UPDATED 9:28 a.m. on May 16, 2018: This story was originally published May 4, but we're bringing it back in honor of National BBQ Day.
Call it an underappreciated gem. Franks Holy Smoke Bar-B-Que, located in a former general store 25 miles south of Dallas in tiny Ovilla, is worth the drive.
The best part, barbecue fanatics? No wait.
Many die-hard barbecue fans are used to waiting an hour, maybe more, to eat brisket at well-known Texas barbecue joints. But at Franks, in a town where the speed of life can feel like slow motion compared to Dallas, customers generally won't find a long line.
The chopped beef sandwich is the bestseller, says owner Abraham Franks. It's thick enough to be a bargain at $12, but it costs half that. The shop's all-beef sausage comes from Lockhart Chisholm Trail Bar-B-Que. And the ribs are worth trying, even if they're not be photogenic enough to get hundreds of likes on Instagram.
Franks is OK with that. "I'm not into pretty," he says.
The 55-year-old raised in one of Texas' best barbecue cities, Lockhart, says he's been smoking meat all his life. "As a kid, I used to steal meat from my mama's freezer and take it to my cousin's house," Franks says. "We'd set up bricks and whatnot. You know how those old fans had metal frames? We'd take those from broken fans and use that as a grill."
By the '80s, Franks had a pit and realized he was on to something. But he was enjoying a career as a commercial painter and didn't get around to opening Franks Holy Smoke until 2011.
And the shop's name? "A pastor gave me the name," the owner says. "He said I had holy smoke."
Franks started modestly, selling barbecue out the window of a tiny space attached to a carwash at the bottom of the hill in Ovilla.
A couple years later, the old general store up the hill was renovated, and Franks had his eye on it. But Smokin Hot barbecue moved in instead, then Ellis County BBQ. Franks kept selling. "Sometimes, the underdog wins," Franks says. "More people were going down to the carwash."
Finally, after "the landlord eventually came looking for me," Franks relocated his business in 2017. "A carwash was a good place to start, but a terrible place to end," Franks says. Today, you can find him at the top of the hill.