Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stanley's Famous Pit Barbecue

            Nestled about one hundred miles southeast of Dallas, Tyler, Texas is home to approximately one hundred thousand residents. It serves as home to the University of Texas at Tyler and a branch of the University of Texas Health Center. Brookshire’s, the East Texas-Northern Louisiana grocery store chain is also headquartered there. Thanks to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the good folks at DGA have spent a lot of time in Tyler over the past ten or fifteen years. Our frequent visits to Tyler mean we’ve gotten to know the city quite a bit. So this week we decided to start by introducing one of our favorite spots to eat in Tyler: Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue.

The Exterior of Stanley's 

            While Stanley’s itself opened in 1958, the location of the restaurant had been home to another barbecue restaurant that had two different owners. J.D. Stanley opened the current restaurant in 1958 and it has been in continuous operation for almost sixty years.  J.D. Stanley owned the restaurant until his death in 2006. Rather than continue to run the business themselves, Stanley’s family sold the restaurant to Nick and Jen Pencis. The Pencis’ renovated the interior of the restaurant, expanded the pit, and added an enclosed patio that features live music six nights a week. They also expanded Stanley’s alcohol menu to include a variety of craft beers from Texas and over 70 types of bourbon, whiskey, and rye.

            Back in 2012, as the restaurant was undergoing renovation, Pencis’ decided to change some of the restaurant’s signature items as well. Instead of serving lightly seasoned brisket without any fat, he embraced a heavy coating of salt and pepper and instructed servers to leave the fat on. The highlight of Stanley’s menu is the pork ribs. Covered in an 11-spice mixture, the ribs fall off the bone. The smoked turkey is peppery and moist. Stanley’s pulled pork has a little bit of bark mixed in with a strong vinegary sauce. The Pencis’ also expanded the food menu to include vegetarian options, threw out the commercially made sausage in favor of one from a local butcher shop. Unlike most barbecue restaurants, Stanley’s is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At breakfast there are breakfast bowls, sandwiches and burritos. The lunch and dinner menus are more traditionally barbecue with sandwiches, meat plates, and a variety of homemade sides.

            As a result of these menu changes and the Pencis’ devotion to the staple items at Stanley’s, Daniel Vaughn at Texas Monthly Magazine has consistently included Stanley’s on his list of the 50 Best BBQ Restaurants in Texas and the world. So the next time you find yourself in Tyler, make sure you give Stanley’s a try.