Recipe for success

Patillo’s owner Robert Patillo (right) visits with customer Glenn Parsley, who h
Link plate with beans, rice and potato salad. Don’t forget the pickles and onion

When thinking about the best barbecue in Beaumont, Patillo’s definitely comes to mind. It’s also the fourth oldest barbecue joint in Texas, so it’s always garnering statewide attention. The Patillo family has been making barbecue for a long time. They figured out the secret over a century ago and have been doing it well ever since. Beef, pork, ribs, ham — it’s all good at Patillo’s.

When asked why Patillo’s has been so successful for so long, owner Robert Patillo credited the taste of the food and the family’s reputation.

“I think one of the reasons the family has been so successful is because we have always given and not just received,” Robert said. Minutes later, he demonstrated what he meant by interrupting our interview to give gift certificates to a local charity that dropped by to visit. It is evident that giving back to the community remains a priority for the restaurant owner.

“We treat our customers like family,” Robert said. “My dad always remembered everybody’s order. It didn’t matter if 200 people came in that day; he remembered everybody’s order.”

The restaurant began in 1912 as a small wood frame building at the corner of Park and Bowie in downtown Beaumont that was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. (The National Weather Service didn’t start naming storms until 1953.) The restaurant relocated to Orleans Street, where the Beaumont Municipal Court currently stands, and in 1925 moved to the White House store. After several other moves, Frank Sr. bought the first real property for the business to operate on at Forsyth and Railroad. He ran that place from 1935-1950, Robert said. In 1950, Frank Sr. built the building where Patillo’s is today at 2775 Washington Blvd. Robert took over the restaurant from his father Frank Jr. in 1981. Patillo’s second location on 11th Street was sold to Jack in the Box in 2010.

“Let’s just say they gave me a very lucrative offer that I couldn’t refuse,” Robert said.

Despite all the changing locations over the years, the recipe for both the food and the success of the business has stayed the same.

“It’s consistent. I think that’s one of the big reasons why people keep coming back. I think we have done a good job of maintaining the flavor that people like in Southeast Texas. That has been our salvation,” said Robert, who began working at the restaurant when he was 13. His grandfather Frank Patillo Sr. put him to work.

“I worked for $3 a day,” he said with a smile, adding that the old man didn’t take it easy on him, assigning Robert duties that ranged from cutting grass to seasoning beef. But his biggest responsibility was making the links, which are to die for, a must try for first-time customers.

“They’re 100 percent beef,” Robert said. “I don’t use fatty meats. I like to have a juicy link, but I don’t like for them to be runny. I want it to be like a sausage, but not a sausage.”

We honestly haven’t tasted a better link, and the ribs are definitely worth mentioning. The barbecue sauce isn’t overpowering, but it’s not weak either. It’s just right. The ribs are exactly what they are supposed to be — delicious. You don’t have to fight to get the meat off the bone, and the best way is just to grab ‘em with your hands. You can always lick your fingers clean.

Patillo’s barbecue has become famous outside of Beaumont, too, and has been featured in Texas Monthly magazine several times. The magazine gave the business a much-needed boost last year, Robert said.

“I thought I had died and went to heaven. It really helped things 100 percent,” he said. “God works in mysterious ways. When times are tough and a little slow, God steps in and that’s what happened. The article came out, and business seemed to pick back up.”

Robert continues to do things the Patillo way, which keeps customers coming back satisfied. With the restaurant continuing to treat customers like family and maintaining the family’s recipe for success, it will remain the spot for barbecue in Beaumont for a long, long time to come.