Pay no attention to the dummy in the corner, he’s not in line. The old prospector with the fixed stare is sort of the mascot who “sits” guard out front of the Old Mining Camp barbecue stand on Woodlawn Avenue in Denison.
At the Old Mining Camp, the brisket is smoked under a cloud of secrecy as carefully protected as the map to the mother lode. Owners Darrell and Rebecca Harris do not share their method of smoking or the kind of wood they use with anybody. This, they say, is the key to their success. Judging by the number of cars that pack the little stand’s parking lot most weekdays, they’re doing something right.
Some patrons who visit the Old Mining Camp on a regular basis say it is the best place in town to get a hamburger. Others swear by the one-pound, loaded baked potato covered in chopped brisket and spicy brown gravy sauce.
For the burgers, a seasoned, flat-top grill is the centerpiece inside the stand. Ground sirloin is mixed with a variety of ingredients, and half-pound burgers fly off the hot surface into warmed buns at lunchtime. The flat-top is so important to the Harris’ cooking that Rebecca Harris said if they build a new kitchen in their house, they are putting the flat-top grill in there as well.
But this is about barbecue, and barbecue draws folks to the Old Mining Camp for the ribs, brisket, and some of the best pulled pork around. The barbecue business is a fairly new venture for the couple. Darrell worked in construction for years, and was quite successful at it. It wasn’t until an injury caused him to leave construction altogether that he turned to the flea market and fair circuit as a home for his barbecue hobby.
“I’ve always loved barbecue, and I really liked making it. I met an old man who showed my wife and me the ropes, and I thought this was something I could really do,” Darrell said. After getting a taste for the business by running the stand at weekend events, the couple said they knew it was time to put down roots in their hometown of Denison.
The wood and technique—these are what Darrell Harris said are most critical in making memorable barbecue. Low and slow is the only hint at his method for cooking brisket, which sometimes is on the smoker for a whole night and day. He pulled apart a chunk of his brisket and pointed to a pinkish smoke ring. “That’s about a quarter inch, maybe more.” That smoke flavor is something he insists on.
Brisket plays a big part in the Harris’ entire menu, from that chopped brisket baked potato to something they call Frisket, which is a large order of fries, topped with brisket and onions and other tasty morsels. Most of the Old Mining Camp’s side dishes would be entrees just about anywhere else. That goes for the sausage stuffed peppers too. They come with spicy brown-gravy sauce. “You ain’t gonna leave here hungry,” Darrell Harris said with a wink.
Old Mining Camp
Owners: Darrell & Rebecca Harris
3003 S. Woodlawn Ave