Get in line. For more than two decades, first at Lew’s and now at Randy’s Bar-B-Que, the brisket and legendary stuffed peppers have had people lined up at the little stand at the intersecting corner of Spur 503 and Texoma Parkway in Denison.
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Randy Johnson is the pit master of this slice of the barbecue world. He will serve no brisket before its time. When asked if he sells “burnt ends,” the crispy part of the ends of the brisket, Randy smiled and said “Nah, you pay $4.50 for a sandwich, it ought to be right.”
That’s what sets this sliced brisket sandwich apart from others. Fork tender, a quarter-inch smoke ring graduating from pink to red through the top layer of the meat— it is what it’s all about. Watching Johnson trim the beef, you will see a lot of the meat tossed in a waste bin. Only the top of the line barbecue flies out that sliding window.
Lew Strong, who did it all before Johnson took over the pit, works alongside in the small building. Strong, who has been stuffing spicy sausage into pickled jalapenos—untold thousands of his signature side dish—for twenty-three years, was not ready to bow out just yet, and there is a good chance that his longtime customers would not have let him quit anyway.
For years, insiders knew to get to the stand by 10:30 or 11:00 in the morning to get their bag of stuffed peppers, or they would all be gone. Not the case anymore, said Strong as he stuffed another handful of the spicy sausage into a pepper, one of hundreds he had lined up to fry that Saturday morning. “We’ve got enough,” he said to no one in particular, and then moved over to the window to wait on one of the customers who were starting to line up in the cold wind.
Strong does not take credit for inventing this particular recipe for fried, stuffed pepper. It was Der Cheese shop in Sherman three decades ago that sparked his inspiration. But it is Strong who carries the torch today.
Working in tandem in the small stand, Johnson and Strong do the barbecue ballet during the lunch rush. In comes an order. There is the rata-tat-tat of a pair of cleavers on the cutting board before a double-fist portion of chopped brisket is weighed out on the Hobart scale, plopped onto a warm, buttered and toasted bun, quickly wrapped in butcher paper and passed out though the service window. “Twenty bucks,” Strong tells the patron, who laughs and gives him a five. And within a few seconds, another face appears in the window with another order.
“It’s always good and always tender,” said Herbert Flowers, Denison resident and a long-time customer, as he walked away from the stand with a bag full of sliced-beef sandwiches and stuffed peppers. “It’s just so juicy.”
Owner: Randy Johnson
3315 Woodlawn Blvd