It’s the oldest family-owned barbecue restaurant in Texas and the oldest African American owned barbecue restaurant in the state. Patillo’s is the kind of place where everyone knows your name simply because most of their customers have been regulars for over 20 years. Some employees have been there over 35.
Patillo’s has been around since 1912 although it’s had about nine lives in five-plus locations around Beaumont. The current building has been around since the ‘50s. Now a fourth-generation establishment, Robert Patillo has overseen the smoker for decades.
You could say barbecue and hustling are in his blood. Growing up behind the stand on Martin Luther King Boulevard, he started working for his grandpa for $3 a day while selling vacuum cleaners and working as an orderly at the hospital to help pay his private tuition. At the time, Kelly Catholic School cost $14 a month (imagine the inflation now). In high school, his father ran the joint and put him to work tying casings to keep him out of trouble. He, unfortunately, passed of cancer when Robert was in college and as his dying wish, asked his son to take over the business.
Beyond being the proverbial pitmaster, he’s also a realtor which makes sense since he’s seen had so many buildings being bought and sold in Beaumont. It’s a bit of a puzzle how they ended up where they are now but try to keep up. The original downtown property was lost in the hurricane of 1915 before they built the seawall. They moved to Park and Bowie and then Orleans and Forsyth (where the municipal courthouse was) before finally settling on Neches and Trinity Street on Forsyth. In 1935, they bought their first building at Forsyth and Railroad and later added their current location in 1950 (at one point they had two shops).
The city eventually bought them out when they expanded Martin Luther King Boulevard, which is when they moved to McFadden. Once again, Robert was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, and they were back down to one building. The current spot on Washington has been salvaged twice to keep it in the family, including once from his nephew who was the creator of one of the spice blends.
But more importantly, the food. Despite being in Texas, there’s no brisket to be found anywhere. Known for their homemade links that are still hand stuffed to this day, the beef is ground with garlic, chili powder, salt, pepper, and a few other spices. The recipe’s been around as long as the restaurant with origins stemming from his great-great-great grandmother who worked in the kitchen of the McFaddin-Ward house. A blend of South and Eastern Texas styles, the ribs and the chicken are fall off the bone tender. Smoked with hickory, red oak, white oak, and pecan wood, it’s a flavor profile unlike anywhere else.
So pull up a chair, order some grub, and become part of the family. It’s sure to be seasoned with love and a dash of nostalgia.