Texan barbecue in Guatemala


It was a rainy August night in Antigua, Guatemala, as my trembling ankles walked through centuries-old cobblestone streets in search of just one thing: a Texan barbecue.

A strange undertaking, no doubt, especially when I could easily have gorged myself on subanik, seed, and a host of other Mayans or Guatemalans comidas tipicas. Instead, I had ventured to Central America during a state of calamity to look for a barbecue restaurant.

With the Agua volcano erupting somewhere in the cloud cover behind me, I jumped into a puddle of the famous Santa Catalina Arch, turning a block west to find an indescribable red building at the corner of 6th and 6th with a small sign:

Pappy’s BBQ – Autentico Texas – Ahumado Con Lena

Texas brisket, country pulled pork, and homemade sausage appeared at my table a few minutes later, along with frijoles Tejanas, elote jalepeno, and a Texan margarita big enough to take away any hesitation I had to opt for familiar hometown cuisine over the tempting local eateries just around the corner.

One bite was all I needed to know it wasn’t a facsimile of the iconic barbecue technique. It was the real deal. As intrigued as I was as to exactly how they got Texas quality quality despite being 1,300 miles from the border, a more pressing question arose in the front of my barbecue brain. . Why?

Grandpa : The name in Guatemalan barbecue

Pappy’s barbecue in Antigua, Guatemala is called the “BEST barbecue outside of Texas”.

Nick dauk

“Every time we enter a contest, we win first place in all categories,” says Blake Thurgood, owner of Pappy’s BBQ. Texas, we would walk away with top marks.

Even those who have never been to the Lone Star State know this is a bold statement. And yet, Thurgood stands beside his words with as much confidence as he is humbled.

Original Texan born in Corpus Christi and a graduate of UT Austin, Thurgood has a personality almost as irresistible as the sliced ​​beef brisket in his kitchen. He invited me to meet him at Pappy’s on a Saturday afternoon for a deep dive into his business. Welcoming me to his bustling restaurant like an old friend, Thurgood was genuinely flattered that I had traveled from Florida specifically to tell the story of the smoker.

And this story begins with a shocking confession: “I didn’t know anything about barbecue when I decided to open Pappy’s. After graduating from UT, Thurgood set off to travel the world. His first stop was Antigua, a city he fell so deeply in love with that he stayed there for two years. Just before leaving, he met a local who would become his wife and eventually returned to Guatemala to be with her.

“At the end of the trip, I signed up for a one-year program at the McCombs School of Business,” says Thurgood. “I brought my wife for a visit and she fell in love with Texan barbecue. She said her great-great-grandfather’s home in Antigua was the perfect place to open a restaurant.

Pappy's BBQ owner Blake Thurgood is a native Texan who fell in love with Antigua the first time he visited and decided to stay.  He admitted that he

Pappy’s BBQ owner Blake Thurgood is a native Texan who fell in love with Antigua the first time he visited and decided to stay. He admitted he “didn’t know anything about barbecue” when he decided to open Pappy’s.

Nick dauk

With experience without any barbecue experience, Thurgood reached out to as many Pitbenders as he could, spending hours in the smoke with guys from Snow, Franklin, and Mueller. He completed his training with YouTube videos and in 2012 opened Pappy’s BBQ in Antigua.

“My first three employees are my pit masters and they had no culinary training when I hired them,” admits Thurgood. “I taught them what little I knew and they’ve been perfecting the technique ever since. “

The restaurant initially opened for weekend service, serving just under 100 pounds of brisket, ribs, chicken, and pork butts each day. As their popularity grew, Thurgood bought adjacent properties and expanded into a sit-down restaurant with a full bar. They will soon be opening a terrace where customers can dip into a plate of baby back ribs while gazing at the volcanoes in the distance.

(Interestingly enough, Thurgood has already tried smoking his meats on the side of the nearby Acatenango Volcano: “When you dig a meter lower, it’s exactly the same temperature as my smokers,” he explains, but adds that the ‘lack of Maillard reaction, a chemical process that browns meat via a reaction of sugars and proteins, “does not smoke or char meat properly.”)

“My first three employees are my pit masters and they had no culinary training when I hired them,” said Thurgood. “I taught them what little I knew and they’ve been perfecting the technique ever since. “

Nick dauk

Pappy’s BBQ wasn’t the first barbecue restaurant to open inside Guatemala’s borders, but it has certainly grown into the most powerful. More than 100 competitors opened across the country; only 15. Pappy’s success and reputation allowed them to open two new locations in Guatemala City during the pandemic. The letters “B-B’Q” are under their legal ownership, and as if it hasn’t had enough of an impact on Guatemala’s culinary scene, Thurgood has officially brought another new taste to the country.

“We sold the first legally registered craft beer in the country and were the first to introduce the concept of a beer tap wall in Guatemala,” he says, showing me a range of taps featuring local beers from around. Antigua Cerveza and El Zapote.

Thurgood also keeps the majority of the local menu, importing only pickles, ketchup, potatoes and certified Angus beef. Everything else, from vegetables to paper products, he gets his supplies as close to the restaurant as possible.

“The closer you are, the better,” says Thurgood. “I will pay up to 50% more just to be able to provide for my neighbors. “

A true Texas embassy in the heart of Guatemala

Pappy's breast

Pappy’s breast

Nick dauk

I could easily brush this room with a big chunk of foodie buzzwords that all Texans have heard. I could rave about the juiciness of the fantastic blend of Duroc and Hampshire pork, how the oleic acid in the brisket fat makes them one of the best burgers in town, or how the simple a pinch of salt and pepper highlights their smoked meats more than any sauce. , rub or a special mixture of spices could ever.

Yes, Texas Guatemalan barbecue tastes fantastic and I would definitely do the flight again if Thurgood tempted me with even a single slice of brisket. Her super tender fat melted across my tongue and right to my heart. I would also shamelessly visit if they promised me a piece of pork that was left to dry because their vinegar-based barbecue sauce has the robust flavor needed to revive any seemingly parched cut of meat.

Pappy's smoker

Pappy’s smoker

Nick dauk

However, anyone who truly knows Texan barbecue understands that culture is just as vital as technique and flavor.

I’d rather talk about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Pappy’s gives each year to local NGOs, or explain why Thurgood made sure none of their employees lost a quetzal of their pay when the pandemic struck. I can show you pictures of a perfectly prepared barbecue plate, but what I really wish you could see is Thurgood picking up trash on the streets around Pappy’s, stopping to shake hands with the many Guatemalan residents who clearly appreciate Thurgood’s commitment to the community.

There is a sense of pride in his voice which is undoubtedly filled with a sincere appreciation for his talented team. He is quick to call on the skills of his CEO Charlie who had no previous management experience, Dos’s keen sense of presentation and the consistency that his first employee, Minime, has behind the smoker – three men who operate Pappy 24/7 and which The Thurgood guarantees are the three best pit masters south of the Rio Grande.

Thurgood encourages everyone to come and find out how Pappy’s cooks up authentic Texan barbecue – but I think if you only spend five minutes with Thurgood and his team, you will see that he is creating a barbecue culture in Guatemala that would make it any proud Texan.

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