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.
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.