Serving Texas BBQ at Your Wedding – Barbecue Wedding Receptions
In Texas, perhaps more than in other places, we like keeping it real—even, and maybe especially, when it comes to weddings. Probably nothing reflects a couple’s life view (and good taste) more than the food they serve at their wedding party.
“When a wedding couple decides to have a barbecue reception, they’re sending a message that they’re a very practical and even traditional couple,” says Jill Bergus, who co-owns Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas and Plano with her husband, Jeff. “It’s the party of your life, and you’re saying, ‘We’re getting down to our roots with great food and little pretense, and we’re going to have a really good time!’”
You can make barbecue the star of your wedding in lots of ways, as not all barbecue—even in Texas—is the same. Just as the Berguses’ informal restaurants showcase the legendary, down-home Hill Country barbecue style they grew up with, other acclaimed purveyors serve a distinctly more contemporary style that may work better for a fancier shindig. Woodshed Smokehouse in Fort Worth (and soon, too, in Houston), one of the signature restaurants of celebrity chef Tim Love, takes the latter approach.
Though Lockhart’s and Woodshed’s styles differ in presentation and somewhat in their menus, both adhere to the traditional technique of smoking meat for hours over wood fires for deep flavor. Woodshed’s team uses this rich smoky treatment on lots of other foods, too—including vegetables and fish.
Lockhart Smokehouse takes a decidedly casual approach to barbecue presentation, serving their smoked delicacies on butcher paper as soon as they’re pulled from the holding pits and sliced. Bergus says they’re paying homage to a tradition established generations ago at legendary Kreuz Market in tiny Lockhart, where her family has run the now-vastly expanded enterprise since the late 1940s. She and Jeff opened their outpost in Dallas’s hip and diverse Bishop Arts District in 2011 and followed with their Plano location in 2014. As a way of standing out from the pack, they added a big assortment of side dishes to their menu and offer a full bar—their smoked Bloody Mary is a celebration in itself.
A stylish open-air restaurant overlooking the scenic Trinity River near Fort Worth’s Cultural District, Woodshed Smokehouse offers a stunning setting with wooden tables and chairs in a multitude of colors and styles. It can accommodate as many as 500 guests, for couples willing to buy out the entire place. The restaurant regularly caters off-site events, too, and can customize your reception to be as fancy or as easygoing as you like.
Whichever barbecue team you go with (see page 74 for a few more of our favorites), you can augment the vibe with a few decorative touches. Try arranging a mix of daisies and wildflowers in old coffee cans, antique milk bottles or vintage water pitchers. Wrap napkins in thin leather strips twined with lace, and use small jelly jars as candle votives. For music, consider Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, the Dixie Chicks, Demi Lovato, and Kelly Clarkson—just a few of the state’s famous songbirds that pair perfectly with a Texas barbecue.
Lockhart Smokehouse (214-944-5521) has locations in downtown Plano and the Bishop Arts District in Dallas. Call for event pricing. Woodshed Smokehouse (817-877-4545) is on the banks of Fort Worth’s Trinity River and is slated to open a second location in Houston in 2018. For on-site receptions, you can buy out the entire restaurant for about $40,000; prices for catering off-site receptions depend on the size of your party and location.
A Woodshed affair often includes traditional goodies like brisket and chicken, but Love has a penchant for the unexpected. “We love to customize diverse events—everything from a small, intimate engagement party to an epic, show-stopping reception,” he says, adding, “You can’t get more authentically Texan than a Woodshed meal!”
The team uses woodblocks of varying sizes as family-style serving platters, and cutting boards, skillets, and stainless-steel trays for other sharable dishes.
One of Love’s most dramatic creations: 16-hour-smoked beef shin surrounded by a mound of fresh ricotta, three-kale salad with green apples, borracho beans, and handmade corn-flour tortillas. Crowds also adore the paella with clams, mussels, smoked rabbit-rattlesnake sausage, and smoked quail and hen.
Delicious extras include hickory-smoked piquillo peppers stuffed with beef brisket; grilled romaine salad with anchovy-lime vinaigrette, grated Parmesan, and smoked almonds; and—for dessert—one of the highly addictive cobblers . Don’t pass up the cherry-bacon-bourbon version.
The perfect Lockhart wedding menu includes smoked brisket, pork ribs, and chicken, along with sides of mac and cheese, blue-cheese cole slaw, smoked deviled eggs, and black-eyed pea–corn–jalapeño “caviar.” The Lockhart margarita, in a jelly jar mug, is always a favorite at weddings, as is bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Many clients, however, order goodies from Emporium Pies, which is just down the block from Lockhart’s Dallas location and is beloved for luscious bourbon pecan, red velvet cheese, and butterscotch custard pies.
At weddings, Lockhart can do the butcher paper bit for a truly old-fashioned communal experience, but many couples bring their own tableware. You can buy out either of Lockhart’s locations for your reception, but there’s also a fabulous event venue, DIRT—owned by a local florist—across the street from the Dallas Bishop Arts District location. Jill Bergus says that ranch and farm venues are an easy fit for barbecue receptions, too.
Five more brilliant barbecue options for a Texas wedding
Old-school barbecue from a classically trained chef, known for brisket, ribs, pork belly, and pulled pork. Pearland
From the Mueller family, barbecue royalty, this popular joint specializes in brisket, pulled pork, turkey, and ribs, as well as chipotle slaw. Austin
Casual but sophisticated, this landmark specializes in brisket and sausage, as well as beautiful charcuterie platters and even veggie options. Austin
Come to this renowed eatery (pictured above) for family-style brisket, sausage, pork ribs, and sides. Driftwood, Round Rock
This longtime East Texas favorite serves brisket, ribs, and sausage, plus newer offerings like Frito pie and tacos. Note the big beer and whiskey lists. Tyler