in Guatemala, that is. And more specifically, Texas-style barbecue and if you want to be even more definite, Central-Eastern flavored, with a little bit of Cajun taste added.
Barbecue has a nationwide legion of fans, from the Southern styles of the Carolinas to Memphis, to the Midwest and Kansas City but only Texas has four different BBQ ‘zones’, ranging from the cardinal points of East, Central, South and West, with what’s known as the ‘Barbecue Belt’ centered around the state capital of Austin.
Blake Thurgood, 32 and a graduate of the University of Texas, Austin, with a degree in Engineering, describes himself as a ‘scientist.’ Judging from the success of his ‘Pappys’ BBQ’ in Antigua, soon to celebrate his third year in business, he is all that and more.
Antigua, Guatemala’s foremost tourist attraction, has more than a hundred eating establishments, and many come and many go. There appears to be a distinct lack of a business plan and or marketing and that’s what makes Pappy’s different.
The original site was little more than a hole in the wall, perhaps containing a hundred square feet but he quickly gained a following by the unusual method of only being open three days a week and selling out quickly. If you weren’t there by noon, you had to wait for another day.
Today, he’s in a larger space, open seven days a week and around the corner from the original spot and a block or so southwest on Antigua’s Central Park, and located in a brick-red one story building and he’s busy. The blazing red neon sign that greets you announces ‘BBQ!’ and there’s no doubt that you‘ve come to the right place. When asked what particular type of barbecue he produces, the answer is ‘Central-East’ and having been an aficionado of BBQ for many years, I can’t find any reason to argue. There are those purists who insist that ‘real’Texas style BBQ be served on sheets of white butcher paper and there are also those who declaim that real barbecue is slow-cooked, rather than a few hours of so-called ‘grilling.’ In Blake’s case, the brisket is cooked for fourteen hours or so, and the massive slabs of perfect ribs for four to six hours. Just around the corner and in the smokehouse is where the eight foot long temperature and humidity controlled barrel-shaped wood-fired ovens produce the perfect flavor. The wood? White oak.
Guatemalan wood and the pork? Brought in from a nearby village, where they’re grass-fed, with no hormones, antibiotics nor GMO considerations.
Pappy’s has found an amazing niche market with Guatemalans who have lived in Texas and acquired the taste of real Texas-style barbecue and they come there to relive that.
Beyond that is another surprise: he claims to have discovered a recipe for his sauce that is addictive, based on a secret combination of salt, sugar and fat. The after effects supposedly last for two days plus, but as he proudly said, “I’m a scientist.”
For many years I’ve rambled around Central America and I used to think that in Granada, Nicaragua, a few countries to the east, was the best barbecue I’d found but with the closure of ‘Jimmy Three Fingers’ recently, ‘Pappys’ is clearly the best in the region.
Check it out, at BBQantigua.com or Pappysbbqantigua on Facebook. He’s located on the corner of 6th Avenida and 6th Calle and yes, I’ll be going back because I can’t beat his recipes and no, I don’t think that I’m addicted (yet).