Words by Tui Snider

Photography by Layth Taylor

Most American restaurants are designed to seat you, dish up the food, then scoot you out the door as quickly as possible. Linger too long and the servers may give you the stink eye, as if to say: You are taking up valuable real estate. Move along!

Admittedly, there are times when I simply want to place my order, eat up, and hit the road. A trip to Roosters GuitarBQ, however, is not one of those times. Dining here is a much different experience.

If you’ve ever thrown a backyard barbecue, you know the drill. Friends and family come and go through the day, some drink a beer or two, and there’s lots of chit chat. It’s the same at Roosters GuitarBQ. It truly feels like a laid-back country party. Plus, with three acres of lawn, the kids can run around and wear themselves out without getting underfoot.

If you are tense when you arrive, the friendly vibe at Roosters GuitarBQ quickly puts you at ease. Even the journey to get there, which includes a winding two-lane road through the countryside, helps set the scene. And don’t worry if your GPS gets confused towards the end. Just keep an eye out for the rusty old pickup with a great big Texas flag waving beside it. That’s how my husband, Larry, and I knew we had arrived.

It really did feel like we were crashing a family gathering as we drove up. Roosters GuitarBQ had only been open for an hour, but a band was already playing and the lawn was dotted with clusters of people. Most had brought coolers and lawn chairs, but a few set up tarps to provide shade. Customers, yes, but everyone clearly felt right at home!

Owners Rooster Beane and his wife, Lori, are a dynamic team who make you feel welcome the moment you arrive. Speaking of teams, sports fans may recall that Rooster was a kicker and offensive guard for the Dallas Cowboys during Tom Landry’s reign. Around these parts, however, Rooster’s claim to fame is his barbecue skills. In fact in 2011, Rooster was featured on an episode of the Travel Channel’s television show, “Man v. Food.”

Rooster and Lori like to keep things simple. “Our motto explains how we run things around here,” Lori says, pointing to a chalk sign that reads, “Nothing fancy, just good!” In keeping with this motto, Roosters GuitarBQ is open two days a week; it’s cash only; and if you want booze, that’s fine, but remember, it’s BYOB.

Roosters GuitarBQ is more than a great barbecue joint, it’s a chance to relax in the countryside with friends and family.

Lori was a school teacher in Granbury for 24 years, and seems to know everyone. “A lot of my students have grown up,” she explains, “so I meet their kids, even their grandkids, now.”

Rooster and Lori mix and mingle freely with their guests; it’s obvious the festivities are as much fun for them as everyone else. But don’t be surprised if Lori hands you a trash bag on your way in. “This is our home,” she says, “so I tell everyone to pick up after themselves.” Somehow, this doesn’t sound the least bit bossy coming from her. Lori’s bubbly demeanor is a delight, and it’s easy to imagine that she was everyone’s favorite 4th grade teacher.

In addition to her natural gift for PR, the restaurant offers Lori a chance to indulge her artistic streak. She enjoys taking photos and is the one who designs their logos, including the eye-catching (and perhaps a bit eyebrow-raising) Testicle Festival T-shirts. “Now that I’ve retired from teaching,” she says, “I can have fun with stuff like that.”

The Testicle Festival is just one of several annual festivals at Rooster’s GuitarBQ. The couple also offers a July 4th Picnic, a Fall Ball, and a Crawfish Boil. Unlike regular weekends, there is a cover charge on festival weekends, so they can offer live music all day long.

Rooster’s GuitarBQ is also available for private events, such as weddings, receptions, parties, and other gatherings. In addition, Rooster and Lori are experienced caterers who can bring the party to you in their own food truck if you so desire.

Much like his football career, Rooster’s passion for good barbecue goes back to the 1980’s, when Rooster journeyed from Nashville to the Lone Star State. While dining out one day, Rooster was on the verge of ordering a hamburger when his Texan buddy said, “Hey, Tennessee boy, you need to eat some brisket.” According to Rooster, it was love at first bite.

Just as Rooster and Lori now divide their time between Tennessee and Texas, Rooster’s signature barbecue style is a marriage between those two states, as well. When I asked how this constant commute affects his cooking, Rooster confided that, “In Tennessee, we did more Texas style. Here in Granbury, we’ve brought a little of that Tennessee influence back with us.”

Portions are satisfying, so my husband and I were not able to eat our way through the entire menu. I’d heard rave reviews about their homemade banana pudding, but that will have to wait until next time. Everything we did sample, however, was hearty and flavorful. I especially enjoyed the brisket; it was tender, with a wonderful smokiness in every bite.

To get that deep flavor, Rooster uses a 1000-gallon propane smoker. When they first opened three years ago, he used hickory wood. Once hickory got too expensive, Rooster switched to the “sister of hickory,” a.k.a. pecan.
The sides are tasty, too. The potato salad is creamy, and the coleslaw isn’t overly sweet (a pet peeve of mine.) My favorite side, however, is the Cowboy Beans. They are spicy, but I could’ve made a meal out of those beans with a slice of Texas toast to sop it all up.

I certainly could have lingered all day. Roosters GuitarBQ is more than a great barbecue joint, it’s a chance to kick back, chat with other diners, relax in the countryside and maybe even take a twirl around the dance floor while a band plays on the outdoor stage.

On my way out, I asked Rooster if he had any barbecue tips to pass along, to which he merely laughed and said, “Just take it low and slow.” Much like a visit to Roosters GuitarBQ, the end result is better if you take your time.