When contemplating which neighborhood is the best for dining, it's hard to top Montrose. Over the past couple of years, staples like Indika and Dolce Vita have been enhanced by Uchi, Underbelly, Common Bond, a stepped up Paulie's and more.
Yet, despite the diversity, the neighborhood lacks a proper barbecue joint.
Even nearby the choices are places like Demeris, Goode Company and Pappas that are, shall we stay, out of step with the new-wave of central Texas-style places that serve fattier, smokier meat than more established restaurants.
After an unexpected layoff, he says he announced to his family, "I'll sell barbecue for a living! How hard can it be?"
With the status of the Ronnie Killen-Bryan Caswell joint venture Montrose Meat Co uncertain, it falls to an upstart barbecue trailer and a new school ice house to provide the neighborhood with Texas's signature cuisine.
Every Saturday and Sunday, Wesley Jurena parks his Pappa Charlies Barbeque trailer at Jackson's Watering Hole. Although it's only been in business for about a year, Jurena has been smoking meat his entire adult life and has a solid five years of competition experience under his belt. Jurena started smoking on a pit made from a 55-gallon drum during a 10-year stint in the U.S. Army, including seven with the First Ranger Battalion.
"I used that thing until the bottom rusted out," Jurena tells CultureMap.
Although he concedes now that he still had a lot to learn about barbecue, his family and friends enjoyed his work and encouraged him to try competitions. When he placed in the top five thanks to his brisket and chicken, "I was hooked. The medals cost about a buck apiece, but I couldn't have been happier."
A Dream's Born In Smoke
Success in competitions from Alabama to California and as far north as St. Louis led to occasional requests for catering. "I never thought it would turn into a business," Jurena says, but, after an unexpected layoff, he says he announced to his family, "I'll sell barbecue for a living! How hard can it be?"
Harder than he realized, of course. As anyone who's watched the BBQ Pitmasters reality show knows, seasoning and preparation for competition is totally different than retail service, but Texas barbecue legend John Mueller helped Jurena see the light at the Q for a Cause charity event.
Calling it the best barbecue in Montrose is sort of damming it with faint praise, but it does make an appealing lunch option.
"I thought I understood salt and pepper, and they didn't do anything for me," Jurena recalls. "Watching John prepare his brisket and ribs, I got it." He's been using the classic Texas seasoning on his briskets ever since and took Mueller's advice to give turkey a try. It's since become a staple of his menu, becoming a surprise hit at the Houston Barbecue Festival in April.
The growing audience led him to Jackson's, where he's found fans thanks to a mix of classic barbecue brisket and ribs along with brisket tacos made with fresh pico de gallo and his five-cheese mac & cheese. If it isn't at the CorkScrew/Killen's level, it's still fattier and more flavorful than anything that's sold close by. Calling it the best barbecue in Montrose is sort of damming it with faint praise, but it does make an appealing lunch option on the weekends.
The crowds vary a bit, but Jurena got a taste of the potential audience when good weather meant a packed patio and a quick sell-out. He's committed to serving Saturday and Sundays during football season and may add both Friday night happy hour service and weekday lunch service if there's demand.
Go try it. Pappa Charlies deserves to be busier.