No matter who persuaded whom to open the minimalist barbecue joint in the tiny municipality of Draper, which was once a glorified RV park just west of Argyle, 407 BBQ is, quickly and with good reason, becoming the town’s second landmark.
The first landmark? The liquor store in whose yard the temporary singlewide trailer currently sits.
The municipality of Draper was called Corral City until late last year, when it was renamed for its former mayor, James “Eddie” Draper, who took over the incorporated municipality in 1993, when it was just 20 acres of land with a combination convenience-liquor store off the intersection of I-35W and Farm Road 407.
Since Draper (now) and Corral City (then) contracts with Argyle for city services, many people simply refer to it as Argyle, not realizing the tiny burg even exists.
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Bryan McLarty opened 407 BBQ in the trailer last winter in the liquor store’s yard, and has already expanded once, from walk-up service to a sparse dining room. He’s preparing to grow again in two months or so, before a permanent location is installed back at the same spot that his trailer currently occupies.
“After the first couple weeks, people realized there was something good inside that trailer,” McLarty said. “That we weren’t just a band of traveling Gypsies.”
And while McLarty says David Karr, a manager for RCG Partners, which now owns the roughly 100 acres on which the town rests, persuaded him to set down roots in the location after tasting his product, Karr says McLarty was the one doing the persuading. Persuading Karr to take his first bite, that is.
Whichever way it went, it hasn’t taken any arm-twisting to win over the hearts and minds of those who step through the threshold of the trailer to try McLarty’s hickory-smoked meat art. While he sports rather spartan digs at the moment, as 407 is outfitted with just five tables and a kitchen that measures 160 square feet, the future is as bright as the merlot-colored smoke ring that ripples throughout his sliced brisket.
McLarty has been in the commercial catering business for 18 years, and has been cooking barbecue for 43 of his 53 years. His philosophy only goes as far as “keep it simple” and “let the meat speak for itself.”
“You don’t see many people come in wearing skinny jeans,” he says with a laugh.
All the smoking currently occurs off site, at a rented place a half-mile down the road. But all that will change when the restaurant’s third phase is put into action. McLarty estimates that it will take 45-60 days before a second trailer is delivered to the lot across Corral City Drive, and his current trailer is disassembled and adjoined to the new one in an offset T-shape. Then 407 will be up and running again, this time with an 850-square-foot kitchen.
That will allow 407 to immediately increase output of its hickory-smoked treasures and to cook on-site when McLarty’s bigger, badder kitchen is tagged by the state for commercial use. As it is, he says he still sells out of one or two items a day.
It’s no wonder why. A thick, flavorful bark encases 407’s brisket and ribs — the signature of a precise hickory cook. McLarty gets his hickory wood from northwest Arkansas and burns it on Old Hickory rotisserie smokers, which he calls “the premium smoker.”
“It’s not so much like the East Texas-type hickory, with the thick bark that gets kind of acrid and real smoky,” McLarty said. “That premium wood up there in that area is the thin bark, so you get just the nice, sweet flavor. You don’t have the bitterness that the really smoky hickory can give you.”
He likes a specific brand of prime black Angus from Nebraska, whose briskets ($10 sandwich with chips, $17 per pound) come correct with a thin ribbon of fat and an interconnected meshwork throughout each slice, which lets your order dance in the sweet spot between what other restaurants refer to as lean or moist. Slices are slightly thicker than usual, which makes finishing that three-meat plate ($18) a real challenge.
McLarty goes more local with his sausage ($14 per pound), sourcing two types from Syracuse Sausage Company in Ponder. If the choice is still yours to make, assuming McLarty isn’t sold out of either, go with the jalapeño cheese sausage, because, duh, jalapeños and cheese.
The ribs ($13 half-rack, $25 full rack) come out with a darker finish than some might be used to, but, aye, that there’s just the rub. McLarty uses the same rub, which is primarily salt, pepper and garlic, on brisket and pulled pork and sprinkled over the mac and cheese, a side item that usually sells out when it’s available Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The other standout side is the smoked corn on the cob, which also gets a helping of the peppery rub to give it a healthy kick in the pants.
Wednesdays are also is Wingdays at 407, just because McLarty likes them. He’s in charge. He gets that privilege.
Plump jumbo whole wings ($9 special with chips) come off the fire after 90 minutes to two hours in the smoke and are topped with a competition rub not near as peppery as the brisket and rib rub. The result is moist and meaty, a minor midweek miracle.
Like the rest of 407’s mains, the wings render sauce an afterthought, but that doesn’t mean McLarty hasn’t put any thought into it. He’s seen Head Country, which you can buy at the local big box store, win “best sauce” on the competition scene for 10 years, so why not, right?
“That’s what’s cool about barbecue; different flavors for different folks,” McLarty said. “We’ve got plenty of people who forgo sauce altogether, and you shouldn’t need a whole lot if you do like it. All it’s there for is to complement the flavor in the meat.”
Right now, 407 has set up shop in a puzzling destination for the Tarrant County barbecue fiend. But with development creeping that way, 407 BBQ is poised to be the existing brand in town when that area west of Argyle becomes the next Flower Mound.
“We’d like to be the existing location and watch this community grow up around us,” McLarty said. “It’d be cool to grow up with this area.”
He hopes to be in his permanent building by the first part of 2018, so he’s growing a little quicker than the population is, but his plan is to be there for the long haul.
Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817