Standing behind the counter of his restaurant, Judge Beans Bar-B-Que, Aubrey Bean was holding court on a recent afternoon. Sports talk, frequently the favored topic of conversation here, bounced from table to table, pausing for comment or confirmation at the seat that held Tennessean sports columnist Joe Biddle, who was having a brisket sandwich and fries.
Bean opened his homey, one-roomed restaurant last May, and its popularity has grown faster than a Texas twister, carried along by the scent of burning mesquite wood that wafts day and night from the smoker that cooks nearly the entire contents of the menu. While fellow Lone Star staters may have started the migration to the tin-roofed wooden building on Wedgewood, they have been followed by hundreds more with a taste for beefrather than porkbarbecue, along with signature menu items like the smoked tamales and the shrimp diablo. Bean runs a pretty friendly place, and no one is a stranger longto Bean or to one another, as they sit together at long picnic tables covered with red-and-white-checked cotton, passing around bagged loaves of white bread, hot sauce and rolls of paper towels. The Texas memorabilia on the wall is fun to look at, and the handwritten sign advising Aggies to add $10 per order provokes a chuckle from the UT (as in Texas) alumni who frequent the place.
Judge Beans has gotten so popular that the owner has had to extend his operating hours: He is now open 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. On Thursdays, he has live music starting at 7, so the place stays open till people stop singing and listening. Saturday hours are now 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Judge Beans remains a BYO beer place.
Bean has also added a new menu item that’s been a big hit: a 12-oz. smoked filet mignon, served with a smoked potato and baked or cowboy beans, at $17.99. It’s only available on Fridays, and he cooks only 100 orders; when they’re gone, they’re gone.
To accommodate all of his business, Bean has had to purchase a new smoker. Size matters, at least when it comes to Texas barbecue, and the 16-foot-long black steel cooker, which was hauled up from Texas a few weeks ago, can smoke 1,000 briskets at a time on its four racks. That’s a whole lot of beef, boss.
Judge Beans Bar-B-Que is at 611 Wedgewood. Phone: 244-8884.
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