The only thing better than fall in west Texas, is high school football in west Texas. Add a BBQ cook off to that equation and you have, arguably, the best way to spend a Friday and Saturday in Texas.
Jeff Smith, general manager of KRUN radio and the proprietor of The Hall in Rowena, set up a BBQ cook off in Rowena over September 11 and 12, "We saw an opportunity and we decided to hold the cook off. It came together in just a couple of weeks." It came together so quickly that the plaques for the winners didn’t arrive until the Friday of the cook off.
Approximately 30 ’que crews from around the area and state fired up their smokers to spend a couple of days smoking brisket, chicken and hog for the judges. The weather couldn’t have been any better. Recent rains had mostly dried so there wasn’t much mud in the area of the pits. The temps were in the lower 80s and the good times were rolling with crews and family gathered around the pits, sampling some hot food and cold beverages.
There were several categories: Brisket; Chicken; Ribs; Jalapeno poppers; beans; salsa
The air around this small map-dot town of 700+/- souls was filled with enticing smoke from the pits of meat and pots of boiling beans. Inside The Hall, judges sampled some top shelf BBQ and sides. A couple of the jalapeno poppers left a judge or two chugging cold water. Ghost Pepper Jalapeno Poppers. Who would have thought to chop up Ghost peppers and put them in jalapenos? Someone with a seriously strong tolerance for heat, that’s who.
Salsas came in first, followed by the poppers and then the beans. After that, the brisket, chicken and ribs came in for the judges to sample and score.
The event is just one of many that Smith is hosting to bring a small-town flair back to Runnels County, "One of our goals when we took over The Hall in Rowena was to bring another cook off to the area for folks to showcase their talents. The positive reaction, attendance and outcome we got was beyond anything we could’ve anticipated. We are all truly blessed to live in the community we do."
Prior to Mejor que Nada, The Hall had hosted Mardi Gras as well as other live music events. With the COVID-19 pandemic descending on the country, many events have been canceled, particularly with the governor’s general orders limiting some venues. The cook off showed that not everything has to stop while we wait out the passing of the pandemic. All of the guidelines were followed and the event was a major success.
Below is the partial list of winners that was available at press time:
The Grand Champion was Muro BBQ.
The Reserve Champion was Porkin’ Ain’t Easy
1st - Fatty’s BBQ; 2nd - Muro BBQ.
1st - Beast BBQ; 2nd - Big Foot BBQ; 3rd - Muro BBQ
1st - Porkin Ain’t Easy
2nd - Muro BBQ
Beans - Got Smoked
Salsa - DC Backyard BBQ