Back when Cartwright was a Lake Texoma playground for all the area, Nick Williams would play around his grandfather’s business, a little stand that sold barbecued beef sandwiches and cold beer to passersby. Occasionally, he would get to help his grandfather, Nick Nichols, build a fire in the old brick pit and watch the meat smoke to its tender fullness.
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Forty years later, Williams runs a successful barbecue joint in downtown Colbert, along the main drag, right next door to his house. The barbecue gene skipped a generation in his family, but that early childhood spent around grandpa’s fire pit paid off for this Colbert resident.
At Williams Old Style Bar-B-Que on State Highway 91, Williams bragged on his barbecue just a bit. “It may not be perfect barbecue, but it’s the best around,” he said. Brag or not, if you ask his customers, they will call it a fair assessment, a real true fact.
White puffs of hickory smoke have floated skyward from Williams’ stand ever since he set it up. “My smokers haven’t gone cool in three years,” he said. That is a testament to the around-the-clock, long slow smoking it takes to produce enough barbecue to keep his devoted customers happy, full and coming back for more.
The most requested item is smoked beef. You can’t say brisket, because there is none to be found here. It’s all beef shoulder, which is a leaner cut of meat for barbecuing. Sometimes called “clod,” beef shoulder is perfectly suited for long, slow, moist cooking. “Yes, it costs a little more, but the final product is so much better,” Williams said. All the beef sandwiches come roughly chopped and are offered with red sauce or brown gravy sauce, hot or mild.
Williams said the brown gravy sauce, which he calls “liquid gold,” is central to the local barbecue scene. About ninety percent of the meat he sells leaves the stand with brown gravy sauce, usually the spicy variety. He goes through about eight gallons of the brown gravy sauce each day, a tasty tribute to its originator, the legendary PO Sam, whom Williams knew.
When he got into the barbecue business in 1979, Williams went in full bore, with a restaurant in Madill that could sit eighty. “I got my education in the business right there,” he said. Enough of an education at least to know he wanted to scale back to a stand.
In the early 1980s, he sold his Madill restaurant and built a stand in Colbert. As his family and his responsibilities grew, he sold the Colbert stand and went into corporate America. When he retired three years ago, he knew he was too young for a rocking chair, so Williams Old Style was born. “And we’ve been doing big business,” he said. “In fact, about every other tag I see on the cars leaving here is from Texas.”
He doesn’t want to work too hard though. This afternoon finds him sitting in an old leather chair inside his stand, surrounded by fifty pounds of potatoes to be peeled and sliced for his scratch-made potato salad. Young Atoria Medler, his right hand gal, is working away, chopping cabbage for homemade cole slaw.
A car pulls up to the window and the pair goes into action. In short order, a combo plate with what looks like five pounds of food is handed out to the customer, who smiles and licks his lips with anticipation.
Williams’ Old Style BBQ
Owner: Nick WIlliams
306 Moore Avenue