Every weekend, friends and family across the country get together to eat, drink and generally forget about the cruel grind of daily life.
In Western New York, we do that around the backyard grill or the Bills game day spread. In Texas, weekend commiserating happens around smoky, barbecued meats.
Recently opening on Route 5 in Woodlawn, Yankee BBQ is looking to bring Texas-style barbecue and barbecue culture to this beach-industrial section of the Southtowns.
While barbecue styles from Carolina and Memphis are based on slathering cuts of meat in thick sauces, Texas-style barbecue is all about the wood, according to Yankee BBQ owner Brian Nagy. In fact, different parts of Texas tend to use different kinds of wood in their barbecue pits.
“For the style I’m doing, central Texas, they use oak and pecan. More specifically, in the Austin area, they all use post oak,” which is a type of oak tree that has also been used to make traditional fence posts.
Also defined by a preference for rubs over sauces and long hours over very low heat, the central Texas style of barbecue is often credited to the German and Czech immigrants who settled there and opened butcher shops. These butchers began smoking leftover cuts to preserve them, and eventually the popularity of the smoked meats eclipsed that of the butchered meats.
Here in Western New York, we have a smattering of barbecue joints, and not all of them adhere to the central Texas style. Some places are all about the sauce while others use cherry and other kinds of wood that would be considered heresy in central Texas. When we asked Nagy about that, he said it’s all good: “Barbecue is definitely a to-each-his-own type thing.“
Now a brick-and-mortar location after starting as a side hustle, Yankee BBQ offers a wide array of meats: pulled pork, brisket, pork ribs, chicken and hot link sausages. There are also daily specials, some of which feature a cut of meat only for that day. On Wednesday, beef ribs are available. On Thursday, you can get smoked chicken wings.
Traditional barbecue sides are also available: cheesy potatoes, smoked mac-and-cheese, beans and slaw. Beverage options include soft drinks, wine and craft beer, including many local brewery options.
For those brave enough, Yankee BBQ has also been offering a Suicide Rib Challenge: Eat six “mouth scorching” pork ribs in 4 minutes and wait for 5 minutes without liquids to eat a free order of ribs, a t-shirt, toilet paper (!) and your photo on the “wall of fame”. Those who fail, however, get their picture on the “wall of shame”.
Contests aside, the meat itself is only part of the Texas barbecue experience. At the legendary Franklin barbecue and other central Texas joints, you order your drinks, sides and meat by the pound at a counter, and essentially a “make your own plate” of smoked meats and sides is delivered to you. With seating for only 26 people, the service and vibe at Yankee BBQ is rather intimate.
Nagy said bringing that service aspect of Texas barbecue is central to what he’s trying to achieve.
“Part of our draw is really the experience,” he said. “You don’t sit down, look at a menu and say, ‘I want Combo No.1 or Combo No. 2.’ You roll in and make your own combo. So you can grab two pork ribs, two slices of brisket, a hot link and a couple sides. We’ve gotten a great reception with that format.”
When we spoke, Yankee BBQ had only been open a month and Nagy said he was still in soft opening mode, often having to close a bit early after running out of barbecue. He added that he is probably going to have to step up his production of food, and beef ribs in particular.
“I’m trying to gauge how much food to make, but each week I’m making more beef ribs,” Nagy said. “We’re open by 11:00 a.m., and they’re gone by 1:30 p.m.”
3379 Lake Shore Rd, Hamburg, NY 14219
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.