It's a compliment to be called the best at what you do. But to snag that honor three times in a row?
Well, that's a high accomplishment.
Big Boy's Bar-B-Que in Sweetwater has achieved that very feat, as they returned to the list compiled by Texas Monthly magazine of the Top 50 Barbecue Joints. Although the list only covers restaurants within the state, the front magazine cover boasts--scribbled in barbecue sauce--that the eateries are the best in the world.
Unveiled every five years, the local restaurant debuted on the top 50 list in 2003. And in 2008, Big Boy's was featured as one of the top 69 barbecue joints as they garnered an honorable mention.
This year, they made it back on the Top 50 list, which is a great honor as the battle for the best barbecue largely includes a new crowd. Only eighteen restaurants from 2008 returned to this year's list.
The judging journey
Gaylan Marth, the owner of Big Boy's, discussed the interesting process used by the judges. Sometimes, the judging team--made up of fifteen staff members, a freelancer and led by the food editor and barbecue editor of the magazine--will call sheriff's offices to find out the best places to eat in town.
According to the Texas Monthly website, the team travels the state to secretly visit barbecue joints, sampling at least three meats, a couple side dishes and a dessert at each stop. A score sheet is then filled out which details different aspects of the restaurant, although the brisket meat score makes up a majority of the total.
This year, the team traveled 33,168 miles over eight months as they visited 658 places, the highest total ever. And in some instances, they visited as many as nine joints in one day.
Marth had an idea that the judges would be stopping by, so he told his employees to be ready during the months of January and February. When he found out he made the list, he was told that the group came in late October of last year, as they ordered and headed to their cars to eat and judge the food.
The Sweetwater restaurant outshines many of its local competitors, as the closest joints on the Texas Monthly list hail from Amarillo, Weatherford, Llano and Pecos. The area roughly spans the size of the state of Pennsylvania, which Marth compared to a magnifying glass that shows how good their food is.
However, he's not the only local getting some recognition from Texas Monthly, as the magazine also tells readers to "leave some room" for his wife's Key Lime pie. Jane's made-from-scratch recipe even includes juice that is sent all the way to the restaurant from Florida.
Adding to the accolades
But if that isn't considered a top accolade--there's more.
One of the members of the Texas Monthly Top 50 judging team is Daniel Vaughn, the barbecue editor of the magazine. Most recently, he authored a book called "The Prophets of Smoked Meats: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue."
While many Texans will take pride in the collection of barbecue restaurants, there's a great chance that the book will garner national attention. The publisher of the book is celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain, and "Prophets" is the first in a series of books to be published by Bourdain.
Vaughn scoured the Lone Star State in search of barbecue, in which the book is broken down into seven different regions. The local eatery is part of the West Texas region, which spans from El Paso to Fort Worth.
Each restaurant gets featured not only through pictures, but with a write-up. And compared to other area restaurants, the story on Big Boy's is a very detailed account.
Furthermore, the book concludes with "Pitmaster Profiles." Marth is featuring as one of the top twenty in the state.
A pursuit for perfection
While a sense of pride is attached to receiving the award, Marth is also relieved. He said that--just like with any award--he knew the competition was coming up, so he worked toward the goal and hoped to make the list.
Marth's desire to have the best food serves not only as motivation, but inspiration. He remarked that if a person starts to slack off, then the pursuit for perfection is lost, and Marth has no intentions to disappoint.
His venture into the restaurant business began 13 years ago, when he and his wife left the ostrich business and made their dream to open a barbecue place a reality. What began as a small building with four picnic tables in November 2000 has now become a sit-down restaurant, in which the additions were made in 2003.
And for anyone who might want to take a chance with the barbecue business, Marth added that a lot of work goes into the cooking and the entire business. His day starts at 4 a.m., he heads into work an hour later, and the work continues the rest of the day.
So as Big Boy's continues to offer the best barbecued brisket, sausage, ribs, chicken and turkey in town, they also have some opportunities to collaborate with Texas Monthly. In July, the magazine is working on a campaign to promote barbecue eateries and raise money for charity.
And this November, the 4th annual Texas Monthly BBQ Fest will be held in Austin, where the members of the Top 50 list are invited to showcase their food for visitors to enjoy.
The gathering is huge, as Marth shared that 4,000 tickets were sold in one day for a previous event. If possible, he hopes that his restaurant will be able to take part in the festival.
Big Boy's Bar-B-Que is open every Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and they also offer catering. Learn more about the award-winning restaurant by visiting them at 2117 Lamar or by calling 325-235-2700.