There’s been a lot of talk lately about how Brooklyn barbecue is taking over the world, so it’s good to see a big name food critic show some love to a fact that anyone in Texas already knows: yes, even Texas gas station barbecue is better than what you can find anywhere else.
First, let’s set a few things straight. Brooklyn barbecue is not a thing. There may be barbecue restaurants in Brooklyn, and that’s fine, but it’s not a style all on its own. It doesn’t matter if restaurants around the world are copying what restaurants in Brooklyn are doing; there’s no such thing as “Brooklyn style barbecue.”
Second, bless their heart, Munchies first published that article in 2014. Maybe posting it again wasn’t their best idea. Third, as correctly noted by Food & Wine‘s food critic David Landsel, Buc-ee’s isn’t just some gas station. It’s a destination all on its own.
“A pile of brisket stuffed into your average bun with white onions, pickles, and a sauce made from ketchup (hold your fire), Worcester sauce and liquid hickory smoke isn’t going to be winning the national awards any time soon.”
It won’t offend many Texans to say that this is a correct statement. The brisket sandwich is not generally on the list of favorites for Buc-ee’s fans. We’re well aware of the quality of barbecue we have around us, and we know the brisket sandwich isn’t the main reason to go to Buc-ee’s.
Landsel goes on to say in his review of the brisket sandwich:
“But it doesn’t have to [win awards]—this sandwich, and other sandwiches sold here at Bu-cee’s, particularly the chopped smoked sausage sandwich, are a taunt, a tease, a warning to arrogant pretenders in other places: We’re so good at barbecue, even our basic gas station brisket could probably take yours out, at least on a good day.”
Not an untrue statement in fact, but I don’t think it’s a taunt to other places. It’s a simple fact: Texas does good barbecue. We don’t need to mount a defense warning others off because no one is arguing that assertion, food critics included.
But it begs the question, why can’t gas stations have good food? While he seems enamored of the many food options there, Landsel also sounds surprised that a gas station is a valid choice for a meal. Gas stations in the South are the source of some of the best meals in town, and I would argue, some of the finest examples of cooking the South has to offer.
Maybe it’s not common elsewhere (though I’ve seen some of the same thing out West), but in the South, it’s not unusual to see food being cooked in a gas station or convenience store. We’re not talking about foot-long sandwiches or the questionable hot dogs and pizza you can get along with your slushie; this is real food made by real cooks.
On some roads, the gas station may not just be the only place for fuel for miles, it might also be the only place to grab lunch or dinner while you’re on the road. Any frequent road tripper will tell you that some of the best food can be found in the most unexpected places. Truck stops or gas stations alike, if the parking lot is crowded, chances are the food’s worth eating.
Even if one is merely stopping for a quick refill and some snacks, Buc-ee’s offers its own spin on road foods worth trying. Jerky, fudge, the wall o’ candy—sometimes a road trip just calls for food you wouldn’t normally eat in the course of your day.
There’s good reason to be a fan of a chain like Buc-ee’s. It’s a good business that offers a high level of service to its customers and by all accounts treats its employees well. All businesses should aspire to those goals, regardless of whether they offer Beaver Nuggets for sale.
If you’re a fan of the brisket at Buc-ee’s, good for you. If you’re a fan of Texas barbecue (or another style) served in Brooklyn, good for you.
And if you know of a gas station that does some mighty fine cooking, show them some love today.