Sunday, May 16, 2010

Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q

TYLER: Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q
525 S. Beckham Ave

Tyler,TX 75702


Open M-Sat 11-9

Update: On a trip down to Nacogdoches, the family stopped for 'cue in Tyler at Stanley's. I'd visited once before with a friend and found many faults with Stanley's although it seemed to have potential. After meeting owner Nick Pencis at the Gettin' Sauced event in Austin, he urged me to return and try some of the recipes he had tweaked, most importantly the brisket. It has improved but there are still some issues.

Again, I ordered a four meat sampler along with a turkey sandwich for my wife. I actually enjoy BBQ sauce as a condiment (just not on well smoked meat), but my wife can't stand it. So when my platter arrived with sauce on the side, and my wife's sandwich had sauce all over the meat, I was confused and disappointed. After wiping it off with some paper towels, she had an edible sandwich of tender smokey turkey from an actual turkey breast rather than some processed bird. The sausage type had not changed, but these grocery store grade links had received a heftier dose of smoke to make them more palatable. Baby back ribs were meatier, but had a good crust despite the heavily sweet glaze. A good amount of smoke could be detected in these tasty ribs. Brisket was also smoky, and showed a great improvement from the first visit. Although too much fat had been trimmed, what was left behind were slices with a nice bark and a plenty good smokering. The flavor was smokey, and the meat was moist and perfectly tender. This was some good beef.

Two portions of pork. Which one looks better?

Pulled pork was a conundrum for me. The first batch was pale, monochromatic, and lacked much flavor at all. I explained this to the pit master, who promptly switched it out for a much better portion of pork that had bits of black bark with plenty of flavor and smoky goodness. I decided to reward a pit master who was willing to make it right rather than downgrade them for giving me a substandard portion of meat to begin with.

Rating ****

July 2009: The four meat sampler plate should become a staple of every self-respecting BBQ joint. The idea of piling a plate with multiple proteins, and diggin' in without the distractions of cole slaw, pinto beans or anything else to slow down the ingestion pleases me. The folks over at Stanley's seem to agree with me.

A friend from LA wanted a taste of some good Texas 'cue so we headed out to East Texas in search of some transcendental smoked flesh. I provided the expertise and the route, he provided the rental car and the photography. At Stanley's we bellied up to the counter to place an order for a plate overflowing with ribs, hot links, sliced brisket and pulled pork. In addition, we just had to order the "Brother-in-Law" sandwich based on the name alone. At this joint meals are prepared in the kitchen rather than right on the counter, so we sat in a booth sipping sweet tea until our order was called.

A plate full of meat is a beautiful sight, but we dove in shortly after admiring the visual affect. Hot links were underwhelming slices of slightly spicy pork sausage...not a great start, as hot links seemed to be a misnomer here. The ribs had a sweet tangy glaze applied lightly to the dark smoky crust. These baby backs weren't very meaty, which allowed the smoke to penetrate the full depth of the rib. The tender meat also had a good level of moisture, some of which can be attributed to the glaze. Although sauced, these ribs were enjoyable. It should be noted that the liberal use of sauce is generally what separates the East Texas style from the Central Texas style. This wouldn't be the last time this was encountered on this trip.

Brisket had a more traditional preparation with a light rub leading to a decent crust and a good smoke line. The meat was moist, but the ease with which it broke apart in my hands was evidence that it may have been overcooked a bit. Also, the smoke and flavor was there, but the fat was missing in these too-lean slices. Finally, the wholly untraditional pulled pork was the best item on the plate. The mixture of tender shredded pork, black bits of crust and small bits of rendered fat came together with the nutty flavored sauce that was applied with restraint. We thought it may actually contain some asian peanut sauce. Odd...but good.

The final item was the Brother-in-Law sandwich. Chopped beef, sliced sausage and American cheese were piled atop a buttered bun and doused with the house sauce. Hot sauce was available on the side, but eaters were warned that the staff would no longer replace food that had been doused with this screaming hot sauce. Squirt at your own risk. Before taking the sauce challenge, we took a few bites, and all of these flavors came together quite well. I had doubts about cheese and brisket, but the sausage buffer was key to this flavor profile. Adding the grainy hot sauce added a pleasant kick without much pain.

Stanley's may not have any one outstanding traditional Texas BBQ item, but judged on the whole, this joint is worth a stop.

Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon


PM Summer said...

Is this the place near the hospital, perched on a hill?

BBQ Snob said...

That's the one. Have you been?

wws said...

I live in Tyler, go to Stanley's often, it's my favorite BBQ in the area by far!

One meat I *have* to recommend isn't covered in this review, and usually isn't the kind of item that I search out in a bbq joint. But I guarantee that Stanley's smoked turkey will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most fully flavored turkey you will ever taste in your life. I don't know how they do it different, but I have never tasted any other turkey in my life that even approaches what Stanley's can do with it.

Anonymous said...

I live in Tyler, and used to religiously frequent this place until the staff started shifting. They got rid of a long haired fella lovingly known as hippie, and you started seeing ( though I believe he was still there ) the young owner Nick less often. I think this coincided with a drop in the quality of the cue, which isnt exactly texas standard to begin with. Their pulled pork and ribs have always been my overall favorites, but I rarely go by there any longer, preferring to smoke it myself these days.

Mr. L said...

I miss this place. Used to live up the street and it was my introduction to barbecue. I remember some very tasty beef ribs if you were lucky enough to get them, they weren't always available. You've convinced me to swing over there for a bite when I'm in town next month, it's been at least 15 years.

CajunScouse said...

Stopped by Stanley's today after visiting a relative in the hospital nearby. My first visit and I opted for the four meat sampler. I think EVERY BBQ joint should offer such a thing. Four meats and no sides to get in the way? Lovely! Anyway, my four choices were fatty brisket, hot links, pulled pork and pork ribs. The brisket was pretty good. Fat wasn't completely rendered but the meat had plenty of smoke. The hot links were a bit of a disappointment. It tasted exactly like store bought smoked sausage. I actually thought they had made a mistake and given me smoked sausage. When Josh, a dude of all trades at the joint, asked how my meal was I explained the "mistake". He corrected me that this was their hot link and quickly ran to the back and brought me some of their smoked sausage as well. Nice guy. Smoked was not much better though. The pulled pork and pork rib were the best on the sampler. Pork was slightly sweet without the addition of sauce. Ribs were meaty and sweet with nice smoke flavor. Too bad BBQ joints in northwest Louisiana can't take a cue from our neighbors at Stanley's in Tyler and Joseph's in Jefferson.


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.