I watched David Scott Walker prepare a brisket at the recent Memphis in May World Championship
Barbecue Cooking Contest. I wasn’t able to return 13 hours later to taste the finished product, but Walker told me the preparation and the cooking process was about the same as the way it’s done at his restaurant, Stanley Bar B Que in Overton Square.
Well, the restaurant version brought back memories of that smoky-meaty aroma and all the fun on the banks of the Mississippi River about a month ago. Except this time, I could linger over my meal at one of the long wooden tables inside Walker’s air-conditioned restaurant.
His brisket is cooked in the “hill country” style, Walker said. Ninety percent of his family lives in Texas, so they visited several cities there on summer vacations when he was growing up. “For the most part it’s salt and pepper and then you rely on A - having real good meat. And B - having real good wood. Those are the two flavor components. You really don’t want to add too much in your rub. A little paprika, whatever, that’s fine. But it’s mainly salt and pepper. And you let the meat and the wood shine through. That’s what we do on the river.”
You almost could cut Walker’s brisket with a feather. I asked him how he cooked it.
“We do it the right way,” he said. “We’ll start off in the morning with a charcoal chimney and let the creosote of the charcoal burn off. And then the rest of the day it’s nothing but wood. Depending on what meats we’re cooking depends on what kind of wood we’re using.”
With brisket, they start with cherry wood, Walker said. “That helps get a good smoke ring around it. Then we move to a fruitwood. We love peach. We love apple. Really love pear, but pear’s tough to get. Then after a few hours of that we switch over to hickory.”
Final cooking stage is to wrap the meat in parchment and plastic wrap and let it cook for 12 to 16 hours depending on the size of the brisket.
Walker learned how to grill growing up in Raleigh-Bartlett. “It was a really close-knit neighborhood. We had block parties all the time. We’d do Fourth of July parties. All kinds of things. Fireworks. But we were always grilling, whether it be barbecue or just straight-up grill - hot dogs, hamburgers. We built a pool so we were the house that everyone came to. So, I think that’s where it all started.”
I asked how popular his brisket was at the restaurant. “The pork is, obviously, king of Memphis, but there are a lot of people who really do love brisket. And you can’t really find it in a lot of places. And if you do find it, hopefully, it’s done right.
“If you’ve never had really good smoked beef, I think you’re missing out. A lot of people - especially around this area - when they visit Texas they’ll diss the barbecue. It’s mainly because they’ll try some pork barbecue in Texas. Which is their first mistake. Get what they do right. Go to Texas. Try some beef barbecue. Get their beef ribs. Get their brisket. And I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Walker originally opened his restaurant as a German restaurant, Schweinehaus, but switched to the barbecue format last April. People constantly told him they wanted a barbecue restaurant in Overton Square, he said. “They missed the Public Eye. They missed that something they’re familiar with. This town loves barbecue and we grew up doing it. So, we said, ‘Let’s follow our passion.’”
And, he said, “My father passed away at Christmastime. And he was a big barbecue guy.”
His dad was the one who did most of that grilling when they were growing up. “His name was ‘Stanley.’ Hence the name. I hope he’s smiling down on us. I hope he’s proud.”
Stanley Bar B Que is at 2110 Madison in Overton Square; (901) 347-3060