Highway 59 slows to a crawl as it meanders through the small town of Timpson. At a traffic light I glanced to my left and noticed a barbecue smoker set up in an abandoned Texaco Station. A hand-lettered wooden sign said "Coming Soon: Ribs & More" in red paint. And then over top of that were two small white signs advertising sliced and chopped beef sandwiches. We were on our way to Arkansas and running behind, so I didn't stop.
But my decision nagged at me as I drove. Sometimes the food at the occasional restaurants we call shade-tree barbecue stands in Texas is terrible. But more often, these dedicated amateurs turn out truly exceptional barbecue. You never know when you're going to see one of these places. And when you do, you never know if it will be there next time you drive by. After about five miles, I turned the car around and drove back to Timpson, much to the chagrin of my traveling companions. I just had to check it out.
The stand was run by the Yarborough family. Mom and Pop were doing the cooking while the kids played dominoes and dispensed soft drinks. They had smoked several briskets overnight, cut them up and put the slices and chopped meat in aluminum holding pans with a little barbecue sauce.
The food handlers looked slightly comical in their makeshift eatery, as they were wearing sanitary plastic gloves. I got sliced beef sandwiches that came on whole wheat bread with pickles and onion. The big slices of smoked beef were tender and smoky, with lots of crispy black bits. I also got some homemade sweet potato pie. The kids got me cans of soda out of the ice chest -- they were 50 cents each.
My companions begrudgingly agreed that the quality of the Q was worth the delay, even it was way too early to stop for lunch. Take my advice -- never pass a shade-tree barbecue stand without stopping for a sandwich. If you're not hungry now, it will come in handy later.