Carthage – Southwest of Carthage and sort of between Clayton and Gary sits a shack literally in the backwoods. There’s not a whole lot on FM1970 to see but when you get a whiff of what’s cooking near the shores of Lake Murvaul, you’ll haul on over to see that smell is coming from Chuck’s Country Smoke House.
“People from East Texas will drive a long way to get good barbecue, I guarantee you,” patron Calvin Harris said.
Chuck Terrell has some Cajun lineage but grew up around east Texas. When it came to opening a restaurant, he had high hopes for his barbecue.
“I thought this is what could survive and thrive in this location,” Chuck said. “We’re out here.”
After he built, people started to flock to his restaurant. Not bad for the former pharmaceutical salesman who also used to close deals on copy machines.
“Yeah, who needs a copy machine, yeah,” Chuck said. “That’s pretty much what it was like.”
After years of grinding it out in the sales world, Chuck was ready for a change of pace, so he moved to out to his family’s homestead.
“Just kind of got it in my head that I wanted to try my own thing,” Chuck said. “First it was a gym, in high school, then in college it was a bar, and then after that that’s where the restaurant stuff came in.”
Chuck didn’t know how to cook barbecue prior to owning his place. He started from square one and refurbished this old shed on the property piece by piece. While he rebuilt what was to be his restaurant, he practiced making barbecue.
“This is not the way to do it, but there was a smoker already here,” Chuck said. “While I was remodeling the building I was smoking, learning how to smoke, basically. Pulled off some rubber tires in the beginning. Yeah, that was pretty rough. Thinking, maybe I shouldn’t have left that job.”
He researched the craft of creating delicious brisket the way everyone researches just about anything nowadays.
“YouTubing,” Chuck said.“Yeah, yeah. Watching YouTube.”
Surprisingly, it worked. Now, people come from every corner of Panola Country for a piece of his perfectly cooked provisions.
“Man I tell you what, it’s like a legendary shrine,” Len Arnold said.
Chuck’s is known for a few things, and he wanted to showcase them all. He started off with a serious sandwich called the Susie Q.
“Everything up there has to do as this someone out here, but that’s like their little concoction,” Chuck said. “That’s Susie. Susie Cohan. Yeah, yeah. She was the first one that came in and like asked for it very specifically that way. It’s boudin, brisket and sausage chopped up on one of those jalapeno sourdough buns.”
The Susie Q isn’t their only unique dish. They also have a frito pie by the name of the Frito Bomb.
“It’s pretty much like a Frito pie, but just like a barbecue Frito pie,” Chuck said. “That’s kind of how we describe it.”
Chuck got to chopping a combination of brisket, sausage and boudin.
“Get that, get a good mix,” Chuck said. “Chopping up all this meat.”
All of that goodness simply goes on a bun. As for the Frito Bomb, it’s a combination brisket and sausage placed over corn chips with beans, melted cheese and barbeque sauce. Here we are with a twofer at Chuck’s County Smoke House: the Susie Q and the Frito Bomb.
“My favorite’s Susie Q,” Calvin said. “Best barbecue sandwich you’ll ever eat, by far.”
The sausage and boudin compliment each other very well, and the brisket gives it a nice flavor.
“It is finer than frog hair split four ways,” Len said.
As for the Frito Bomb, well, it’s well worth a trip to the woods.
“I’ve had the Frito Bomb, which is amazing,” Stacy Jones said. “It is the bomb. Very unique.”
You can never beat the crunchiness those corn chips provide. You throw that barbecue on there, the sauce, the cheese, the beans, and it’s just texture town with a whole lot of flavor.
“My daddy cooked barbecue,” Len said. “I worked for some men around town that cooked barbecue. Now I try this and I’ve never put anything like it in my mouth, man. It’s awesome.”
If you’re looking for some excellent East Texas barbecue, then Chuck’s Country Smokehouse is well worth a stop on the Texas Bucket List.
“The barbecue is top notch,” Chuck said. “I mean, I can say that very confidentially. I know the time and effort that I put into it, and I’m not going to put anything out that’s sub par, so it’s good stuff.”