Country Tavern is a bit of a legend among Texas BBQ joints, and while not located in the famed “Barbecue Triangle” of Central Texas, it’s still widely considered one of the preeminent pit stops for purveyors of smoked meat. Tucked a few miles off Interstate 20 in Kilgore, Country Tavern made for the perfect diversion during our four hour jaunt out to Grambling.

Like any Texas Barbecue joint worth its chimney, Country Tavern is not without a bit of controversy over the last few years. Having been in business since 1939, Country Tavern has earned its reputation among the best in the state by churning out high quality cue’ for eons. However, a few years ago, they abandoned 70 year old location in favor of a squeaky new building. The stodgy faithful of Country Tavern have been quick to assert that the new location doesn’t quite turn out the same quality meat as the old location. Unfazed, we decided to give it a shot anyway and we strolled into the shadowy interior of Country Tavern and settled into a plush booth.

I was quite pleased to discover that regardless of the new building, the quality of the food was still top notch. The sausage was pleasantly spicy with a good snap to it, though I would have preferred they not slice it prior to serving. The brisket was solid, but not exceptional. It had a solid depth of smoky flavor throughout and just the right amount of rendered fat, but a more pronounced crust and smoke ring may have preserved some of the moisture a bit better.

The ribs were probably the winner overall for me despite the fact they were a bit non-traditional from a Texas sense. The ribs were tackified and sweet on the outside having been basted during the smoking process (the sauce had completely crusted onto the meat and fortunately they were not wet). The result was a sweet, almost candy coating on the outside of the ribs, which, paired with the inherent saltiness of the meat and infused smoke, created a delightfully complex flavor experience. They were actually very reminiscent of Chinese style spare ribs, but with a more robust smoke profile.

The only surprise at Country Tavern, unfortunately, was the ticket the waitress gracefully handed off to me at the end of the meal. I nearly spewed Big Red through my nose when I looked down and saw nearly fifty dollars staring back up at me in black and white. Our meat plates were nearly twenty dollars apiece…. I immediately calculated how much Snow’s brisket I could get for that hefty price, or a new snowblower.

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