Shortly after moving to San Diego in 1987, Matt Shlemon walked into a Texas-style barbecue restaurant and was floored by the succulent, smoky flavors. Convinced that this was the best food he had ever tasted, Matt scribbled a number onto a napkin and offered to buy the restaurant right then and there—even though it wasn’t for sale. The ensuing hours of negotiations paid off, and the Shlemon family found themselves with a restaurant.
To prepare for the monumental task of recreating a region’s iconic cuisine, Matt and his wife, Athena, traveled to roadside eateries throughout Texas and asked patrons for their thoughts on authentic barbecue. They learned numerous tips and tricks during this sojourn, many of which they incorporated into their business. Their signature beef brisket, for example, slow cooks for 18–24 hours inside a hand-built, cast-iron smoker from Texas, which the Shlemons stoke with a fragrant combination of mesquite, green oak, and Red Hots, the candies that never stop burning. And, like any good Texan cookbook, the menu makes room for everything from pork spareribs to sausage hot links and includes housemade side dishes prepared fresh every day.
The Texan and American flags proudly hang over the counter, and the walls’ collection of longhorn skulls, wooden wagon wheels, and Texas license plates evoke even more of the Lone Star State’s character. Black-and-white checkered cloths adorn each table, helping catch any stray morsels of sauce or homemade coleslaw, and adding to the distinctively down-home ambiance.