Welcome back to the Flickchart Texas BBQ Road Trip! This time we’re headed to a small, idyllic East Texas town to cover a local favorite and one whose reputation has placed it in the Texas Top 50. We also mark the half-way point (technically over halfway now, as not all 50 spots are still open) of our journey. We’re off to Jefferson and Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que!

Stop #25: Jefferson, Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que

Just like nearby Tyler, Jefferson is named for a President; as you may have guessed, that would be Thomas Jefferson. It was founded around 1841 on land ceded from Caddo Native Americans. Due to a nearby log jam on the Red River, Jefferson was accessible by riverboat from St. Louis and New Orleans. This made Jefferson an important port in Texas in 1872 and reached its peak population of 30,000 just a few years after the Civil War. With the discovery of nitroglycerin, the Red River was cleared at long last, but this made riverboat travel unfeasible. By the 1900s the population fell off significantly and the current population sits at around 2,533.

While Jefferson’s significance on a grander scale has died down, the town has carved a niche as a historical tourist spot with many attractions. Many of the historical buildings have become bed and breakfasts and almost every commercial building on the main road in Jefferson has historical meanings. From the Old Post Office to Jay Gould’s Railroad Car, it’s a town that proudly displays the varying history that has occurred there over the years. The downtown is kept to resemble the past, making it a quiet vacation spot for couples looking to get away to a small town tucked away in the East Texas pines. You can go to a nearby General Store and partake in a 50s-style ice cream fountain. A museum dedicated to the film Gone with the Wind is also located here. Jefferson is also known as the Bigfoot Capital of Texas and is home to many sightings of the folk legend.

It might be surprising, then, that Jefferson is home to one of the best BBQ spots in Texas. After all, most of them are in major cities, central Texas, or the smaller towns and cities that are exploding with economic growth. Jefferson falls into none of these categories, and indeed, Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que struggled to turn a profit early in its history. But the locals are willing to support their piece of the Texas BBQ legend, and they stepped up their patronage. Despite enduring a a fire that burned the entire store to the ground in 2012, Joseph’s has climbed its way into the list of the best in the state.

Stephen Joseph opened back in 1993 and has slowly built its reputation up over time. While he doesn’t use premium beef (small-town folks can’t shell out that much for brisket), his technique is strong enough all the same. He turns out spare ribs, briskets, sausage, and most other types of meat on his post-oak indirect-heat pit smoker. Joseph is smart enough to avoid the mistakes of many East Texas places, which trim away the fat and crust from their briskets and drown it in sauce.

In an odd turn of fate, I met a Top 50 pit master upon my visit, but not Stephen Joseph. Instead, I met Tyler Frazer of Tyler’s Barbecue in Amarillo. He was doing his own BBQ travels and had stopped in to visit. My girlfriend and I ended up sitting with he and his family at lunch and we got to spend plenty of time talking about BBQ where I also plugged this project to him. He’s awaiting Flickchart’s visit in the fall!

As for the food I actually ate, I enjoyed brisket, pork ribs, and a specialty of the place, swamp fries! Swamp fries are a bed of  French fries, covered in cheese, jalapeños, onions, Cajun seasoning, green onions, bacon bits, and some chopped brisket. It is a fantastic medley of flavors and easily a strong suit of the menu. But the meats themselves were also excellent. The brisket had a fall-apart bark with a perfect amount of fat to accentuate the salty deliciousness of it without it being overwhelming. The heart of the brisket was perfectly tender, and though the smoke ring wasn’t as distinct, it hardly mattered in the face of a nice blend of salt-and-pepper seasoning. The pork ribs were also very good and well done, with distinct smoke rings and outer skin. The seasoning hit a wonderful, if you’ll pardon the pun, sweet spot of sweetness and seasoning.

I award the brisket 4.5 slices out of 5, the pork ribs 4.5 oinks out of 5, and the swamp fries 4.5 bayous out of 5! I award Jefferson’s Riverport Bar-B-Cue 4.5 smokers out of 5!

The Film: Bernie

Bernie is not the first film from director Richard Linklater that we’ve visited on this list. Linklater is a Texas native and has enjoyed highlighting his home state in a number of films. Bernie is no different, set in the small East Texas town of Carthage, south of Jefferson. The film is based on a real-life story that ran in Texas Monthly about a friendly mortician who winds up committing murder.

The film has a humorous scene near the beginning that describes the various regions of Texas that any Texan will enjoy. It’s also full of Linklater’s wonderful off-kilter humor, perfect for the nature of the story. Jack Black is fantastic in the lead role, both wholesome and goofy. Linklater telling the story partially through interviews is also a funny choice that adds just a slight air of mystery to what’s unfolding. This allows the small-town East Texas flavor of the film to come through.

Matthew McConaughey and Shirley MacLaine are also fun in supporting roles that illustrate certain types of characters you find in small towns. Bernie‘s eccentric humor and examination of the spirit of small-town Texas make it a perfect fit for this project. Its specific regionalism make it feels like a Coen Brothers film at times, and it is under-seen gem among Linklater’s work.

Does anyone eat barbecue in the film?

Yes, there are a couple different scenes of folks grabbing BBQ!

The Rankings

Texas Film Chart

  1. The Last Picture Show
  2. No Country for Old Men
  3. Rushmore
  4. A Ghost Story
  5. Boyhood
  6. The Right Stuff
  7. Lone Star
  8. Chef
  9. Bernie
  10. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
  11. Leadbelly
  12. Tender Mercies
  13. Dazed and Confused
  14. Dallas Buyer’s Club
  15. JFK
  16. The Sugarland Express
  17. Planet Terror
  18. Frank
  19. Whip It
  20. Natural Selection
  21. This is Where We Live
  22. The Alamo
  23. Outlaw Blues
  24. Selena
  25. Nadine

Texas BBQ Chart

  1. Franklin Barbecue
  2. Pinkerton’s Barbecue
  3. Terry Black’s Barbecue
  4. Pecan Lodge
  5. Stiles Switch BBQ
  6. Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ
  7. Hutchins Barbeque
  8. Joseph’s Riverport Bar-B-Que
  9. 2M Smokehouse
  10. Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que
  11. Hays Co. Bar-B-Que
  12. Smolik’s Smokehouse
  13. Lockhart Smokehouse
  14. Heim Barbecue
  15. Gatlin’s BBQ
  16. City Market
  17. Baker Boys BBQ
  18. Kreuz Meat Market
  19. Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ
  20. Micklethwait Craft Meats
  21. Payne’s Bar-B-Q Shak
  22. The Pit Room
  23. Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que
  24. The Smoking Oak
  25. Harris Bar-B-Que

Join us again next time for more delicious smoked meats and fantastic Lone Star cinema!

The post Flickchart Road Trip: Bernie first appeared on Flickchart: The Blog.

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