When it comes to Beaumont restaurants, Patillo’s Bar-B-Q has become one of the city’s most famous eateries. This legendary dining destination has received loads of press over the years, including attention from Texas Monthly magazine and inclusion in Southern Living’s 50th Anniversary Issue, which highlighted the South’s most legendary barbecue joints. Early in 2016, Patillo’s was also featured in a new short film created by the Southern Foodways Alliance. Not bad recognition for a Beaumont restaurant that competes for attention from big-city barbecue joints in Dallas, Houston and Austin—and that’s just in Texas.
With its dark wood paneling, vinyl tablecloths in large red and white gingham check, and minimal wall decor, the Patillo’s interior may not seem very impressive. But there’s no doubt the food leaves a lasting impression. In fact, some TripAdvisor reviewers swear that Patillo’s serves Beaumont’s best-barbecued meats.
Consistency has been a big key to the stellar reputation that Patillo’s has achieved. Five generations of family members have learned to make everything from scratch—and that’s the only way they will do it. As of spring 2015, Patillo’s was the oldest family-owned barbecue establishment in Texas, according to Southern Living. It was also the oldest black-owned barbecue restaurant found anywhere in the state.
Founded by Frank ‘Little Jack’ Patillo, the original restaurant opened in 1912. Since that time Patillo’s has occupied nearly half a dozen locations, including a current storefront that opened in 1956. The Patillo family kept the business alive during then 1950s and segregation, where they kept separate dining room area in the back for blacks. It was a business decision that reflected the times. In addition, black folks who lived in this area during that period rarely had enough money to buy the links, anyway. That’s according to an interview with the restaurant’s current patriarch Robert Patillo in Texas Monthly.
Robert began working in the family business, during his teen years. Now in his late 60s, he has no plans to depart the Beaumont restaurant any time soon. “I want to be here a while, maybe 10 more years,” Robert told Texas Monthly. Today, hickory, red oak, white oak, and pecan wood fuel the brick-walled fire pit where family members and other staff prepare their juicy and well-flavored meats. Hand-written menus announce the day’s offerings. Prices at Patillo’s range from $4 for an enormous chopped barbecue sandwich to less than $11 for a massive plate that features chicken, brisket, and three sides.
Although the thin-sliced brisket served here has minimal smoke flavor, the meat features a good crust as well as a thin pink ring. Perfectly smoked skin is a hallmark of the chicken served at Patillo’s, while meaty fall-off-the-bone ribs sport a tasty black-crust too. Sliced beef on the menu all comes from shoulder meat. But you won’t find sweet, tomato-based barbecue sauce here; instead it’s mildly spicy.
This restaurant’s greatest claim to culinary fame is probably its iconic house-made beef “juicy links.” This is the only Patillo’s dish where you’ll find brisket meat. Robert says Patillo’s uses a recipe for these popular links that was created before the business began and that it likely originated in Beaumont. On average Patillo’s creates 500 of these scratch-made beef links at any one time, which will only last for a couple of days.
Typically busiest during weekday lunch service, Patillo’s is open Monday through Saturday, but the restaurant closes in early evening. “Though the business has occupied multiple locations over the decades, the core of the menu’s offering has remained the same: flavorful ribs, smoked chicken, and the iconic East Texas ‘juicy links,’” says Southern Living.