An authentic Texas joint with a no-frills approach
It’s 10:30 in the morning, but AJ’s Meat Market & Smokehouse in Dickinson is far from empty. Bill Smith, owner and butcher, jokes about customers wanting barbecue for breakfast. And, in my adopted home state of Texas, I admit I do. Or, at least I do now.
AJ’s campy atmosphere is authentic rather than contrived. The outside resembles a big red barn more at home on a farm than the side of a busy city street. Inside, taxidermy and trophies dot the walls, and a stack of vintage meat scales sits tucked in a nook near the dining tables. This no-frills approach keeps the focus squarely on the meat.
In business for more than 20 years, AJ’s has earned a reputation for carrying freshly butchered beef, pork and poultry, in-house made sausage, and in-house smoked meats. Reach-in coolers lining the walls are stocked with Boar’s Head cheese and gourmet mustards, vacuum-sealed sausage links and even glossy ripe peppers and onions. Specialty firewoods are piled below and nearby shelves are loaded down with spices, rubs and sugars — all the ingredients a cook might need to conjure a little magic at home.
The menu features the classic Texas trinity of brisket, pork ribs and sausage. Customers also favor the well-seasoned hearty burgers, tangy chopped brisket sandwiches and loaded potatoes. Traditional sides such as crispy fried okra, creamy potato salad, black-eyed peas stewed with onions and peppers and baked beans can be purchased by the pint or ordered to accompany barbecue meat and fajita plates. Homey fruit cobblers and candy-coated cake balls satisfy sweet cravings.
AJ’s also processes wild game, cures and smokes hams and bacon, grinds summer sausage, stuffs link sausage and prepares deer jerky. It sells packs that include steaks, chops, chuck, sausage and fryers in 20-, 30- and 50-pound combinations, as well as takeout barbecue packages.
AJ’s Meat Market & Smokehouse
4908 FM 517 E., Dickinson