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After spending the last year at home, we’re ready to fill up with gas and go somewhere. BBQ Road Trip is a series in that we make a day trip to visit barbecue spots outside of Dallas just in time for the summer road trip season.
Heading west on US 380, the road slopes to the left as we come to the top of a hill and wind turbines shoot out from the horizon. In our travels across the state, we’ve come to recognize wind farms as the surest sign that we’ve escaped the clutches of big cities. But for paved roads, the landscape today looks like it was 50 or 100 years earlier when times were perhaps simpler.
It was this desire to get away from the hustle and bustle that drove Jack Nichols, his wife Ashley, and their three children to Jacksboro. Jack worked in the oil and gas industry and Ashley was a trauma nurse in Fort Worth, but the opportunity to live a quiet country life was too good to pass up, so they sold their house to Aledo and bought a large lot in Jack. County.
Then COVID happened and Jack was fired. He remembers a Sunday morning when he found inspiration for his next career, Mesquiteville Bar-BQ.
Ashley and Jack Nichols (with their youngest daughter Carter and Merle the goldendoodle) from Mesquiteville Bar-BQ.
“I was sitting next to my smoker, smoking a chest and reading my Bible,” he says. “My wife came out and I said to her, ‘I think God wants me to open a barbecue.'”
Ashley’s response was a little more pragmatic.
“He told me that Jesus wanted him to open a barbecue restaurant,” says Ashley. “I said ‘Jesus didn’t say that; Jesus wants you to find a job!'”
Jack, however, was already persuaded. According to him, he already smoked mesquite wood, his new home was surrounded by mesquite trees, and he lived in Jacksboro, known as Mesquiteville in the 1850s. The name of his new barbecue business was within reach. hand.
The Mesquiteville Bar-BQ Home is a 1950s RV that Nichols bought from Facebook that was being used on a nearby deer lease. Nichols gutted the interior (“It was a wall-to-wall green shag rug,” he recalls) and turned it into the kitchen, then stripped the exterior paint and named the side after Mesquiteville. He bought a small, staggered smoker on a trailer, which resides in a shed behind the motorhome.
The combo of three breast, sausage and pulled pork from Mesquiteville Bar-BQ.
Seating is all outside, with picnic tables scattered around the property. Nichols opened this operation on Highway 281 in February, just before snow covered much of Texas and hit the ground running.
“We opened just before Snowmageddon, then spent most of the spring raining, and now summer is in full swing,” Nichols says, as we dine in the already scorching late afternoon sun. .
For someone with no barbecue experience (other than a six month stint at Cooper’s Barbecue when he was younger), Nichols’ food already epitomizes Central Texas style.
“I just use salt and pepper and that mesquite smoke,” he says. “People say mesquite is overwhelming, but it’s not as long as you make a clean fire.”
We’re only a few bites away, and it’s clear Nichols knows what he’s talking about. Using brisket slices as examples, the smoke from the mesquite is noticeable but not oppressive, and the simple rubbing of salt and pepper has formed an impressive rind on each slice. The flavor is remarkable, especially when most places in North Texas lean towards oak, which produces a milder smoky flavor.
Salt, pepper and mesquite smoke; three simple ingredients make this chest magical.
We also tried the pulled pork and the Mesquiteville sausage, both also smoked with aplomb. Nichols also gave us a taste of one of his pork ribs, which he is most proud of. Again, a simple rub of salt and pepper does the heavy lifting, paired with a tomato and vinegar-based sauce of Nichol’s invention. The end result was perfectly cooked, with just enough texture for the pork to carefully pull away from the bone.
At just $ 15.99 and including two sides, our Three Meat Plate reflects the economy of the small town location, serving in a trailer and sitting outside. We are fully aware that this level of quality would surely cost more in Dallas.
There’s something relaxing about driving west, as Fort Worth melts in the rearview mirror and the sprawling West Texas beginnings stretch the windshield. Mesquiteville Bar-BQ is a reminder of that easier, more relaxing lifestyle, and it’s something Jack and Ashley Nichols are happy to share with visitors.
“Everything went well as it was supposed to be,” says Nichols of leaving a stable job and leaving town. “I am here, I am happy, my family love it and I am doing something that I love.”
Mesquiteville Bar-BQ, 501 S. Main St., Jacksboro. Open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday
Road trip details
From our downtown offices, the shortest route to Jacksboro is to travel to the west side of Fort Worth, then take State Highway 199 west until it merges with US 281 just south of Jacksboro, for a 95 mile one-way trip.. If your trip starts north of Dallas, Interstate 35E North to US 380 is a better bet. No matter where you start from, once you step out of the main highways the drive is scenic and enjoyable.
Make it a day
Granted, Jacksboro is a small town without a lot of attractions, serving more as a home for people seeking the peace and quiet of rural life. That said, Mesquiteville Bar-BQ hosts the Mesquiteville musical series on Saturday nights. Jack Nichols prepares additional dishes and stays open later while local musicians perform for patrons. The events are BYOB. Eating an outdoor barbecue, an adult drink in hand, while listening to live music is the essence of Texan summer. Details on upcoming acts are on The Mesquiteville Facebook page.
After the Civil War, Fort Richardson was once the largest military installation in the country and protected settlers along the Texas border. Today, Fort Richardson State Park honors this history with interactive tours of the remaining structures, with tours that can be done on foot, by bike or on horseback. Swimming, fishing and camping are also options.
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