In the Texas town full of storied barbecue institutions, the brand-new Barbs B Q in Lockhart stands out. The restaurant’s sorbet-pink sign is hard to miss in the city square, offering up the first hint of the interior’s vibrant, kitschy decor. Inside, Barbs kept many of the historic touches that hint at the building’s former life as a bank, with mint green and white penny tiles lining the floor. But it isn’t just the decor that sets the barbecue spot apart.
Founded by friends Chuck Charnichart, Alexis Tovías Morales, and Haley Conlin, the latest addition to Texas’s barbecue capital serves up more than the traditional staples. The menu is full of South Texas influences from Charnichart and Tovías’s Brownsville upbringings: the brisket is coated in Mexican spices, the ribs are tangy with lime zest, and in addition to the charro bean sides and concha pudding dessert, they’ve also added a twist on the usual mac and cheese by offering green spaghett, a creamy poblano-based pasta.
“It’s so cool to be in the same city as all of these barbecue spots that have been around for years, some of them a hundred years,” Charnichart says. “But I’m excited to switch things up, to do something different.”
The trio has each done the rounds at different barbecue institutions, having first gotten together when they worked at Franklin Barbecue in 2017. Years earlier, when Charnichart was studying abroad in Scandinavia, Conlin came to visit her on a barbecue tour. There, they tossed around the idea of opening up a place of their own someday. Charnichart says she kept the idea in the back of her mind, eventually revisiting it in 2021 when she, Morales, and Conlin reunited to put on their first pop-up as Barbs B Q in Fort Worth. It was a hit.
From there, the buzz only grew as they traveled around and began scoping out potential physical locations until they landed in Lockhart. Before the opening in May, the trio was awash with excitement at finally getting to open their doors. Outside, the feeling was mutual. A string of excited locals and other business owners stopped by the shop to get a sneak peek ahead of the big day, and to get a spot in line to guarantee they’d get a tray before sell-out.
Operating a women-owned business in the male-dominated arena of barbecue, it was important to the trio that Barbs be an inclusive space within the community. Tovías, a member of the Austin queer artist collective House of Lepore, has been workshopping the idea of having performances at Barbs. They also plan on hosting barbecue classes, an all-day experience that will walk students through the whole brisket-smoking process in order to share their knowledge and make it more accessible.
“Everyone’s been so supportive,” Charnichart says. “We’ve been working on this for so long, and it’s been so nice to see people in the community be excited for us, too.”
Barbs B Q is open on Saturday only starting at 11 a.m. until everything is sold out.