El Paso’s Bare-Bones Barbecue Scene

Texas Monthly’s BBQ Editor says he’ll “Paso” on far west barbecue.

By Emily Donahue May 7, 2015 8:02 am,

There’s a billboard on the highway just outside of  Pecos, Texas: Last Stop for Decent Barbecue. Okay, there’s actually not, but there ought to be, says the Texas Monthly’s professional Barbecue Critic, Daniel Vaughn. But this isn’t about the smoked-meat scene in Pecos, this is about the abysmal condition of one of our state’s favorite vittles way out west.

Vaughn spoke to the Texas Standard about the challenges of finding, and smoking, good Barbecue in El Paso.

“I think one of the challenges is fuel. The wood that they have there. There’s not exactly a lot of hickory trees out in the desert,” he says. “A lot of it, too, is complacency from the folks who live around there. Folks are just saying, ‘listen, we have great Mexican food, that’s really enough for us, as long as we’ve got that, then maybe it’s not the best in the world, but it’s adequate for us.’”

So what does it take to get a city to care about this southwest tradition? Vaughn says Austin and Dallas had similar blasé demeanors about the food. That changed quickly and the state’s been in a barbecue renaissance for the past few years.

“It really just took that one great place opening up, and all of the sudden that makes people care. That is what kind of spurs on the popularity in a particular city.”

Could El Paso be the next potential untapped Texas barbecue mecca?

“I don’t think it’s an impossibility, but I think one of the hurdles that they’re gonna see is what they can charge for barbecue out there,” Vaughn says. “Through this barbecue renaissance that we’ve seen in Texas a lot of what’s happened is the increase in quality in ingredients that go into it, whether that’s better quality beef, or a different idea of how to serve barbecue — meaning you serve it until it runs out and you don’t serve the leftovers. Those ideals cost extra money and you’re going to have to charge more for that.”