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How Barbs B Q Pitmaster Chuck Charnichart Is Shaking Up the Texas Barbecue Scene


In the Texas Hill Country, barbecue is the stuff of legends. You have likely heard of Lockhart, the tiny town that is, officially, the state’s barbecue capital. And for decades, the scene was ruled by just a few smoke-stained joints — Smitty’s, Black’s, and Kreuz Market are among the most iconic — but now Barbs B Q, a restaurant helmed by 25-year-old pitmaster Chuck Charnichart, is shaking up the scene in the most delicious way possible.

Charnichart begins the process of smoking Barbs’s succulent briskets, which are procured from acclaimed Kansas beef purveyor Creekstone Farms, by expertly trimming away the excess fat, then showering the slab of meat with a Mexican-influenced spice rub that’s made in-house. “We grind all the peppers here, and we use chile guajillo, chile de arbol, oregano, bay leaves, thyme,” Charnichart says. “All the good stuff.” Once the briskets are thoroughly coated in the orange-tinged rub, they’re loaded into the smoker, where they’ll cook slowly for 12 or 13 hours until the meat is perfectly tender.

Once the beef is on the smoker, now it’s time for Charnichart to make the restaurant’s most beloved side dish: the green spaghett, a celebration staple in the Rio Grande Valley, where Charnichart grew up. She chars poblanos on a yakitori grill, peels them, then blends them with cilantro, jalapeno, and other ingredients to make a creamy, flavor-packed sauce. “You can find espaugeti verde in South Texas for the most part, but only at celebratory events — birthday parties, baptisms, weddings,” Charnichart says. “If you see it, it’s because someone’s mom made it. I think it’s pretty cool that I can bring this to Central Texas, and the whole world can try it.” For the record, Charnichart notes that most people in the Valley make their own versions of espaugeti verde, but her mom’s, which is what’s served at Barbs, is the best.

Alongside the briskets, diners at Barbs will also find an array of smoked meats — turkey, fajita-spiced sausages, and “Molotov” ribs, which Charnichart describes as an “explosion of flavor” thanks to that aforementioned spice rub and a shower of grated lime zest. Not everything at Barbs is made on the smoker, though. Using the trimmings from the pork ribs that actually do end up in there, Charnichart makes a rich pork stew spiked with fire-roasted tomatoes, jalapeno, and garlic that simmers on the stove for a couple of hours until perfectly tender. She also makes a rich choco pudding, a riff on the banana puddings that are the ubiquitous dessert option at Texas’s barbecue establishments, for a sweet finish.

Back at the smoker, Charnichart rotates the briskets every few hours to ensure that they’re cooking evenly. “From the beginning to the end, the briskets need so much attention,” she says. “That’s why I feel so attached to them, because it’s a lot of touching, a lot of nurturing, making sure they’re doing okay.” The briskets stay on the smoker overnight, and when Charnichart arrives the next morning, she’s slicing them into thick slabs for the line of guests lined up around the building.

Watch the latest episode of Smoke Point to see how Barbs gets ready for a busy weekend of slinging briskets, green spaghett, and Molotov ribs.

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