1701 Barbecue brings style Central Texas to Beaumont
If you have ever spent any time in Beaumont, or grew up there like I did, when you first hear about 1701 Barbecue, you might question what in the heck a Central Texas-style barbecue joint is doing there. Or what happened in the year 1701, only to find that it’s named for its address on Calder Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare.
Beaumont is unique in the Texas barbecue world. It has its own style — I call it Southeast Texas-style — that all but ignores beef brisket, which is king in every other region of the Lone Star State. It specializes in fat-laden, all-beef sausage links that are considered an acquired taste outside the city limits. It’s home to one of the state’s oldest continuously operating barbecue joints, Patillo’s Bar-B-Q, which hung out its shingle in 1912.
Since the rise of the Central Texas-focused craft-barbecue movement 10 years ago, I’ve wondered if this style of barbecue could ever catch on in Beaumont, with its own deeply entrenched tradition.
1701 Calder, Beaumont; 1701barbecue.com
Closed Sundays and Mondays
Blue Broussard, owner and pitmaster of 1701 Barbecue, wondered the same thing.
“We really had no idea if anyone would show up,” says Broussard, referring to opening day on Dec. 1.
But show up they did. Beaumonters, as well as the occasional out-of-town barbecue explorer, continue to form a line that stretches to the back of the building.
Broussard is an unlikely candidate to helm one of the newest Central Texas-style barbecue joints in Texas. His family owns Broussard’s Mortuary, which has been providing funeral services in Beaumont since 1889. By his own account, his lot in life was to take over the family business from his father, Jim.
And that’s exactly what he did, before being bitten by the barbecue bug. After college and mortuary school (yes, there is such a thing), he worked full time in the family business while cooking barbecue at home as a hobby. He got serious around 2011, after the craft-barbecue boom got started.
“I watched every video and read every book (about cooking barbecue),” says Broussard.
In 2015, he and a friend bought a barbecue trailer and started doing pop-ups across Beaumont. Though well received, they couldn’t get enough traction to move to the next level, so they sold the trailer in 2019 and Broussard went back to the mortuary.
Broussard continued to cook for family functions, and eventually his father and sister Jayme encouraged him to go all-in on his passion. With the blessing of his wife, Rachel, he made the switch and transformed a family-owned building into one of the most notable, if somewhat incongruous, Central Texas-style joints in the state.
On a recent visit, the Prime-grade brisket was perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the meaty St. Louis-cut pork ribs had a not-too-sweet wet mop. Broussard, with help from pit hands Derek Ray and Travis Cox, makes all the sausage in-house. This is unusual for a new joint but almost a necessity, considering the long tradition of sausagemaking in this city’s barbecue history.
As I stood in line before the day’s opening, I looked across the street at the vacant lot where an original location of the Felix Mexican Restaurant chain, a Southeast Texas staple for decades, once stood. I spent many evenings there with family and friends eating chips and the Felix queso. It was a visceral reminder of the unique and sometimes inscrutable culinary traditions of Southeast Texas.
I suspect there was some temptation to just replicate an Austin-type, Central Texas barbecue experience here. But Broussard has deftly blended what is essentially a foreign style of barbecue with the feel of Beaumont as a place, starting with the location and its reflection in the name of the restaurant.