved in their review was still on the menu. It was good, and sweet enough to be considered dessert. Good thing considering the poor quality banana pudding with it's fake yellow hue and artificial banana flavoring that came out at the end of the meal.
The meats were equally inoffensive and boring. Chicken had some smoke but little other flavor. Ribs had a rub that was way too thick that hindered any development of a smoky crust. Lean brisket slices were trimmed of all fat. A good looking crust and smokering was false advertising. The meat was dry with little flavor and barely a hint of smoke. It was nothing more than mediocre roast beef, and not really worth returning for, unless of course that's the price of admission to their museum.