Good reporters know if the interview is going to go well and if they will like the people, the service or, in this case, the food when they walk in the door of a business or a home. I wasn’t disappointed when I met the charming Chris and Emily Swanson, learned about their business and the relocation of the company, and then I ate lunch. There wasn’t anything not to like about the friendly people and the delicious food I sampled. I now understand why everyone is raving about what this young Beaumont couple has created.
Being from Georgia, I know a thing or two about good barbecue, and I pride myself on knowing just what it takes to make a brisket or a piece of pork taste tempting. My very favorite barbecue restaurant in the entire world is a little dive, Fresh Air BBQ, with the first location in Jackson, down by the lake where I often visited as a child. They had no air conditioning. In fact, they had no building for many years. A family simply erected an open-air tabernacle around a constantly burning pit where the old granddaddy of the family turned out the best meat you could ever want. The owners, the old man’s sons, later sprang for screen wire to keep the bugs out while folks that know barbecue filled the rough plank tables and ate to their heart’s delight. Brunswick Stew was a big hit, as were the old fried fruit pies.
My grandfather, several uncles, and my dad worked for Georgia Power Electric Company and they had discovered this little fishing town hideaway and started taking the family down on weekends in about 1944. They later got IBEW Local No. 613 to buy barbecue from the family that ran the place for the big picnics we had in Grant Park each summer for all the union folks and their families. This is the kind of barbecue one never forgets, and I haven’t in all these years. And unless I travel to Georgia to eat at one of the now five locations of Fresh Air BBQ, I don’t get that taste any longer.
Well, that is walked into Boomtown BBQ Company. The first thing I asked Chris was what kind of sauce he preferred. Being a good barbecue man, he wouldn’t tell me the recipe, but I soon figured out it was light, with some vinegar in the base, and it didn’t look like thick, rehashed catsup. I knew then that I might be on the right track. And when I spotted the pulled pork sandwich piled up with fresh meat on a soft, big bun, I thought I might have hit the jackpot. Just to be certain, I ordered pulled pork, sliced brisket, and a chopped beef sandwich. OK, I had to share with my husband and grandson, but believe me, I’ll go back and eat one of each if I desire.
Chris and Emily Swanson are local folks, and both graduated from Lamar University. Chris said he had known for many years that he wanted to own his own business in Southeast Texas and since he came from a cooking family, he thought a restaurant would be a good fit. His dad founded Christopher’s, named for him, over on 11th Street near Interstate 10 many years ago. His dad now has five barbecue restaurants in Durango, Colo. Emily had been a teacher until some 18 months ago when they opened the first location of Boomtown.
The Swansons work daily and still find time to parent their four children. “We’re here every day,” said Chris with a smile. “So we always know what is going on, what we need to cook, and how we want our customers treated.” I noticed that every customer than entered the door was greeted with a friendly hello and was bid a cheery goodbye and thanks for stopping in as they left.
Boomtown moved to its current location in April and seems well suited for the Honey B Ham Shopping Center on Calder. Tizzy’s and other popular local businesses share this center. Folks can get in and out easily, and the new place offers an intimate and cozy appeal. Chris says the lunch crowd is their staple group right now, but he believes the evening crowd will grow when folks find out where they are located and how easy it is to get to them. “We wanted the place to be the right size and meet our needs,” he said.
Chris wouldn’t divulge his kitchen secrets but assured me he knew what he was doing since his dad had been cooking all of his life. He did share that he uses a Southern Fried Pit that can be run by electricity, gas or wood to ensure the meat has that slow roasted flavor that nothing else provides. “All of our meat is cooked approximately 18 hours, slow and easy,” he said. “We have the standard barbecue you would expect, but with what we believe are some extras.”
Chris spoke of his Twisted Menu where the dynamic young couple has put their imaginations to work, much to the delight of the customers. Along with the pulled pork sandwiches, sliced or chopped brisket, pork loin, turkey breast, and sausage links, you can also order a “G7,” which is a sandwich featuring pulled pork, queso blanco brisket, and barbecue sauce. Or how about opting for some BBQ Nachos where you can choose the additions to go on top? Or try a Boomer, a big baked potato with pulled pork and shredded cheese. Then, you might like a Torpedo, which is sausage links with orange jalapeno mustard on a tortilla.
The smoked chicken halves are a crowd pleaser, and one lunch guest told me he was an expert on barbecue chicken and that he had declared Boomtown’s the best he had ever eaten anywhere in the state. His two lunch companions, all working men in Beaumont, agreed that they never argued when one or the other suggested Boomtown because they could all get what they wanted at one quick, easy place.
Entire families came in while we were there and a kid’s meal is offered as well as something called a Smoked Meat Explosion with about a pound of meat on each plate. Sides include cheesy potatoes, coleslaw, pinto beans, potato salad, a variety of chips, as well as fountain drinks, sweet or unsweet tea and root beer. Chris said that they would have their beer and wine license for the new place in about a month, and they had televisions in place for football and other sports. Desserts include homemade cobblers with Blue Bell Ice Cream.
While four out of five customers stepped up to the counter knowing exactly what they wanted, a few had to look through the menu and choose from more than one tempting treat. I played it smart and tasted all three of the meats that I was interested in at one time, but I honestly believe the pulled pork would become my favorite.
Catering is also a service offered, and the team is comfortable filling small to very large orders at reasonable prices.
You can call Emily or Chris at (409) 554-8432 to place your order or to discuss your needs. A big tray of delicious barbecue meat, along with some buns and chips, would make for a wonderful party with little work on the hostess’s part. Top it off with a big homemade fruit cobbler, and you’re all set.
Visit Boomtown BBQ Company at 6385 Calder in Beaumont and see for yourself if this is the barbecue you’ve been dreaming about from your past. They are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., but Chris said he would meet customers for unusual orders or catering at other times to help make it easy on them. The busy young couple employs about 10 other people in this budding business.
And please do me a personal favor. Don’t tell my friends at Fresh Air BBQ in Jackson, Ga., that they may have been upstaged by a young Texas company. I wouldn’t want to break their hearts after some 60 years of complete faithfulness on my part.
Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788 or at brendacannonhenley [at] yahoo [dot] com.