You will never catch Bryan McLarty pompously thumping his chest over the quality of his barbecue. Sure, the 59-year-old has been serving up lip-smacking ribs, pulled pork, brisket, and other slow-cooked meats since he was tall enough to stand in front of a smoker with his dad, and if anyone has a secret list of time-tested recipes stashed away under lock and key, it’s him. But if he and his family had it their way, they’d quietly go about their business in the shadows.
The only problem is that their loyal customers know how good they have it. This is real Texas BBQ, and the only reason they aren’t singing his praises more than they already are is that they are too busy licking their plates clean — and coming back for more.
“I have two standing rules in life, and it doesn’t matter if I’m selling barbecue or wooden hobby horses: you must have a quality product and great customer service,” McLarty said. “If you achieve both, then you’re going to be really good. We don’t thump our chest, but we know we have a good product, and we figured out many of those processes years ago. But you also have to create a friendly, inviting environment where you have great employees who put the customer first.
“We’ve been open for six years, and we are literally in a constant state of growth.”
What eventually became 407 BBQ started 23 years ago as a catering business called BigFish BBQ. In 2016, McLarty changed the name to what it is today and opened a food trailer in Corral City. Within four months, they added a dining area with picnic tables. Not long after that, they moved to an adjacent corner lot and built a shack — which they also expanded and outgrew within eight or nine months. They’ve been located at 831 FM 407 West for four years.
“We’ve expanded six or seven times over the past six years,” McLarty said. “We’d love to have more space now.”
407 BBQ’s success is due largely to McLarty’s two aforementioned “rules in life.” But it’s hard to ignore his background, which has more than helped him perfect his craft. Many people might not know that McLarty has won several BBQ competitions, including being named Grand Champion at the North Texas State Fair in Denton. He spent 10 years competing at various events, first at local charity events and eventually large-scale sanctioned events featuring many of the top barbecue professionals in the world and a table of judges who expected perfection. And he won more than his fair share.
“The judges only get one taste, so you’ve basically got to pack an entire life story into that one bite,” McLarty said. “It can be a bit rich, a little sweet, and everything in between. Everything is amped up because you’ve got to grab their attention in one bite.”
McLarty said the restaurant world is different because you’re judged on everything — food, cleanliness, appearance, customer service, wait times, etc. And instead of one intense night of competition, you’re trying to do right by people every single day. So far, so good. They serve meals priced by the plate with plenty of options for barbecued meat, whether that be brisket, pulled pork, smoked turkey, ribs, sausage, chicken, ham, or meatloaf. They also do full-service or drop-off catering.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 10 years old, and we take a lot of pride in what we do,” McLarty said. “We aren’t fast food, but we do food fast and pride ourselves on excellent customer service. It’s the only way to do business.”
McLarty said that while he doesn’t envision stepping away from the family business anytime soon, he is aware that the day will come when he will want to spend more time with family. He and his wife, Leslie, have been married for 32 years and have poured their entire lives into 407 BBQ. The good news is that they have a great team around them to carry on the 407 BBQ legacy for years to come.
“When you have good people, processes, and methods, the quality will hopefully always be there,” McLarty said.