Guess Family Barbecue, old-school Texas style

Guess Family Barbecue expands with new restaurant. Long prep time for the meat and the stories behind the food make this place unique. Mireya Sol Ruiz | Multimedia Journalist

By McKenzie Oviatt | Reporter

Guess Family Barbecue has been a food truck since January of 2017 and recently opened a brick-and-mortar restaurant off Franklin Avenue. Their long hours preparing the meats and the personal storytelling behind the food makes this place unique.

In the small town of Jayton, Texas Reid Guess, chef and partner of Guess Family Barbecue, grew up studying meat and perfecting the craft of barbecue. His dad was the only welder in Jayton and since the town was so isolated, and this small town in Texas wasn’t expansive enough to have their own catering company.

When people wanted to cater the local football games, weddings or private dinners, they had to spend an exorbitant amount of money for a company to travel the distance to town and then prepare the meal.

It was when this conflict arose that Guess’ dad started using his welding skills to craft ways to cater to the community, Guess said.

When Guess was 10 years old, he started doing catering events with his dad. When he grew up, Guess moved to Austin to perfect the brisket-making process.

Guess was a pitmaster at Lambert’s in Austin for seven years before looking to cook elsewhere.

Guess moved to Waco in 2016. It helped that his wife’s family is also located in Waco, Guess said.

The food truck started a few months later and with that he inscribed these words on the side of the truck — Guess Family Barbecue is old school Texas Barbecue…The kind Jesus ate!

Upon opening, Guess chose to use Farm to Table for his produce. Farm to Table is a second-generation business that distributes locally grown produce to commercial restaurants, cafeterias and independent grocery stores.

“There are only two restaurants in Waco, that I know of, that use Farm to Table, so there might only be two good restaurants in Waco,” Guess said.

The other restaurant that uses Farm to Table’s services is Milo All Day. Head chef and co-owner of Milo is Corey McEntyre. The owner of Farm to Table suggested that McEntyre and Guess meet up and discuss their business models.

“You don’t always have to buy the best of the best. A lot of it comes from the heart behind it and the story to tell. A quality restaurant is all those pieces meeting together in unison,” McEntyre said.

Most of the briskets come from 44 Farms, a local source, Guess said.

McEntyre prefers to buy local because it reduces his carbon footprint, which is a big deal to him, he said.

One addition that they are starting at Guess Family Barbecue is having “fail Fridays.” Guess puts on epic fail videos to add some humor to the restaurant, he said.

“There are plenty of places in Waco to watch silent sports on the TV. Why not show silent fails?” Guess said.

While the atmosphere inside is easy-going, the trade to make the perfect brisket is quite extensive. Cade Mercer, the sous-chef and pitmaster at Guess Family Barbecue said that this trade is something that can easily be picked up.

“This isn’t something that you can forget about or mess up the timing on. You have to put all the work in before the restaurant even opens,” Mercer said.

At Guess Family Barbecue, they trim the brisket and season it, then it goes into the pit and then it’s cooked for about 12 to 14 hours. The whole process takes about 30 hours, Mercer said.

There are only about four hours when no one is in the kitchen. The last cook usually leaves at around 11 p.m. and Guess comes into the Guess Family Barbecue at 3 a.m.

Guess Family Barbecue encompasses well- crafted techniques with the heart and intention behind cooking.

The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sundays or until they run out.