Turns out it’s a franchise. The guy behind the counter told me they used an Old Hickory barbecue pit, which is one of those stainless steel virtual barbecue contraptions that cooks with gas or electric heat with a little bit of smoke.
I got a mushy brisket sandwich to go and ate it in my car. I couldn’t detect any smoke aroma or flavor. While I was sitting there eating my crappy sandwich, I stared into the adjacent parking lot. I watched a guy over there remove a blue plastic tarp from an outbuilding to reveal an honest-to-god Texas barbecue pit. He started loading it up as I watched.
H. Dean Hopkins was seasoning 24 briskets to cook overnight in anticipation of a big motorcycle rally that was taking place the next day. He said he cooked his briskets from eight to 12 hours, depending on how the firewood was burning. And he had a huge pile of oak ready to go.
“Go around back of Dickey’s and look at their woodpile,” he told me. “They burn one log a night.” He had no doubt that Dickey’s did a lot more business than Longhorn Bar-B-Que. But Longhorn was selling all the meat he could smoke, so there was no reason to complain.
I assumed that the Longhorn had been there for a while and that the Dickey’s franchise had come along and ruined their business, but I had it all wrong. Karen Hopkins’s barbecue joint was the oldest in Buffalo all right, but it was originally on the other side of town. She moved her restaurant right next to Dickey’s shortly after the much-advertised franchise opened, she told me.
And her business has been a lot better ever since. – Robb Walsh
Longhorn Bar-B-Que & Café, 2636 W. Commerce St. (Highway 79 West), 903-322-4848