A sudden move to the Mountain State brought us this Weston gem.
The first question you might ask yourself after breathing in the intoxicating smell of savory smoked brisket inside South Texas Barbecue Co. in Weston is: How in the world did authentic Texas barbecue make its way to the hills of West Virginia? The second question will be: Who cares? The food is so phenomenal that you’ll want to just dive right in, but the story of how it all came to be is one worth savoring.
It began years ago in McAllen, Texas, says Jessica Abrego, where her husband, Celestino Abrego—or Tino, as she calls him—was a nuclear engineer who made periodic trips to Washington, D.C., as part of his job. The family eventually moved to D.C. but found it an expensive place to raise their three children, so they moved back to Texas. A short time later, though, Tino Abrego’s contract wasn’t renewed, and the couple realized they’d have to relocate to find a new job in his field.
“Tino found an opening for an engineering job in Clarksburg, but we knew nothing about West Virginia,” recalls Abrego, a speech therapist. “We didn’t have any preconceived notions about West Virginia—we literally had no knowledge whatsoever—so we just started researching the area online.”
And what did they find?
“Well,” she says through laughter, “we discovered it was really very small, based on what we were used to. But it looked nice and quiet and had lots of outdoor activities, which we enjoy.”
So, they packed up and moved to Almost Heaven, where they soon made another discovery—they were in serious need of some barbecue like they enjoyed back home. “When you’re in Texas, it’s all about the barbecue, and that means brisket,” Abrego explains. “We just love it, so we started visiting different places here to find something similar.”
They quickly found that much of the barbecue here is pork-based, not beef, and brisket is even more rare. Since they couldn’t find what they were looking for at a restaurant, they just started making their own.
“I guess it’s the engineer in him, but Tino loves a good challenge,” Abrego says. “When he gets his mind set on something, he’s going to figure out how to do it.” Figure it out he did—but the resulting mounds of meat were way too much food for the family to eat alone. So, they’d share it with friends and neighbors, who soon started asking if he’d make more of it for their family dinners and special occasions.
Realizing there might be real interest in their food, the couple bought a smoker and set it up in a parking lot, unknowingly right across the street from where their eventual restaurant would stand. “We just put up a canopy and a few tables and crossed our fingers to see how it would go.”
Oh, did it go. The crowds came, word spread, and they were selling out every weekend. They eventually secured a food truck to take their show on the road and, two years ago this July, found themselves expanding again, this time opening the brick-and-mortar restaurant they’re running today.
Abrego says that move was a little scary, for sure, but they needn’t have worried. The restaurant has already expanded its opening hours from three days to five and continues to add new menu items as well. Staples like pulled pork, smoked sausages, burnt ends, and the wood-smoked brisket that got them started now all share space on the menu with specialty tacos, barbecue nachos, and gloriously messy burgers.
“We’re always trying to be creative, so we added what we call ‘smashburgers’ about a year ago.” It’s their practice to trim their brisket so it has a nice, even shape and a smooth surface, Abrego explains, so it will cook evenly with no tough, dry spots. But they were just throwing away all of those trimmings—that was about 50 or 60 pounds of beef going to waste. “So now we grind those up to make really good burgers.” And that’s not the only way they’ve found to turn unused ingredients into a delicious new menu item: “If we don’t use all parts of our pork belly, we can slice and fry it up to make a ramen noodle soup.”
The community’s response has been nothing short of amazing, she says, and is a nice twist to a West Virginia story still being written. “We’re always keeping our eyes open for another interesting building to move to or maybe add as a second location. We’re open to seeing where this takes us.”
139 East 2nd Street, Weston, sotexbbqco.square.site, @sotexbbqco on FB