Chef Chat, Part 2: Gilbert Arismendez of Phil's Texas Barbecue

We continue our chat with Gilbert Arismendez, the pitmaster of Phil's Texas Barbecue, to see how Phil's is trying to set itself apart from the local competition. The pitmaster will also give some expert smoking advice and discuss his favorite woods for smoking.

EOW: Phil's is located in an area with some fierce competition as far as barbecue is concerned. What distinguished Phil's from Pizzitola's, Hickory Hollow, etc.?

Arismendez: We're doing different things that the other restaurants. For example, instead of doing pulled pork we're offering a pork loin. We also have smoked turkey. Most places do spare ribs but we're doing St. Louis ribs, which are more uniform across the slab. As for our sides, more barbecue places serve coleslaw with a mayonnaise base but ours uses a vinegar base. All of our sides are made in-house. We also offer a garlic cheese bread and mac and cheese, which you won't find in many barbecue restaurants. Also, our barbecue pits give us an edge. Our pits don't require someone always here babysitting the meats. Our pits are rotisserie style so the meats get even heat. There's no one hot spot in the whole pit. So we can continually smoke our meats over night. We just throw in a few more logs before leaving for the night and it will hold the heat until someone gets here in the morning.

EOW: What do you personally bring to Phil's?

Arismendez: I work some Latin flavors into the food. So to our pinto beans I add sautéed onions, tomatoes and jalapenos which gives it some spice and sweetness without overpowering the beans. Our barbecue sauce is a chipotle-based sauce. So we have a sweet sauce and a spicier chipotle sauce.

EOW: For those trying Phil's for the first time, what should they get?

Arismendez: Definitely our brisket, ribs and jalapeno sausage. We have our own rubs for our ribs and our jalapeno sausage is fantastic. Anyone is welcome to taste any of the meats before ordering. We also offer more desserts than your typical barbecue place. Most people's weakness is desserts. We have a great Banana Foster bread pudding as well as a chocolate bourbon pecan pie and a buttermilk pie. We also have a brownie a la mode and peach and cherry cobbler. All our desserts are made from scratch in-house. Nothing is brought in. There's no brownie mix back there. We measure the flour and cocoa everyday.

EOW: Being the summer time, what advice do you have for me and my fellow backyard grillers?

Arismendez: Low and slow. Low temperature and give it time. If you don't have a smoker and are trying to smoke, just put your coals on one side and the meat on the other so the meat still gets the heat but there won't be any flame ups and the coals aren't directly underneath burning everything.

EOW: What's your favorite wood to smoke with?

Arismendez: Hickory and oak, which is what we use here. The oak holds the temperature well and hickory gives a nice flavor that doesn't overpower the meat. Mesquite is a really strong wood that if you use too much, all you'll taste is mesquite.

EOW: Wood chips or chunks?

Arismendez: I like the bigger chunks because you don't have to replace the wood as often. But if you're grilling with charcoal, then chips will add the flavor you're looking for.

Tomorrow we'll conclude our chat with Arismendez with photos of his meat, pun intended.

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