When God himself tells you to open a barbecue restaurant there’s only one thing left to do.
You open a barbecue restaurant.
Which is exactly what the good Reverend James Davis Jr did in 1994 after he had a vision compelling him to do the Lord’s work through the power of smoked meat.
Back in the late 1950’s James Davis Jr was just a little sprout who used to accompany his dad to the Taylor Rodeo Grounds. This being a Texas of a different era, the grounds were segregated, except when it came time to eat. That’s when the white folks came over to the Black folks’ side of the grounds to eat Reverend Davis’ daddy’s barbecue.
This was the old school Texas pit barbecue where a hole was dug in the ground and the meat placed on burning embers. A tradition that’s transcended time and place for the last few thousand years.
The young Davis watched carefully as he learned at the knee of his elder. It’s the same all over; An elderly Kurd teaching his son how to cook the lamb in the Van region of eastern Turkey, an Alabama grandfather showing the smoked pig ropes to his son’s son or a weathered Texas ranch hand digging a ditch line to put a whole steer in to feed the hands in the bunk house.
I reckon there’s nothing new under the sun.
I know I’m in the right spot when I walk into Davis Grocery and Barbecue and a couple portly farm boys are tucking into big plates of brisket and sausage along with sides of sour cream and onion potato chips and Big Red soda pop.
The good reverend is working the counter along side his right hand man; Taylor Texas dj legend Rodney Johnson. The power of smoked meat being what it is I quickly find myself out back next to the smoker with Rev Davis, a roaring fire and an inner look at the perspective of the man running the business.
We discuss the power of both the spiritual [ the mind ] and the physical [ the brisket ] and how the two intertwine to form a sum greater than their parts.
I inquire as to whether the good reverend will be ministering anytime soon as his unique perspective of weaving meat together with philosophy is intriguing to me. He explains that he preached last weekend at nearby Zion Chapel Baptist Church as they were waiting for their new minister to take charge. Unfortunately he has no immediate plans to minister.
I make a mental note to call this man periodically and find out if he’s going to be in the pulpit as his rhetoric is fascinating. After going to church 6 days a week for much of my youth I haven’t felt the need to attend Sunday service in some time but this man’s philosophy is intriguing. The proximity of the church to the barbecue restaurant [ one block ] I assure you has little to do with it.
Back inside I order a slab of brisket and a plump link of beef sausage. In his role as pit boss, Davis carefully cuts the fat away as he’s determined for me to get my money’s worth. I intercede and explain that he’s trimming my favorite part, he smiles “I’ll give you that at no charge, most folks don’t like that fatty part”
The brisket is indeed divine with a thick crusty bark giving way to a luscious layer of fat which in in turns concedes to a smoky, lean interior. I’ve eaten the efforts of the major players from here to Kentucky and back and this is as fine as you’re ever going to encounter.
The sausage is from O’Brien Meats over on 2nd street in downtown Taylor. It’s a good, commercial effort on par with the big two down in Elgin. It’s beefiness is magnified greatly by time spent on the big, mesquite powered smoker out back.
Any august Texas barbecue joint provides onion, pickle and saltines to go with their smoked meat. Davis Grocery is no different.
I make my way to leave as right hand man Rodney Johnson finishes serving a customer. I haven’t shared conversation with him yet but that’s about to change.
Mr. Johnson is a former celebrity dj from Taylor. A charismatic man, he walks me through the timeline of his life beginning when he was a young man with a radio show on KTAE and continuing up to the present day and his life in both Tyler Texas and Taylor Texas where he spends his weekends helping his cousin Davis run his restaurant.
As fellow record collectors and djs we have a lot of ground to cover and indeed few stones are left unturned. As I take my leave I’m struck by the graciousness and hospitality of everyone I’ve met at this tiny little barbecue stand down near the railroad tracks in south Taylor Texas.
Perhaps the old maxim is true that the Lord does move in mysterious ways.
more Texas bbq right this wayhttp://chowpapi.com/?cat=84
400 South Robinson Street