Located off Highway 290, across town from Elgin’s other barbecue big guns, this relatively small particle board and metal building has plenty of character. According to pitman Traco Fowler, Carroll Grady and Laron Morgan opened Crosstown in 1988, down the street, “behind a Spanish bar. Twenty people and the place was full.” Sadly, Mr. Morgan passed away in the fall of 2004, but Crosstown was still going strong when we visited.
As all the taxidermied critters in Texas barbecue parlors can attest, it’s not healthy to be an animal in Texas. You’re liable to either get stuffed or eaten. Or both. To demonstrate how rugged Crosstown BBQ is, one five-foot patch of wall featured a mounted wild boar head, incisors bared, plus framed photos of two of the toughest-acting movie stars in history: John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. Fittingly, an old Western was playing on Crosstown’s TV, where Richard Widmark was in a knife-fight with a Comanche.
There were also multiple deer heads mounted with rifles. My favorite twisted touch: the deer’s hooves were used to prop up the rifle that killed the animal. Other colorful design elements included football memorabilia like a Dallas Cowboys helmet and a cartoon version of Bevo, the University of Texas steer mascot.
When we stepped up to the counter to order from the wall-mounted menu, pitman Traco Fowler lifted the metal lid on the bin of sausage links, each about a yard long. He asked my father, “How much do you want?” My father held his hands about a foot-and-a-half apart. Traco just shook his head. My father said, “What? How am I supposed to say it?” In his easy Texas drawl, Traco said, “You can say it however you want, but I can tell you’re green.” For a barbecue connoisseur like my father, this was clearly a slap in the face. My father pointed out, “Well, at least I’m here.” Traco laughed it off, conceding my father’s point.
Crosstown BBQ might not be as old or storied as fellow Elgin smokehouses Southside Market and Meyer’s, but it still proved to be our favorite of the three. Southside Market and Meyer’s are massive operations that ship nationwide. Crosstown is a smaller operation, with more personal attention devoted to the meat that’s served in-house. My brother, father and I unanimously preferred Crosstown, and on our next trip to Elgin, it will be our first stop.