WAXAHACHIE — She’s the “behind the scenes” queen. He’s the pitmaster of flavor.
Together, they make a dynamite couple that’s earned their restaurant, Harris Bar-B-Que, a spot on Texas Monthly’s “Top-50 Barbecue Joints in Texas.”
First-time restaurant owners, Kelvin Harris and Angie Guidry, have spent five years perfecting their flavor, ultimately turning the metal building on the hill to into a statewide travel destination.
“It’s exciting, and we’re blessed to be in the ‘Texas Monthly top 50,’” began Angie Guidry, co-owner of Harris Bar-B-Que. “We said from day one when we started the company, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to be in it to win it, and as far as we can take this, that’s where we want it to go.”
Pitmaster Kelvin Harris added, “I once heard a guy speak at my church in a seminar about success. And this guy said, ‘Don’t chase money, chase excellence.’ Because once you chase excellence, you won’t be able to get out of the way of money.”
“It has to be more than the money but about the people. Yeah, we want to make money — it’s a business — but we want to try to satisfy our customers because I have a reputation on the line,” he added.
Established in 2013 with a grand opening of over 300 people, the restaurant was a dream fulfilled for Harris and has been warmly greeted by the community ever since.
“For this to have started without any advertisement and just word of mouth says a lot,” Harris acknowledged. “That’s what’s kept me in business this long.”
“If it hadn’t been for our regulars who know about us and have been coming, we wouldn’t be here, and we really appreciate them. The city has been good to us and has welcomed us with open arms."
After he had begun to learn the tricks of the restaurant trade, Harris transitioned out of his former career with an aircraft mechanic shop and turned his passion for barbecue into his full-time job.
According to the Texas Restaurant Association, there are roughly 1.273 million restaurants in Texas, with approximately 11.6 percent of startups failing seven months after opening their doors.
None of which applies to Harris Bar-B-Que.
“Everybody knows in the state of Texas, you’ve got a barbecue joint on every corner,” Guidry laughed. “So to be chosen as one of the top 50, it’s a bonus for us because it’s increased business, and we’ve met people from all over."
“And not just Texas but people who just got off a plane and wanted to try our barbecue. I’ve met folks from Alaska to New York, Hawaii, California, and Indiana,” she included.
Located off Highway 77 in a barn-like red building, the aroma of hickory and pecan oak smoke carries through the air with a brisket that’s worth the "word of mouth."
“My thing is I want to keep it simple and consistent,” Harris described of his flavor. “So I use a salt and pepper rub because you can’t go wrong with one of the oldest seasonings in the world — there’s just something about that.”
“These are folks coming out to try this award-winning barbecue from Waxahachie, and when I think about that it’s like goose bumps because that’s us," Guidry acknowledged.
Rating four-out-of-five in Texas Monthly’s “Top-50 Barbeque Joints in Texas,” Harris held his own against other well-known pitmasters from Evie Mae’s Pit Barbeque, Bodacious Bar-B-Q, and Snow’s.
“The way we decide on the restaurant is through a personal visit from one of the staff members who’s working on the story,” Patricia Sharpe, Texas Monthly’s Executive Food Editor and restaurant critic explained. “And that would include either Daniel Vaughn, our Barbeque Editor, or me, and roughly two-dozen other people on staff and trusted freelancers."
Based on a five-point scoring system, with one rating poorly and five for the most superlative, Sharpe explained that the judges break down all aspects of the meal — from meats to side dishes, sauces, and desserts.
Nothing is left unnoticed.
“And we add up the score, and we also give it an overall score based on our own impression of being there,” Sharpe stated. “We had people on the road for a good two months of intensive eating and got back and pulled out the ones that scored four and above, which means better than average.”
“We then made up a list, and that ended up being around 75 [restaurants], and then we started looking at the details and narrowed it down until we got to 50,” she added.
Sharpe also notes over 400 barbecue restaurants were visited and sampled throughout Texas during the four-year study, handpicking only the best of the best to be in June’s issue.
Selected and recognized for his hard work, the list describes Harris as a “backyard warrior” with “stellar brisket” and a pineapple juice–spiked sauce that “elevates his pulled pork sandwiches, while a side of pinto beans, finished with fresh tomatoes and scrap beef and pork, is a meal unto itself.”
The unique hotspot not only rose above the average rating when it came to taste and presentation of the meat but also for its friendliness and “family-like” quality.
“We have customers who will come in here and ask about the wood or how Kelvin makes the brisket," Guidry described. "And they’ll get in a conversation, and before you know it, the entire dining room is involved in this conversation, so it’s pretty cool to be in here when it does."
“We think of it as more as a family-oriented place where we walk around and talk to everybody, and once our customers get to know us, they’ll fit right in."
From mothers-to-be to grandparents and first-time visitors, Guidry takes pride in the close-knit atmosphere their restaurant inspires.
“We had a regular who was a sister with two brothers, and she came in one time and said that their brother passed away,” said Guidry, as she shook her head. “And it was so hurtful because we knew them and Kelvin was close friends with the guy, so Kelvin took food to the whole family for free.”
As the celebration of recognition continued, Texas Monthly also added a “2017 Top-50 BBQ Map." Though the roadmap stretches from El Paso to San Antonio and Dallas, Harris Bar-B-Que is a central must-stop tourist attraction in Waxahachie.
“That Passport Book, whoever came up with that – genius,” chuckled Guidry. “It’s giving customers something to look forward to and when they’re coming in and have already told me they’ve been to five other places and they’ve got the stamps on there. It's fun, especially when they've got the majority of it filled up."
With a delicious brisket for the palate, a stamp for the tourist's barbecue passports, and a heart for the community, it’s no wonder the restaurant was chosen to represent Waxahachie.
“Just being a consistent and friendly place in this town, it's a tough job, but I'm glad it's my job. For me, that’s my number one thing,” Harris affirmed.
As for the future of Harris Bar-B-Que, Harris and Guidry are already making preparations for the next list to come out in 2021, determined to crack the top ten.
“I know that Kelvin is capable of being up there with the big boys in the top ten and that’s where he wants to be,” Guidry encouraged. “So we’re starting now to make changes, and we’ll make any adjustments we need to between now and when that time comes around.”
“We’ve stayed consistent, we love our customers, and we’re already ready for what’s next,” she finished.
To connect with Harris Bar-B-Que, visit the restaurant at 220 U.S. Highway 77, Waxahachie, or call (972)-923-0040.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer