The slogan for Baker Boys BBQ in Gonzales is “Come and taste it.” The critics at Texas Monthly have done so and the accolades continue to pile up like fresh-sliced brisket for this family-owned business.
The magazine released its “The Top 50 Texas BBQ Joints: 2021 Edition” list on Monday, Oct. 18, in advance of the November issue drop and Baker Boys BBQ smoked a lot of top-notch competition, including some very venerated Lockhart institutions, to again make the cut.
This is the second time the restaurant — owned by father Phil Baker, 69, and son Wayne Baker, 40 — has made it into the top 50 in what many consider the “barbecue bible” for the Lone Star state. The first kudos came in 2017, just two years after the restaurant opened; now they are one of just 21 restaurants from the 2017 list to make a repeat appearance in the 2021 version.
Creating the list — of which this was the sixth generated since 1997 — is no small undertaking for Texas Monthly, as it required 32 editorial staffers and three freelancers to make unannounced visits to more than 400 barbecue joints throughout the state in a period of just eight weeks throughout the spring and summer.
And just in case you are wondering, Texas Monthly paid for all the food it ate to keep it completely fair and unbiased. So what did they have to say about the Gonzales restaurant?
“When a joint executes the holy trinity as well as Baker Boys does, you’d be forgiven for overlooking its other meat options,” Texas Monthly wrote. “But don’t make that mistake here. The smoked turkey, generous half chicken, roasted raspberry-chipotle-glazed pork loin, and chicken legs stuffed with jalapeño and onion should not be missed.”
One of the ways Baker Boys stands out is through the use of charcoal and indirect heat for most of their meats as opposed to the pecan, post oak or other wood used as a fuel source by other area pitmasters, especially those in Lockhart, Luling and other restaurants in the state’s “Barbecue Belt.”
“Charcoal burns clean and doesn’t give the meat too heavy of a smoke flavor,” said Wayne Baker. “You get the flavor in the meat, but it isn’t overpowering. It burns consistently and our pits can run all night on the charcoal without having to have someone there watching them all night. We can cook a brisket for 14 to 17, 18 hours and leave them alone.”
Wayne Baker said he also believes the strengths of the restaurant are menu variety and consistency of product — a brisket or sausage or chicken at Baker Boys BBQ tastes the same each and every time you visit.
There are also plenty of sides, including two types of beans and two types of potatoes, all made in-house and desserts that include some of the best banana pudding and chocolate meringue pie in the state.
“We have a pretty wide menu for the barbecue joints around here and we put out a consistent product, a good product,” the younger Baker said.
“There are very few people that can make the stuffed chicken and not come up with shorter fingers,” Phil Baker added with a laugh. “But that’s one of our secrets we have, along with good desserts, like my mother’s banana pudding.”
The elder Baker said he learned a lot about meat while working at Boysen’s Market when he was young and he also learned he had a talent for cooking not just a lot of food, but a lot of good food.
“It's all just stuff that I learned how to make. I was a cook in the Army National Guard and it’s not all that I just learned there, because my daddy was also a cook. We’ve learned a lot about cooking that has made it easier than what it used to be.
“My daddy was a firm believer if that chicken leg didn't twist, it wasn’t ready. That joint had to give. And what we've learned is that by the time you get there now, you have lost a lot of your juices in the meat. So now we use a thermometer and we go by the temperature of the meat.”
Innovation also continues at Baker Boys when it comes to looking at new menu options.
“If someone shoots something at us and we think it might work, we’ll try it, but we’ll try it in-house before we put it on our menu.” Phil Baker said.
“We did the Texas Monthly barbecue road trip promotion the week before last,” Wayne Baker said. “We cooked a barbecue meatloaf (an all-beef version smoked on the pit and glazed with a sauce reduction) and pork steaks. Now, because a lot of people are asking us to cook those, we're gonna start doing the pork steaks every Tuesday, and the meatloaf we’ll do periodically.”
Baker Boys BBQ is located at 1404 N. Sarah DeWitt Drive in Gonzales.