Caroline’s Bar-B-Q still alive and well

Caroline’s Bar-B-Q still alive and well
Caroline’s Bar-B-Q still alive and well

Barbecue aficionados could be forgiven if they mourned the passing of Caroline’s Quality and Quantity Bar-B-Cue in Kountze. Even Texas Monthly magazine, which listed its barbecue among the best in the state a few years back, refers to it now in the past tense – that is, closed. But I am happy to report that pitmaster Arthur Yarbough and his wife, Caroline, are still alive and well, as is their restaurant in the little town on the edge of the Big Thicket that continues to produce some of the finest Texas barbecue anywhere.

The confusion arose when Arthur and Caroline got sick in the 2014 influenza outbreak and had to shut down for a couple of months. They have some helpers, but theirs is a hands-on business. 

A prominent Beaumont restaurateur tried to get the Yarbough’s to expand their operation to other cities, but they respectfully declined. They are only open on Fridays and Saturdays starting at 10:30 the morning and continuing until they run out of barbecue.

Did I mention their food? Fork-tender beef brisket, pork ribs that have been described as “intensely flavored” and handmade spicy beef links that are not too spicy for civilians. Mr. Yarbough also has his way with chickens smoked on his pit and sumptuous baked potatoes piled high with traditional fixings and smoky brisket. Sides of potato salad and baked beans are high quality, but the meat is the main attraction here.

The plain red building visible from Highway 69 was built by Arthur himself around the turn of the century – the 21st century – but it has a timeless feel. He uses an electric knife to slice your meat when you place your order, but that is his sole concession to the modern age. The meat is smoked for at least 12 hours.

“I use oak,” said Yarbough. “I prefer red oak, but it is hard to get around here.” 

If you can’t make up your mind what to try, a brisket-ribs-link plate should cover the bases.

Miss Caroline sits behind the counter and dispenses friendly conversation along with the stellar cuisine. She remembers her customers, too. After an absence of several years, she inquired about my daughter who had accompanied me on many trips there (it’s on the way to Grandma’s house) and this genteel Southern lady makes everyone feel.

They have hosted hungry barbecue pilgrims from around the United States as well as Europe and Asia, the Internet spreading their reputation far beyond the East Texas Pineywoods.

Asked if anyone famous has walked through their door, Caroline said there was some football player, but she can’t recall his name. Arthur is following this conversation with his back turned as he prepares more food.

“Everyone is famous at Caroline’s,” he said.

A mere 25 miles north of Beaumont, you can be famous too. At least that’s how you’ll feel when Arthur and Caroline Yarbough treat you to their warm hospitality and the best barbecue you ever ate. It really is that good.