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HomeBarbecuePit Commander Barbecue Lastly Finds a House in North Texas

Pit Commander Barbecue Lastly Finds a House in North Texas

Stephan Nedwetzky’s circuitous path to changing into a barbecue joint proprietor in tiny Van Alstyne, about an hour north of Dallas, has been stuffed with pitfalls and second-guessing. The native of Dallas’s Nice Grove neighborhood spent his adolescent years in Rochester, New York, however after leaving the Marines in 1999, he got here again residence to Texas. “Being a Texan, I missed barbecue a lot,” he mentioned. He beginning smoking in his yard in Plano whereas working a landscaping firm. After coming into a barbecue competitors in 2010 (regardless that Nedwetzky describes every part he turned in as “horrible”), he caught the bug. “It began to intervene with my landscaping enterprise,” he mentioned. So he shut it all the way down to deal with barbecue.

“Everybody both laughed at me or instructed me I used to be silly,” Nedwetzky mentioned of the response to his determination. He puzzled if everybody was proper till he served what he thought of the proper brisket at a pop-up occasion. Will Fleischman, then-pitmaster at Lockhart Smokehouse, tried it and was impressed. “That’s nonetheless the very best one which I’ve ever cooked,” Nedwetzky mentioned. When a second Lockhart Smokehouse location opened in Plano in 2014, Fleischman requested him to return aboard. Nedwetzky labored there and at Smoke in Plano in what he calls transient stints earlier than getting his personal meals truck. He known as it Pit Commander Barbecue, his authentic competitors workforce title. Nedwetzky selected the title as a result of individuals mentioned his lengthy beard gave him a resemblance to Phil “Duck Commander” Robertson from the Duck Dynasty actuality present. The “pit” half refers each to the outdated brick pit his father, who was a mason, constructed at his childhood residence and to the mosh pit he helped whip right into a frenzy whereas taking part in guitar for the heavy-metal band Lethargy throughout his days in Rochester. Both method, he mentioned the title is a heck of loads simpler to pronounce than Nedwetzky Barbecue.

Pit Commander struggled to make a mark within the DFW scene, so within the winter of 2016, Nedwetzky loaded up some Texas submit oak and went to Fort Myers, Florida. His sister lived there and selfishly wished some good Texas barbecue close by. “That’s the place it actually took off,” Nedwetzky mentioned. His month-long go to was six months. However the draw of Texas was robust, and he returned in the summertime. That’s when Yolanda Russotti, a girl he knew from Rochester, came over. “The primary time I attempted his brisket, I used to be like, ‘Will you marry me?’ ” she mentioned with fun. She moved to Texas a month later. They married and now have a younger daughter collectively.

The household alternated between Florida and Texas and rotated between serving barbecue and slinging barbecue pizzas underneath the title Texapolitan Pizza. In 2019, Nedwetzky and Russotti discovered what they thought can be their everlasting barbecue residence within the East Texas city of Murchison, however they closed their restaurant there in March 2020 because the COVID-19 pandemic started. Nedwetzky couldn’t discover a barbecue joint to rent him, so he labored for Chipotle by day and Pizza Hut by evening to make ends meet. The couple headed again to Florida dejected, pondering they’d had sufficient of attempting to reach Texas barbecue.

Then, out of nowhere, the State Honest of Texas emerged repeatedly in Nedwetzky’s goals whereas again in Florida. “I stored waking up in the midst of the evening smelling the honest,” he mentioned. He checked the honest’s web site final 12 months and noticed that it was accepting functions for brand spanking new distributors. He submitted Texapolitan, and it was accepted. The couple took it as an indication to return again to Texas. After constructive suggestions from the honest’s organizers, the duo put a deposit down on a $30,000 wood-fired pizza oven from Italy. A month after transferring again to Plano, they acquired phrase {that a} barbecue joint in downtown Van Alstyne had closed and the house was obtainable. They took it and opened Pit Commander Barbecue final July.

A spread from Pit Commander BBQ.
A selection from Pit Commander Barbecue.{Photograph} by Daniel Vaughn

Because the couple began to construct the enterprise, they needed to shut the restaurant so they may serve on the honest in September. They made a each day common of 280 pizzas, topped with freshly smoked pork stomach burnt ends, for twenty-four straight days. They credit score the parents at Smokey John’s Bar-B-Que, a longtime honest vendor, for performing as their mentors and serving to them via the method. Now they’ll’t look ahead to the honest to fireplace again up this 12 months, however there’s loads of barbecue to cook dinner within the meantime.

Pit Commander Barbecue is open Thursday via Saturday for lunch. This previous weekend was its most profitable, with an early sellout on Saturday. I used to be there on Thursday for a second go to. The primary, again in November, was a blended bag of excellence and disappointment, however the restaurant was navigating a damaged water line within the kitchen. This journey was much better, and I lastly acquired to strive these pork stomach burnt ends from the well-known State Honest pizza. They had been completely cooked and closely seasoned and glazed. The salt and sugar competed for dominance with the clear smoke taste. I really most popular the thick slice of pork stomach, which Pit Commander sells as bacon brisket, an obvious homage to Dayne’s Craft Barbecue, in Fort Price. It was extra delicate than the burnt ends and appeared to soften on my tongue.

Nedwetzky is attempting a couple of brisket suppliers to seek out the proper amount and high quality of fats. He thought the lean facet of what he was smoking this previous weekend was on the dry facet, and I agreed, although it was loads tender, with a pleasant line of rendered fats on high. There might be a brand new model of beef on the smoker this week.

Nedwetzky realized to make sausage at an outdated German butcher store in Florida, and he makes use of these expertise on the restaurant. I liked the jalapeño-cheese hyperlink, which was bursting with juice once I bit into it. Ask for it unsliced to get probably the most out of the expertise. There have been loads of jalapeño chunks, however the spiciness was fairly tame. The bacon-wrapped jalapeños introduced a bit extra warmth, and the bacon was properly crisp. The tender spareribs acquired a healthy dose of rub and a splash of sauce, however the flavors dissipated within the foil wrap. I had deliberate to strive the pulled pork, nevertheless it was off the menu. “We couldn’t promote a butt to save lots of our lives,” Russotti mentioned.

She makes all the edges, although most are Nedwetzky’s recipes. The potato salad was a bit soupy and spicy, which is how his people wish to make it. I appreciated the crunchy slaw, and the candy broccoli salad was a great way to get one thing wholesome. The mac and cheese made with creamy queso was tasty, nevertheless it was the pinto beans, in a savory broth spiked with chunks of tomatoes, onions, and brisket, that spoke to me most.

Russotti additionally makes all of the sandwich buns from scratch. She makes use of a easy, Austrian-style white-bread dough to make knotted rolls. To me, it was paying homage to a pretzel bun, although paler in coloration. It was excellent for the each day particular of a thick, smoked brisket burger topped with American cheese, barbecue sauce, and pickles. The signature dessert is an Italian love cake, whose recipe is from Russotti’s household. To offer it a Texas barbecue really feel, Nedwetzky added bananas to the combo, creating Banana Love Cake and a possible rift in familial relations for messing with a recipe. I loved it, although it wasn’t as candy as I’d anticipated.

Van Alstyne is correct in the midst of a lifeless zone for Texas barbecue alongside U.S. 75, and Pit Commander Barbecue fills the void admirably. When Nedwetzky and Russotti discovered the placement, they hoped their joint might turn into a neighborhood favourite, however they knew it might take time for phrase to unfold. Enterprise is constructing slowly, however, Russotti mentioned, “we’re nonetheless playing on us, and we imagine in what we’re doing.” If the barbecue joint thrives, the following transfer might be a brick-and-mortar for Texapolitan Pizza. “Pizza is less complicated and the revenue margins are insanely higher,” Nedwetzky mentioned, including that making barbecue is extra hectic than making pizza. So why not deal with pizza? “We’d nonetheless must make barbecue for the pizza,” he mentioned, so they may as nicely plan for each. Russotti mentioned it’s additionally about constructing a stable basis for his or her younger daughter, who suffers from spina bifida. “We need to go away her one thing that’s going to care for her for the remainder of her life once we’re gone.” I believe the neighborhood is as much as the duty, if solely so we are able to hold a household of barbecue diehards in Texas and out of Florida.

Pit Commander Barbecue
224 E. Jefferson, Van Alstyne
Cellphone: 972-400-0234
Hours: Thursday–Saturday 11–3
Pitmaster: Stephan Nedwetzky
Methodology: Oak in an offset smoker
Yr opened: 2022


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