Eats Beat

Here’s a new barbecue hit in Fort Worth with prime brisket, ribs and soul food flavor

The city’s best barbecue is not all on Magnolia Avenue or the west side.

Smoke-A-Holics BBQ is drawing barbecue customers to 1417 Evans Ave., where pitmaster Derrick Walker smokes and serves the same prime brisket, Duroc ribs and turkey.

It’s a first: a restaurant east of the South Freeway serving craft barbecue like Heim or Derek Allan’s or Panther City, but smoked over pecan wood with a lighter rub and sauce in a style Walker calls “Tex-soul.”

At Smoke-A-Holics, the flavor of the meat isn’t dominated by black pepper or sauce. You taste the prime brisket or top-grade pork, sliced meticulously and served on a tray with side dishes like smoked mac-and-cheese, collards with pork or baked beans with pork shoulder.

“It just seems like I’m the new guy on the scene, but I’ve been out here doing barbecue from a truck for years,” Walker said.

He used to set up shop on South Hulen Street, but decided to launch his restaurant closer to home.

He rented a popular neighborhood bakery known for wedding cakes and turned it into a barbecue palace that now draws crowds from John Peter Smith Hospital across the freeway and from new office developments nearby.

Texas Monthly magazine took an immediate liking, saying that Smoke-A-Holics is helping to revitalize the historic southside and Evans Avenue, much quieter now than in its rough-and-tumble days.

The customers say Smoke-A-Holics reminds them of Jimmie’s Bar-B-Que, a beloved 1970s-80s rib haven on East Tucker Street known for its garlicky rub.

Walker, 42, grew up going to the old Adam’s Rib restaurants or Robinson’s Bar-B-Que, still a good stop on East Berry Street,

He went to culinary school and used to run hospital food service.

Now he’s one of the young pitmasters giving Fort Worth a reputation as the “next big thing” in Texas barbecue.

“I love what’s going on,” he said.

“Barbecue was always big but suddenly people started getting awards for it. Now a lot of guys are getting creative — they’re doing some amazing stuff.”

He’s bucking the trend by not heavily peppering his brisket or using a thicker sauce. And he’s proud of focusing on “meat first.”

“In Central Texas they think you need black pepper to make a good brisket, but I took mine way back so people can taste the prime beef,” he said.

The sauce is particularly distinctive.

“It’s homemade with a little fruit undertone and peppers,” he said.

“I don’t want anything to take away from the meat.”

He buys smoked or jalapeno-cheddar sausage from a Waco company and sells 200 pounds a week, he said.

Smoke-A-Holics also sells chicken, turkey and rib tips. One special is the “Big Macc,” a bowl of smoked mac-and-cheese with choped brisket, sausage, onions and sauce ($8).

Walker plans to add smoked chicken-and-dumplings.

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Brisket, a rib and sausage at Smoke-A-Holics BBQ in Fort Worth Bud Kennedy bud@star-telegram.com

Plates cost $13-$17, sandwiches $5.50 (for bologna) and $7 up to $11.

Smoke-A-Holics also serves typical soul-food desserts such as sweet-potato pie and Coca-Cola cake.

Maybe the most notable point about Smoke-A-Holics: It’s open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Saturday, four full days and not one of two.

Look for it on Evans Avenue between East Rosedale and East Allen streets, two blocks east of the South Freeway (Interstate 35W); 817-386-5658, smoke-a-holicsbbq.com.

Columnist Bud Kennedy is a Fort Worth guy who covered high school football at 16 and has moved on to two Super Bowls, seven political conventions and 15 Texas Legislature sessions. Since 1985, he has also written more than 2,000 “Eats Beat” columns about Texas dining, restaurants and food.
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